So you didn’t get the promotion

Not getting a promotion can feel like a big setback.

I have been rejected for positions I really wanted in the past. In retrospect most of these rejections were a blessing in disguise. How I handled and will continue to handle these rejections define me. They will also define you.

So you raised your hand. Good for you! But, you didn’t get it. While that is certainly a bummer, handling rejection with grace is a big part of being a professional . Here are four steps you can take after you’ve been turned down that ease the sting of rejection and get you back on track to success faster.

Don’t take the decision personally. Let’s face it, rejection in any form feels personal. When you do not get a job you want, it hurts. When you personalize a business decision you allow your emotions to take over. This can result in taking actions that will only hurt you in the long run. Lashing out at supervisors or colleagues, telling anyone who will listen that the decision was “unfair” and allowing your performance to suffer are all actions that will only confirm to the powers-that-be that they made the right decision in not promoting you. Recognize that the decision was made for the good of the business. Even if you don’t agree, when you frame it as a business decision it is easier to rise above hurt and anger.

Do get feedback. You should absolutely ask anyone involved in the promotion process for feedback on your candidacy. Hopefully you will hear a mix of positives and negatives. The positives are your strengths that you can focus on in order to position yourself for the next opportunity. Negatives will fall into two categories. First there are the skills and experiences you will need to get in order to truly be considered for the next job. Second are the skills that are your natural weaknesses that you need to consider how you can either shore up or work around. Asking for feedback also demonstrates a high degree of professional maturity and a drive to improve. Your chances of being favorably considered for future opportunities will go up substantially.

 Assess all your options for what might be next. In addition to getting feedback on why you weren’t offered the promotion you should do your own assessment of whether or not, knowing what you know now, you really want that job. You may have learned that a majority of the work in that new position are tasks that you don’t like or aren’t naturally good at. The job may require a bigger sacrifice of personal time than you are willing to make. Just because it’s the “next” job on the ladder doesn’t mean it’s the right next job for you. Consider whether you need look into a lateral move into a new area, consider a different industry or take some other step in a different direction. Be sure to tap your network, both in your company and outside it, to get ideas you may not have considered about next steps to consider.

Keep raising your hand. Rejection is difficult. You may be thinking that you never want to raise your hand again! For better or worse, rejection is part of the game. Most successful people get turned down for more jobs than they actually get. That’s because they put themselves forward a lot. Not all the opportunities will pan out. But you gotta be in it to win it. Use the feedback you got to improve your pitch and refine the types of roles you seek. But then just keep putting yourself forward for bigger and more exciting jobs and eventually you will get one.


Everyone should have a career plan. When the plan doesn’t work out, you have to reassess and make a NEW PLAN. Never live in a moment of self pity and anger. It does nothing for you. To be great you must accept that you will be turned down, rejected and discounted by others. Part of the fun is proving others wrong. It’s a game that you control.

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