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What to Do if You Donít Get that Promotion

Applying for a promotion or raise takes courage, ambition, and probably a little bit of adrenaline. Because it involves a lot of emotion and anticipation, not getting the promotion can be demoralizing and discouraging. So, what should you do if you’re denied the next career move you had planned and applied for?

Here are five steps to take after you are denied a promotion that can turn the disappointing event into a learning opportunity and a chance to gain perspective.

Give yourself time to accept your feelings

It’s not wrong to feel angry, disappointed, or hurt after the rejection. Your feelings are legitimate. Give yourself time to process, validate, and reconcile your emotions so they don’t get in the way of turning the situation to your advantage (more on that in later steps). Talk to a non-work friend, burn your feelings off with an intense workout, treat yourself to a favorite drink or snack, or maybe take a long walk through a park. It will be hard to move forward with tact and grace if you’re battling or suppressing emotions.

Assess your application for the promotion

It’s important to identify why you applied for the position so you can strategize your next move. If you applied for a different title, perhaps you could work with HR to achieve that same end without a promotion (yet). If you wanted a bump in pay but not necessarily different responsibilities, perhaps it’s time to change employers. If you didn’t get the promotion because you lacked skills or experience, now’s the time to figure out how to acquire them.

Request feedback

If you didn’t get any, or only got unhelpfully vague feedback about why you weren’t promoted, ask for more specific, constructive reasoning from the hiring manager or others involved in the decision. You might only receive unhelpful answers, but you might get valuable, actionable insight on what to do to improve your candidacy for next time. A helpful resource for finding out if you have what it takes to land the new position/title is a recruiter in your industry—they’ll be able to tell you if you have the right skills and experience to secure the position at other companies.

When you begin working toward the next promotion opportunity, focus on proving your eligibility by putting feedback into action, anticipating project and supervisor needs, offering new ideas, and going above and beyond your current job description.

Stay professional at work

It’s probably hard not to complain at work about your disappointment and disagreement in the company’s decision to hire someone else for the job, but resist the temptation. Also avoid venting on social media about the letdown. Your attitude and actions will be noticed by people who matter—like those who could give you the job next time. The more professional, empathetic, and gracious you are about the decision with your supervisor and whoever did get the job, the better.

Refresh your career strategy

With all of the information learned in the previous steps, it’s time to decide if you think that promotion is still the best next step for your career. If you think politics or other factors are likely to prevent you from achieving this move at your current company, it might be time to apply elsewhere. Or perhaps after some thought, another position seems like a better fit for you. Either way, establishing a time frame to achieve your next career move will be helpful.

Bonus tip

Sometimes a promotion will be talked about as a sure thing, which can lead to spending in anticipation of a pay raise. If this is the case for you, bite the bullet and continue to spend wisely. In the end, preserving your budget and avoiding debt will allow you to more confidently pursue the next step in your career, whatever it might be.

In the end, not getting a promotion and having time and feedback to reassess your career path can reveal new opportunities. Don’t let the prospect of rejection deter you from building a case for your career advancement and applying for that next promotion.

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