If you're stumped on why you didn't get the big promotion you've been pining for, read these seven reasons to adjust your expectations and attitude:
1. You asked too soon. Employers want to promote you to keep you happy—it's in their best interests—but it's possible that you asked for a promotion too soon and before you were ready. Are you sure you're mature enough in your job to take on a higher title? Do you have the leadership and teamwork skills that such a position would require? Before you get upset at being passed over, take an honest look at your answers.
2. You did your job. And only your job. You don't get promoted for doing your job, you get paid for it. Getting promoted is about doing more than expected, discovering opportunities, and providing immense value. If you meet expectations, feel free to pat yourself on the back, but don't be surprised when can't climb the ladder. To get ahead, you don't need to be a workaholic, but you do need to go above and beyond your current responsibilities.
3. Your desired title doesn't exist. When you ask for a promotion, you're asking your employer to create an entirely new position, and sometimes that position isn't available, plain and simple. The increased workload associated with the position may not be necessary or there may not be room in the budget. Either way, decide if you're willing to wait it out, or if you should job-hop to get the challenge you desire.
4. You're entitled. Promotions aren't based on how long you've been at a company, but your career development within the company. If you think you're God's gift to your employer, chances are you're not. You need to have a team attitude. Try expressing interest in the company's wider goals instead of your own individual success. Do work because you're interested and dedicated, not just as a reason to get ahead. Employers can sense the difference.
5. You want a significant raise. A better title doesn't always mean a better paycheck. If your company can't afford to give you a raise, they may turn down your request for a promotion altogether. If you're only interested in more challenges and responsibility, make it clear you're willing to forgo a potential salary increase at the start, and request a three-month review after you've proved yourself.
6. You have a horrible attitude. Yes, you get the work done—you may even bring fantastic results—but you do so grudgingly. You believe you know better than anyone else at the company, and make sure everyone knows it. Likeability at work is just as important as crossing tasks off your to-do list; managers and employees alike want to enjoy coming to work and if you make that difficult, expect a long road ahead.
7. You're unemployable. You have vision, drive, and initiative, but just can't seem to work under other people. If you're a motivated high-performer who is consistently unhappy and not satisfied in your current position, consider that it may not be a promotion that you want, but the ability to work for yourself. Try consulting on-the-side or building your own company. At the very least, you'll gain respect and understanding for the challenges your former managers faced.
Losing out on a promotion doesn't have to be a roadblock; ask for feedback, do an honest assessment on your skills, abilities and attitude, and cultivate a genuine understanding of your company's position to continue your journey up.
Rebecca Thorman's weekly blog Kontrary offers tips to create the career, bank account, and life you love, and is a popular destination for young professionals. Her goal is to help you find meaningful work, enjoy the heck out of it, and earn more money. She writes from Washington, D.C.