So you’ve been overlooked for promotion – 5 steps to make sure it won’t happen again

You've been working hard, you thought you had the skills, you thought you'd be next in line for promotion - and now there's somebody else in the chair. Do you

a) resign

b) take out a grievance

c) hit the bottle (or your head against a wall)

d) make sure it won't happen again

For those of you who prefer to be proactive about the situation, here are four vital tips to help you progress your career after a setback.

1. Keep calm and carry on

It is only natural to be angry, hurt or resentful after all the hard work you have put into your job but nobody likes to have negative or overly emotional colleagues around them. Show your colleagues and managers that you can remain professional in all circumstances and keep your emotions under control.

Try and take your next break away from the office. Head outside for a walk at lunchtime if possible. Fresh air can do wonders to relieve stress. If you are finding it hard to hold back your emotions and can't leave the office, it's probably best to bury your head in work, even if you are proof-reading an email that's already been sent.

2. Talk to your boss

If you want to have a shot at the next promotion opportunity, you need to find out why you didn't get it this time around. Your boss is the only person who can really tell you why you weren't successful. Maybe your skills set or experience let you down, but maybe it's just a matter of which candidate performed better on the day of interview. As hard as it may be, eventually you will need to ask for honest feedback.

Your boss may be uncomfortable talking to you about the reasons why you were passed over, so it is important that you are not confrontational. A simple "I am really keen to progress my career with this company, could you tell me where I need to do to improve so I am successful next time around?" will tell your boss two important things: you have a long term interest in the company and you are willing to work hard to develop your career.

3. Work hard and be visible

It's very tempting to throw in the towel and refuse to work more than absolutely necessary, especially if you worked long hours over the months leading up to this moment. However it is even more important now to show colleagues and management that you are a force to be reckoned with.

Try and network with as many people as possible to increase visibility. This is probably not the time to be quiet about your successes either - if you have achieved something make sure people know about it (try not to gloat though). Maybe there is training that could help you bridge a skills gap or an opportunity to shadow a more senior colleague in your own time. Bosses generally look favourably upon staff that take responsibility for their own development - and it doesn't have to be an expensive training course.

4. Start thinking like a manager

If you want to be successful in a more senior position, pure technical skills usually won't be enough to convince your manager to give you an opportunity. As a senior team member you don't just need to know your products and customers, you also need to have some insight into the company's running, financial situation and short and long term priorities. You can start by asking your manager and other senior staff about this and soon you will be able to demonstrate that you really understand the business.

5. Reassess your situation

Sometimes it seems like a promotion is never going to happen, despite all efforts. Maybe there isn't a personality fit, maybe it is unlikely that a position will become available anytime soon, or your company is looking for a specific skills set that you don't have at the moment. Maybe you are simply fed up trying. Under these circumstances it is best to reassess whether looking for a promotion within your current company is still the right goal for you at this point in time.

It's important that you take some time to reassess your priorities and your interests. What do you like about your company and your current position? Why are you keen on the promotion? Is it because of money, recognition or a more interesting job role? Are there other ways in which you could achieve this? This is a time where a coach could be useful to help you gain clarity over your goals. Whatever the outcome - whether you are going to make changes or continue to seek that promotion - learn your lessons and don't give up.

Angry woman punches fist in the air
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