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The Promotion That Got Away: Five Ways to Bounce Back

The Promotion That Got Away: Five Ways to Bounce Back

The Promotion That Got Away: Five Ways to Bounce Back

By Larry Buhl

You did everything right. You were accessible, you met every deadline, you handled every task and you even boosted the company's bottom line. That promotion you've been eyeing should be yours.  

Well, maybe not. Nearly everyone has been passed over for a job they "deserved." If and when that happens there are five important steps to take, according to career counselors.

Take Care of Your Emotions

A career setback can trigger depression and anger. The first thing to do is take a deep breath, according to Susan Whitcomb, president of Career Coach Academy and author of 30-Day Job Promotion. Whitcomb recommends doing something right away to take care of yourself, whether it's a spa retreat, yoga class or long walk in the park. "If you have the time, your favorite activity might give you the momentum to bounce back," she says.

Ask What, Not Why

Once you're back in better spirits, schedule a meeting with the decision maker, who may or may not be your direct supervisor. Then ask what, not why, Whitcomb says. "If you ask why you didn't get the promotion, you put the manager in defensive mode," she says. "Instead ask what it would it take to be promoted in the future. That makes you look like a team player." Take notes and get specifics in the meeting as well.

Be Visible and Proactive

The more people who know about your capabilities and ideas, the more likely you'll move up. Especially if you're a low-key workhorse, begin to let your light shine. That means building cross-functional work teams when appropriate and updating your manager's manager on your accomplishments.

Be Honest with Colleagues and Supervisors

Jane Cranston, an executive career coach and managing director of, says it's OK to admit you're disappointed -- just don't be whiny or petulant. "You should also inform your coworkers that you didn't get the promotion and that you're looking forward to working with the person who got it," Cranston says. "And don't bad-mouth the person who got the job over you, even with a thinly veiled insult."

Do Some Soul-Searching

"Ask yourself if you really wanted the job, and if you did, why," Cranston says. "Some reflection could open you up to new possibilities and jobs you hadn't considered."

Both Whitcomb and Cranston urged using the setback as a chance for personal and professional growth. "It's hard to look at the big picture, but it's important to try," Cranston says. "Maybe they did the right thing by not promoting you. Don't think that life is out to get you but rather that life is giving you an opportunity to learn. That takes a lot of humility to accept."