Being overlooked for a promotion, that both you and your colleagues felt you were a shoo in for, can be demotivating and embarrassing.
Is it best to stick around and put in the hard yards in the hope of future success, or are you better off walking away with your head held high?
Dear Daily Slog,
I was recently unsuccessful in getting a promotion that a lot of people in my company felt I would be a shoo in for. The person who was successful was hired externally, and getting to know them a little better over the past few weeks, I think their level of experience seems lower than mine which is so frustrating.
I am extremely embarrassed about being passed over but am doing my best not to show it to colleagues, and to be as helpful as possible with the new recruit. Internally though, I am weighing up whether being passed over for this position is a sign that I have plateaued with this company and that it is time to move on. If I managed to find the courage to apply for any other promotion that came up, and was again overlooked, I think it would be unbearable.
Would you advise that it is best to move on, or will it look like sour grapes?
Thank you very much for getting in touch.
Let me say this first: I do not think there is the slightest reason to be embarrassed. You applied for a position that not only you, but many other people in the company, felt you would be a great fit for – so independent of your application being successful or not, it was the right step to take!
You should be proud of taking this step to enhance your career and personal development. Applying for promotion can be daunting, because the outcome is uncertain and putting yourself forward takes courage.
In a situation of distress and disappointment we tend to dwell on “why did that happen to me” and “where did I go wrong”
Now to your question. Should I stay, or should I go? It’s a difficult one, and only you will be able to answer it. But you have already done two very important things:
- You have not rushed your decision. You have let a few weeks go by and observed the situation while trying to analyse why you may have been passed over (establishing that the level of experience was not the crucial factor).
- You have tried to be helpful with the new recruit, so you have proven to yourself and your company that you are not a sore loser.
However, although there is no reason to be embarrassed, there is of course great disappointment. So again, by reacting the way you have reacted, you have demonstrated strength and foresight and can now build on this good start you have already made.
There are two aspects that I would advise you to look at in considering your next move: what you want in your career, and if the company you are currently with can provide it for you.
Can you utilize your strengths where you are now, or can you imagine other companies where you could utilize your strengths more effectively?
Figuring out what you want
Consideration of what you want out of your career should come before everything else. What is your overall career goal?
In a situation of distress and disappointment we tend to dwell on “why did that happen to me” and “where did I go wrong”. While this is natural, it is not always helpful as these questions are not forward-facing, rather, they keep us in the past and hinder us from finding the best way forward.
So instead of focusing on the reasons why it did not work out, focus on the question: what do I want in the future? The answer to this question is not always clear but there are a few techniques you can use to help figure it out.
If you look back on your career, where did you feel at your best? What did you particularly enjoy? Why?
On the other hand – what is it that you should avoid in any future role? The answers to these questions will allow you to assess your strengths and weaknesses. Can you utilize your strengths where you are now, or can you imagine other companies where you could utilize your strengths more effectively?
Think about your values in life and also in your job (they do not always match, but certain core values are likely to be equally important to you in both your personal and your professional life). We tend to be happy in a job that is inline with our core values. When this is not the case, we can be extremely unhappy in our work life without being able to put a finger on why!
- Once you have identified your core values, ask yourself if your current role is inline with them.
- If you were free of all restraints, such as money, skillset, locational ties or anything else – what would enjoy doing? Being able to identify this will enable you to take the first step towards it.
- If you were 90 years old and looking back at your life, what would you like to have accomplished in your professional life?
If you have taken some time to answer these questions, you will probably be able to see a certain pattern – of your strengths and weaknesses, where your passions lie, what your core values are and where they have been most at home in your professional career.
All of this together will give you insight on where you want to be, and help you to decide if your current role and company matches that vision.
Try not to dwell for too long on why you didn’t get this promotion, but figure out if there is a pattern that would hinder you for future promotions
Can your company provide what you want?
If you find your current company is still a good match for you, then your next step is to analyse what other paths of promotion are there for you and the reasons you were unsuccessful with your recent application. Try not to dwell for too long on why you didn’t get the promotion, but figure out if there is a pattern that would hinder you for future promotions.
- Does your company always hire externally?
- Is there a pattern in terms of skillset that they go for?
- Could there be a company strategy that you are not aware of e.g. are they hiring for certain markets you are not familiar with? And so on.
- Do you have a realistic chance to be considered with your next application and if so, would this promotion really be what you want?
- Is a suitable vacancy likely to come up in the foreseeable future and what could you do to position yourself for that role?
- Is there training offered, classes you could take, additional projects you could take on, could you develop your soft skills/ leadership skills, etc.
Whatever your decision is, base it on what is best for you and what matches your values, strengths and goals. Do not leave because you feel embarrassed or disappointed
If the answer is yes, and you feel comfortable and motivated enough in doing so, stay and give it another try. Even if it doesn’t work out, there is no reason to be embarrassed and you can still move on afterwards.
If the answer is no – take your time and find a good alternative, not just an alternative. You do not need to rush, but if you have established you are better off elsewhere, because you WANT to be elsewhere, not because you HAVE TO, then moving on would be the preferred option.
Whatever your decision is, base it on what is best for you and what matches your values, strengths and goals. Do not leave because you feel embarrassed or disappointed. Being passed over once does not mean too much – should it happen again, you can always revisit the situation.
I hope this helps and I wish you the best of luck!
About Ines Kretschmer:
Ines Kretschmer is a Personal, Leadership and Executive Coach, based in Dublin.
Tel: 087 4149489
If you have a career issue you would like help with email the details to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will source a suitable professional to help. All correspondence will be kept confidential.