It’s widely accepted that most people are interested in climbing the ladder in their careers and progressing upwards in some form or another. But when that’s not what your heart desires, what does that mean for you?

This episode is a big fat permission slip to NOT want career progression. There’s more to life than getting promotions and taking on more responsibility and frankly, not everyone is cut out for leadership! Create your own career path and don’t just do what you think you should do, because it seems that’s what everyone else wants…

Links I mentioned in this episode:

19. When you don’t want career progression… – Transcript

[00:00:00] Hi, there I’m Bec McFarland the host of the Pop Your Career Podcast. As a career coach, I’m most passionate about helping my clients to discover their own personal flavour of career fulfillment. In this podcast, we are going to be exploring ways that you too can feel more fulfilled by your work. So strap yourself in, get ready for the ride. The tips around here are fast and in abundance.

[00:00:29] Hello. Hello, it’s Bec McFarland here and I am helping you do better and be better in your career. Today I’ve just got a little shorty episode here for you, which realistically is a big fat permission slip. Because today we are talking about what happens when you don’t want career progression.

[00:00:57] This comes up quite a bit. I [00:01:00] often have clients who come to me and they’re like, ‘You know what? Like I’ve gone as far as I want to go. I just now, like, I don’t want to climb the ladder. I don’t want to become more senior. I don’t want to lead a team. I don’t want to take on all the additional responsibility. I’m actually really happy where I am’.

[00:01:20] And I think that sometimes this attitude or this approach can be shunned by people because it’s not necessarily what we are supposed to want. I know this topic all too true. Before I went full time in my business, I worked in the Australian Public Service just for three years. I actually went in on a six month contract, and I did that for a couple of reasons. But the main one was I’d never been in the Australian Public Service before. I wanted to try it out. I wanted to kind of round out my experience and just [00:02:00] become a little more versatile in terms of what I had done.

[00:02:04] I knew that I was going to be building Pop Your Career as both a resume writing and career coaching agency at the time, and so I knew that having that opportunity to spend a little bit of time in the public service would be really good for me and it would change the way that I would be able to support my clients.

[00:02:24] Just a side note, I have closed down the resume writing arm of my business now. Just want to let you know that I do still get a lot of enquiries about resume writing, and I just don’t do that anymore. There are a number of really amazing people that I’d be very happy to refer you to if you are looking for that service.

[00:02:44] Otherwise, I’m also really, really happy to work with people to brainstorm and to shape what their resume looks like, and then to support them through the writing process without me actually writing it myself. I hope that helps.

[00:02:59] But back [00:03:00] to the topic. So, as I mentioned, I went into the public service initially just thinking that I was going to be there for six months, and then I was probably going to maybe move on to something else. I don’t even know. It was a six month contract.

[00:03:16] What ended up happening was that I ended up really loving it, something that I definitely did not plan. I actually had such an amazing team. Uh, I think the team really made it. There were a lot of things that I really did not like about the public service, but the thing that I really did like was the people that I worked with and I developed some really amazing friendships there. I had way too much fun. I was way too inappropriate.

[00:03:51] But you know, it was all experience. I think working in that environment [00:04:00]definitely impacted me. It has helped in so many ways in terms of the career coaching that I am able to provide to my clients and the work that I’m able to do and the advice that I can give and everything, like I’m just, I’m really so grateful for that three year period. I will say.

[00:04:20] Uh, but I also like to think. I impacted the people that I worked with there too. Maybe not always for the better. If you haven’t picked up what I’m putting down, I’m just going to say like I, I’m a little bit naughty. Um, I always have been, I always been a little bit naughty in the workplace. I don’t like to play the ADHD card, but also it is kind of handy sometimes to have something to blame in inverted commas.

[00:04:53] Um, and look, I actually think I’m still really quite naughty. Now that I’m working full-time in [00:05:00] my business. But I do just want to point out that I like, I do think I had quite an impact on the people that I worked with. All in good fun. All in good fun.

[00:05:08] So as I look back, I have a lot of like really positive memories about my time working there. I think I did some really great things and I met some really great people. Just had wonderful experiences. The whole lot. I really do look back on that time in my life, really positively. But what I will say is that in the public service particularly, I find that there is quite a bit of conditioning around this idea that like, you should want to move up to the next level.

[00:05:42] Like you should want to keep climbing, you should want to, you know, one day become the general manager or whatever. And for me, I knew right from the get go that I didn’t want that at all. And that my focus was going to be building my [00:06:00] business on the side of my work there and that, you know, eventually I would go full-time in my business.

[00:06:06] Now the funny thing is at this time I actually was working with a business coach and I said to her flat out like, ‘I’m never going to go full-time in my business because I love my job too much. I love the people that I work with. I’m just having way too much fun and I’m really never going to want to, you know, go out on my own’.

[00:06:23] And you know, I’ve talked about this a lot previously about how, although that was my initial feeling about the whole thing, like that definitely changed. And by the end I was very, very happy to leave. But what I noticed throughout my time there was that there was this real push like, and I don’t mean it in a super negative way or anything like that, like no one was like holding me down and making me do anything that I didn’t want to do or anything like that, but there was like a general expectation that I would want to climb the ladder and that I would want to keep going and like build a career in the [00:07:00] public service. And I definitely did not see eye to eye with certain people around that. And you know, that’s a real bummer.

[00:07:09] But what I believe about that is that a lot of people who are in that environment who do kind of want those goals and you know, who do one day want to be the general manager or climb the ladder or, you know, build upon their career in the public service is that, that sometimes they just don’t quite get it, what it might be like to have a different goal because that’s all they’ve ever kind of wanted or worked towards.

[00:07:35] And for me, I was kind of like, ‘Oh my gosh, no. Like I don’t want to be chained in by, you know, by the public service and all the bureaucracy and everything like that, like I want to go out and do crazy things and work for myself and you know, make my own rules and then break my own rules and all of this’.

[00:07:54] And it was kind of like, you know, I knew that some of my work colleagues were looking at me and thinking [00:08:00] like, ‘What on earth? Like why would you want to do that? Like, Yeah, why? Why would you want that for yourself? Why would you want that future?’

[00:08:07] This episode is brought to you by the Career Clarity Quest, my absolutely free, seven day program, which is designed to support you in getting so much clearer about your next steps. Find it at

[00:08:27] So in this episode, really what I wanted to do was to just share a little bit of that part of my story and to just let you know that if you are in a position where you don’t want career progression, that is totally okay. It is absolutely your choice and you don’t need to change that or pretend to be somebody else in order to make other people feel better.

[00:08:58] So this here is [00:09:00] your permission slip to first of all, not apply for more senior roles, to not chase those opportunities. It’s your permission slip to say no if acting opportunities become available, or you are asked to take on additional responsibility, and this is also your permission slip to actually not have an excuse for that.

[00:09:23] I feel like sometimes in certain workplaces, you know, if you’ve got kids, then that’s a really great excuse not to want some of these things. But as a woman without kids, I don’t know if it’s always a great excuse if I say, I don’t really want career progression. I don’t want to work full time because I want to stay at home with my dog. Maybe not. But the thing is, you don’t need an excuse. You don’t need to give anyone an explanation. It’s just not needed.

[00:09:56] I hope that listening to a little bit of my story today has [00:10:00] kind of just opened things up for you and really made you think about what it is that you want in your career. Do you actually want career progression? Or do you feel that maybe there is just some conditioning that’s come with the type of job that you have? Or you know, through your family experience or the experiences of your work colleagues or other people around?

[00:10:22] And if it is something that you want more power to you, I encourage you, I wish you well, and I hope that you achieve every single career goal that you set for yourself. But hey, it takes all kinds. We’re all different, and I think that’s pretty cool as well.

[00:10:39] Have an amazing week and I’ll see you in the next episode.

[00:10:43] Thanks so much for listening to the Pop Your Career podcast. I hope that you’ve enjoyed today’s tips and that you found value in what I’ve shared with you. If you like your career advice quick and entertaining, I would love for you to subscribe. Also leave me a rating [00:11:00] and a review. If you want to continue the conversation, come and join me over on social media. You can find me everywhere at Pop Your Career. I’ll see you soon.


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About the author 


Bec McFarland is an experienced HR practitioner, manager, career coach and the creator of Pop Your Career. She delights in sharing practical, straight to the point career advice, spending time with her family and eating Mexican food.