You’re in the running for a promotion at work and are feeling optimistic about your chance to climb one rung higher on the proverbial ladder.
That hope makes the eventual bad news that much more brutal to swallow: You didn’t get it. You’re being passed up. They’re going with someone else.
Did your stomach just drop into your shoes at the very thought? I get it. Not landing a promotion — particularly one that you know you’re deserving of — is gut-wrenching at best.
And, after that initial wave of disappointment has washed over you and you’re trying to return to business as usual, you’re left with this lingering question: Now what? You don’t want this rejection to mean a step backwards, so how do you keep moving forward?
Let’s dig into five steps you should take after you find out that you didn’t score that promotion at work.
1. Take Some Time to Wallow
First things first, let’s go back to that inevitable sense of disappointment for a moment. While I’m certainly not giving you permission to nosedive into your despair, you’re still allowed to be bummed about this news. You don’t have to immediately paste on a smile and pretend that you’re happy this happened.
Give yourself an evening — yes, only one evening — to wallow in your own self pity. Indulge in your favorite sweets or cocktails. Complain to your friends. Just generally feel bad about your own misfortune.
But, when you return to the office in the morning? Be prepared to be your normal, professional, and polished self.
Disappointment over not getting a promotion is normal, however it’s a wise move to keep your venting and complaining far away from the office and outside of your normal working hours. And, one more thing: Resist the overwhelming temptation to gossip about whoever did land the position. It’s never worth the potential fallout.
2. Ask For Feedback
Alright, you took your moment and now you’re feeling ready to face the music. Despite the fact that rejection can be brutal, it can also be enlightening. So, it’s worth approaching the people who were involved in the selection process to get their feedback.
Where did you fall short? Are there certain things you should be working on or focusing on? What strengths did they think you brought to the table?
Get their insights — both good and bad — on your candidacy. That valuable feedback will serve you well as you continue to hash out a plan for advancing in your career.
Despite the fact that rejection can be brutal, it can also be enlightening.
3. Reassess What You Really Want
There’s nothing like a little self-reflection to give you some much-needed perspective. Now that you know for certain that advancement opportunity isn’t yours, take a step back and think about why you went for it in the first place.
Did you toss your hat into the ring just because you felt like you should — like missing out would only make you look like an uncommitted slacker? Or, did you go for it because you know you’re ready for the next step in your career?
Even further, where do you see your career headed in the next year or so? What are your goals? What do you want to do more of? What do you want to do less of?
Figuring out exactly what you want is essential for determining what direction you want to head in next — whether it’s with your current company or a new one. And, as sad as it seems, there’s really no better time to get some clarity on your career goals than after a setback like this one.
4. Have a Candid Conversation With Your Manager
With your areas of improvement and newly-established career goals in hand, it’s time to have a frank conversation with your manager. I know this is nerve-wracking (been there, done that!), but it’s important to realize that this career growth conversation is a completely normal — and even healthy — one to have with your boss.
Explain clearly to your supervisor what else you’re hoping to get out of your career. Even if it’s not a formal promotion, do you want to…
- Own more challenging projects?
- Have the opportunity to do more public speaking and represent your company?
- Work more cross-functionally with a different department?
- Access educational opportunities to build some of those skills you need to improve upon?
- Outline a clear plan to put you on the path for advancement within your organization?
There are tons of ways to progress in your career that don’t involve a fancy new job title. And, a good boss will not only be open to hearing these things from you, but they’ll actually collaborate with you to help you achieve them.
If your manager really isn’t receptive to these sorts of conversations or you’ve determined that a real promotion is all that will fulfill you career-wise right now, then it’s probably time to start your job hunt — with your clearly-outlined career goals in tow!
There are tons of ways to progress in your career that don’t involve a fancy new job title.
5. Take a Deep Breath and Move Forward
I know that not getting the promotion you wanted is disappointing. But, fortunately, it’s only that: a disappointment.
No matter what it feels like in the heat of the moment, this won’t destroy your career. It’s not the end of the road for you — not even close.
So, don’t use this as your excuse to toss up your hands and skate by with the bare minimum. Instead, take a deep breath, put one foot in front of the other, and continue doing the very best work you possibly can. Remember, living well is the very best revenge.