I Don’t Want to Advance in My Career—is That Bad?

i dont want to advance my career is that bad
Image: Tenor

“Most people work just hard enough not to get fired and get paid just enough money not to quit.”

– George Carlin

In today’s modern world, a job is complicated and multi-faceted. To some, it’s a ticket to payday and financial security. For others, it’s all about striking that perfect work-life balance. Then there are those who seek a sense of fulfilment, finding growth and accomplishment in their roles. And let’s not forget the dreamers chasing their passions, turning their careers into their life’s work and a source of profound happiness.

Each person has a different idea of what a job means to them. Think about it: that means your colleagues, boss, family members, friends and even societal norms at large probably all differ from you in terms of your career and life priorities. According to Randstad Singapore’s 2024 Employer Brand Research, the top 3 reasons that motivated workers to leave their jobs were:

  1. To improve work-life balance (41%)
  2. Low compensation and rising cost of living (36%)
  3. Lack of career growth opportunities (33%)

These are all very valid factors to consider in a job and can lead to tough career questions. Today, I want to address these centred around advancing your career—or rather, not: what if I just want to do my job, get paid, and go home? Why is not wanting to advance your career such a bad thing? And what age should we stop seeking career progression?


Why is not wanting to advance your career such a bad thing?

why is not wanting to advance in your career bad reddit
Source: Reddit

I can see both sides of the argument. On one hand, I’m not the kind of person who has to work a job that is their life’s passion. To me, a job is a job—I do my best at it, but the goal of a job ultimately is to receive a salary. I don’t like the idea of a job consuming your entire life when your relationships with your family (pets included) and friends matter so much more. I remember reading a quote once: “The only people who will remember that you worked late are your children.”

On the other hand, I’m a practical person. There is no getting around the fact that inflation will continue to drive up the cost of living over time. The problem with not wanting to advance your career is that your salary won’t advance much either without promotions. When prices around you increase while your income remains the same, that means your real income—your true purchasing power—will decrease over time. Rising costs of living and a comparably low salary are why 36% of respondents in Randstad Singapore’s 2024 Employer Brand Research wanted to leave their jobs. 

It’s easy to say “I’m happy with where I’m at”—so am I. But we can’t ignore the fact that where you’re at may not be good enough to maintain your current lifestyle in time to come, and I highly doubt it’s anyone’s goal to live an increasingly budget lifestyle as time passes.


Pros and cons: I don’t want to advance in my career.

Here are the pros and cons I would consider:

I don’t want to advance in my career, I just want to do my job and get paid.
Pros Cons
  • Less stress: Staying in your current job means you avoid the extra stress and responsibilities that come with climbing the corporate ladder. You can just focus on doing your job well. Instead of seeking out managerial opportunities, you can use your extra bandwidth to deepen your technical expertise.
  • Stable routine: With no major changes in your job role, you can enjoy a consistent routine. This stability allows you to plan your personal life better, knowing exactly what to expect from your workday​.
  • More time for passions: By not chasing promotions—or even rejecting some that don’t align with your personal career goals—you might be able to dedicate more time to hobbies, family, and friends. Whether it’s gardening, painting, or simply relaxing, you have the freedom to enjoy life outside of work​.
  • Your role may still push you for progression: While you might prefer deepening your technical expertise, your company’s goals may not be aligned. You might still be urged to progress in your role, and this mismatch between goals can lead to stress and dissatisfaction at work for you.
  • You might get bored and less motivated: You can say you’re satisfied now, but who’s to say in a few years’ time? Staying in the same role for too long without new challenges and achievements can lead to boredom and a lack of motivation. This could impact your overall job satisfaction​.
  • Missed opportunities: There’s always an opportunity cost. What if your next promotion could have let you work in your dream European city for a year? Sticking to your current role might mean missing out on exciting projects, new skills, and the chance to work with different teams. These experiences could enrich your professional life and personal growth.
  • Inflation doesn’t stagnate with you: Without career advancement, your salary is unlikely to increase significantly over time. Meanwhile inflation will keep driving up living expenses. Over time, this means your real income will fall. Living within your means will require you to live on a tighter and tighter budget over time if your salary doesn’t increase with the cost of living.

So, why is not wanting to advance your career such a bad thing? Because of inflation, missed opportunities, work pressures beyond your control, and the possibility of losing motivation.

But on the flipside, why is just doing your job and getting paid so great? If your salary is sufficient for you, your job is reduced to simply a paycheck.

You’ll still have to go through performance reviews and such, but if you have your priorities straight and know that this is as far as you want to go, you don’t need to worry about getting promoted to the next managerial rung. You’re doing your job well, and you know it. Even if you get offered a promotion, the ball’s in your court to reject it if it comes with more responsibilities that you don’t think are worth the corresponding salary increment.


Are you satisfied with where you’re at or are you simply unmotivated?

It’s a fine line between being satisfied with your current salary and being unmotivated to work any harder, even if you get paid more. It’s not wrong to feel either way, but the former is a healthy sense of contentment, while the other is a less healthy sense that your job just doesn’t interest you in the slightest.

Your job doesn’t need to be your passion. But if you’re still early or mid-career and are already feeling like you don’t want to go any further, perhaps you should ask yourself if you’re in the right industry. Are you not interested enough in your field of work? Instead of advancing your career vertically, you could always make a career switch to something that you feel more passionate about.

Is your job all about managing people? When you’re a chronic homebody and always happier alone? Find out how you can go deeper and more specialised into the work you do as an individual contributor.

Is your job already super stressful? Perhaps it’s a problem with the company and work environment rather than the job itself. As this Redditor pointed out, better work-life balance and lower pay are not directly correlated. You could very well find a more senior, higher-paying role that is also less stressful.

lower paying job does not mean better work life balance
Image: Reddit

I don’t think you need to love your job. It doesn’t have to be your raison d’etre. But hopefully, you at least like it enough so that each day isn’t a drag to get through.


At what age should we stop seeking career progression?

reddit at what age did you or will you stop seeking career progression
Image: Reddit

This question drew a range of responses from Redditors. Some gave what is perhaps the most politically correct answer by society’s standards—never.

never stop advancing in your career
Image: Reddit

Surprisingly, the answer for many was in your late-20s or 30s. The youngest age I saw mentioned was 21:

receptionist career reddit
Image: Reddit

For some, it was a question of salary and rank rather than age:

salary seniority career advancement
Image: Reddit

And for others, the decision to stop seeking career progression was made after life events. Happy ones included the birth of a child or finally finishing paying one’s mortgage:

first baby priority reddit
Image: Reddit
pay off mortgage stop career advancement
Image: Reddit

While less happy events included a cancer diagnosis, the wake-up call of losing a dear friend, and becoming a widow.

cancer diagnosis deprioritise career reddit
Image: Reddit
deprioritise career after becoming widowed
Image: Reddit

Here’s my take. Firstly, let me just put it out there that career doesn’t have to be your number one priority in life. Arguably, I don’t think it should be number one for most people—relationships and connections that give life meaning, whether they’re with people or activities, matter more than slogging away in the office till 10 p.m. every day. At the end of your life, are you going to think about your work projects or the people you’ll leave behind?

Having said that, I think there’s a balance to be met here between career and the other aspects of your life. Here are some points to consider.

Firstly, quit comparing by age—there is no magic number at which you should stop looking for career advancement opportunities. Some people work till they’re in their 90s and love each day of it. These tend to be the ones who become legends in their fields, who embody the term “lifetime achievement”.

For example, did you know David Attenborough is 98 this year? And the oldest Oscar winner ever is a man named James Ivory, who was 89 when he won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2018 for Call Me By Your Name. He’d been nominated in 1986, 1992, and 1993 for Best Director, but it was only in 2018 that he had his first win. Imagine if he’d turned down Call Me By Your Name just because he “wanted to stop seeking career progression”!

Secondly, your life stage and circumstances matter more than your age. Things like having a baby can turn your world upside down. Some couples opt for one parent to take on more caregiving duties while the other—usually higher-earning one—continues to work hard at a full-time job. These decisions are personal ones to make based on your priorities in life, and there’s no right and wrong so long as you’re aware of the short- and long-term consequences.

For example, I know of someone who became a housewife to take care of her and her partner’s 3 children. Now that they’re fully grown and she’s approaching her golden years, she wants to work to earn some extra income. The problem is, because she left her job quite early in her career, she’s limited to lower-paying jobs now. 

Thirdly, on that note for the ladies, don’t let gender stereotypes dictate when your careers can peak. This isn’t just limited to caregiving and housekeeping duties that are often labelled as “women’s work”. I’m also talking about the fact that only 39% of women seek out career-related training compared to 46% of men. If you’re thinking about hitting the brakes on your career because of reasons tied to your gender, stop right there and take your foot off the brake pedal. You’ve still got a long, exciting road ahead of you that’s yours to ride.

Fourthly, before you declare that this is as far as your career will go, remember what we talked about in the previous section: inflation and rising costs of living aren’t going to pause with you. 

And finally, barring any life-changing events like the diagnosis of a terminal illness, we don’t need to ever actively stop trying to progress in our careers. If you’re happy and motivated enough at your job, you’ll want to put in the work. If you aren’t satisfied in your current role, perhaps you’ll just do as little as possible to get work done—but that speaks more of your current job than the current stage of your career.

Ideally, I hope you’re working a job you like—not necessarily love—enough to want to keep doing well. You don’t need to sacrifice work-life balance for it, but doing your best within reasonable work hours shouldn’t be painful. Perhaps a promotion will come your way. Perhaps it won’t. But if you don’t try to do a job well, you’ll never know, and I’d rather have the choice to reject something than to never have had it offered in the first place.


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vanessa-nah-profile-pictureAbout the author

Vanessa Nah is a personal finance content writer who pens articles on the ins and outs of personal loans, the T&Cs of credit cards, and the ups and downs of alternative investments. She’s a researcher at heart and leaves no stone unturned when it comes to breaking down complex finance concepts and making them easy to understand for the everyday Singaporean. When Vanessa’s not debunking finance myths, you’ll find her attending dance classes, fingerpicking a guitar, or (most impawtently) fulfilling her life mission to make her one-eyed cat the most spoiled and loved kitty in the world.