Professional Development

What to Do If You Didn’t Get the Promotion

Written by Peter Jones

Not getting a promotion you really thought you were in a good position to get is almost as bad as not getting a job you had a really good chance at. It’s disheartening, to say the least. No one likes to think they aren’t doing well enough. And certainly no one likes to go into work after being passed over, only to watch someone else assume the new and fancier role.

If you didn’t get the promotion, there are a few things you can do to keep from losing hope (and perspective).

Strive to improve

Just because you were told you’re not going any further at the moment doesn’t mean you should stop trying. You not only have to survive this bump in the road, you need to overcome it and set yourself up to get back on the path to success.

Don’t quit

You may feel like quitting and/or burning the office down, but it’s never a good solution. You could take a bad moment and make it much, much worse. Better to have a bit more patience with yourself and with the situation. Take a moment to mourn the loss of something you wanted, then get back to work with a smile on your face and an eye toward new opportunities—even new jobs.

Ask for feedback

It may have been out of your control entirely, but there also could have been a few things you might have done differently that in another world would have affected the outcome and turned it in your favor. See if you can’t get the ear of the decision maker. Ask honestly and listen openly, then say thank you and close the conversation. This is not the time to defend yourself or to argue. If you can’t get a straight answer, try finding another source you can trust for information.

Don’t just complain, act

You get to wallow for a day or two, and mope, and maybe even grumble. But then you have to stop all that and get back to work building your career. This does not include complaining to HR about the unfairness of it all. If you want to have another crack at advancing at your company in future, try sitting down with HR or your boss instead and ask what you could do in the meantime to make yourself a more attractive candidate for future promotions. They’ll appreciate the initiative. If you’re given any feedback about your performance, take it to heart.

Soul search

Why did you really want this promotion? Are you unsatisfied with the level of challenge you have now? Did you just want a bit of extra money or prestige? Did you really want the extra work and stress, or were you after something else? Once you’ve answered these questions for yourself, you can move forward with a more clear picture of your career goals—and can set about achieving them.


Even if you’re not interested in leaving your company right now, keep your options open by staying engaged with your network. If you’re ready to leave—i.e. you’re unlikely to move any further forward in your current company—it’s time to start opening windows and sending out resumes. Make sure Opportunity can find you when it wants to come and knock.

 Often, there is nothing wrong with your actual performance, but the perception of your work is what is getting in your way. It’s always best to know so you can truly prepare for taking your necessary next steps.

Just remember: wait to cool off before acting. Ask the hard questions that will help you improve your chances in the future. Keep networking. And don’t, under any circumstances, bad mouth any one you work with or for. Also don’t blow this one disappointment out of proportion. Keep on moving in the right direction, minor or major setbacks be damned.

About the author

Peter Jones