Almost half of all UK workers, if given the chance, would have studied something totally different after leaving school and a fifth feel that as a result they plumped for the wrong career, according to new research.
Worryingly for managers looking to motivate their teams, the poll of 115,000 people in 33 countries, including 7,000 in the UK, found a further quarter of the UK workers questioned were still not sure whether they had chosen the right job and career.
More than two thirds of those polled said they wished they had taken their education further than they did, with nearly half complaining that their school education had not prepared them well for working life.
A quarter admitted their post-school education had not prepared them well for working life either.
Equally worrying for UK plc was the finding that it ranked 20 out of 33 on this issue, equal to Malaysia.
Globally, 49 per cent of workers said they were happy with the way they had been prepared for working life, while two thirds were satisfied with their post-school education
While more than half overall were happy with their career choice, a fifth said they were not and a quarter that they were not sure, with more men than women than men believing they had chosen the wrong career.
"It is only natural that people reflect in a positive way on what they have done and the extent to which they have achieved their professional goals," said Kelly Services managing director Chris Moore.
"It is to be expected that many wish they had worked harder while at school, college or university. There are also many who have had second thoughts about the career choices they made," he added.
"Regrettably, someone who discovers that they are in the wrong career is probably not as productive as they could be and may be missing out on a more fulfilling professional life.
"It's also important that people don't over-react or set up false expectations in evaluating their study and career choices.
"It is now the norm for most employees to have several career changes in the course of a working life, so it's possible for someone who is dissatisfied with their career to do something positive about it," he concluded.
Both men and women cited "financial considerations" as the major obstacle to changing career, followed by "time" and "family".