How to Handle Being Passed Over for a Promotion
That promotion was yours. You worked hard, all the signs were positive, and you thought it was a shoe-in.
But you didn't get it.
Outside of actually losing a job, being passed over is the worst professional experience you may face in your career, particularly for someone with an entrepreneurial mindset. It is a setback, and comes despite a slew of sacrifices, like missed birthdays, school concerts or vacations. You've given your life to your job. To say you're disappointed is a major understatement.
But you need to get over it. While there's value in talking it out with a loved one or even with a coach or therapist, the truth is, the best thing you can do is guide yourself through some self-healing steps. Doing so will help you pick yourself up, dust yourself off and move on.
1. Host yourself a pity party. Calling it a pity party might sound sarcastic, but I mean it. Go ahead and have one. Spend some time allowing yourself to work through all the emotions you feel. Let yourself be angry. Cry a little. Feel despair for a bit. Let yourself complain, whine or whatever feels right to you. Giving yourself time and validating how you feel is a necessary step in the healing process. Just make sure you put a time limit on how long you allow it to go on before moving on to step 2.
2. Accept what is. You can't move on until you do. Now it's time to accept what has happened. You can't undo it. You can sit and dwell for the rest of your career, but all that's going to do is build up resentment within yourself and, no matter how hard you try, it will eventually show. You can't change what is, but you can control your responses to the situation. Knowing this will give you the power to make new choices and decisions that will lead you to the next part of your professional journey. So focus on that.
3. Figure out what went wrong. Consider what you could have done better from what information you have. Then search within yourself for some answers and some conclusions. Even if you have no information at all from outside sources, you know yourself, your company and your employer well enough at this point to figure out what you might have done - or not done - to land you here. Be honest. It's very important to look in the mirror and face reality so you can learn from any mistakes you have made. Those mistakes can be something as simple as reading the situation wrong--maybe you really weren't as much of a shoe-in as you had thought. Pretending you've done nothing to bring on this situation is only going to prevent you from future success because the truth is, the truth will set you free.
4. Solicit feedback. Get feedback from bosses, mentors, colleagues and employees. How you get feedback is completely up to you and might be different when talking with a colleague or mentor versus with an employee. But getting a temperature read on how others perceive you professionally can give you some valuable information that will allow you to make some necessary changes before embarking on the next part of your professional journey.
5. Let go of the disappointment. Accepting what is is different than letting go. You must do both to move on. Once you accept what is and do some soul searching from the information you already had and the information you obtained from your research, you must let go. As I said before, you can't change what is. It is done. This promotion was not meant to be or not in the cards for you. But you can let go of the disappointment and see this not as an end, but as the beginning of a new professional chapter. Letting go helps you free yourself of the baggage that this event has left behind and make you ready for the next big opportunity to come your way.
6. Figure out your next move. Should I stay or should I go? That's entirely up to you and not something you have to decide right now. But realizing that it's a choice at this point is important. Many times, when people find themselves in this kind of situation, it leaves them feeling understandably but unnecessarily powerless. But considering a strategy for moving forward is the most important thing to do now. If you feel that there is still more work to do at your current organization that may lead you to better opportunities, then by all means stay. But if you believe this is the end of the line for your career with this company, then start getting out there, network and find yourself a new venture. Doing so while you're still employed is much easier than waiting until you are terminated.
Related: How to Fire Yourself With Grace