If you were expecting to get promoted, but got passed over, you're understandably confused and probably frustrated. But how you react and what you choose to do next can greatly affect your career path, so carefully consider your actions.
Withhold the negative emotions. If you feel like you deserved the promotion, you probably are angry, confused, and have a short fuse. But keep it under wraps until you know the entire situation. After all, you may not know the whole story; maybe someone was better qualified than you, or maybe your boss envisions you in a different role down the road.
No matter what you're feeling, try to be diplomatic and neutral in your reaction. Flying off the handle won't better your position. Instead, take time to regroup and consider your next steps.
Find out truth. If you're comfortable talking to your boss about why you were passed over, you might find out some key areas you can improve. Perhaps you were deficient in one area that the promotion required; in that case, focus on beefing up your skills so that the next time around, your boss has no reason to turn you down. Rather than sulking because you weren't promoted, focus on using this as a learning experience to better yourself professionally.
Set milestones for yourself. Armed with information about the professional areas you need to develop, create a game plan for how you will develop the skills you need to move up the corporate ladder. While you can set internal milestones you personally want to achieve, you can also speak to your boss to set a plan where you reach certain milestones to be reconsidered for the promotion.
Make sure the milestones are clearly defined. Sometimes employers are vague about what they're looking for, which can just send confusing signals to you. Make a list and agree upon it together.
Tips for Increasing Your Chance of Getting That Promotion The Second Time Around
- If you know the skills you need for the position you want, you can make the effort to get the skills you're lacking. Take it upon yourself to improve your promotability by taking classes, training, or getting involved in extra projects.
- Don't burn bridges; just because your boss didn't promote you doesn't mean he doesn't think you're a skilled worker. Keep the lines of communication open.
- Agree upon milestones you can work to achieve to qualify for the promotion the next time.
- Talk to others who have moved into similar roles to get advice about how you can better fit the job requirements.
- Keep networking; the more people you meet, the more advice you can get to help you.
When to walk away. Sometimes people aren't promoted not out of lack of merit, but simply because employers are biased or have no intention of offering a qualified employee a deserved promotion. In this situation, you may need to consider switching jobs. As an employee, you want to be recognized for your hard work, and if you're not after several years and conversations, you may need to move on.
If you can't work out any hope of being promoted if you improve your job skills, begin looking for another position elsewhere, or even in another department. Be honest with yourself, too: Perhaps being overlooked for a promotion means you're not cut out for the job you thought you were, which means you should consider other roles.
Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs.com, a niche job board for public relations, communications, and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.