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  • Writer's pictureJackie Booth

Going for promotion: what you can do when you’re not successful.

We’ve all been there – you’ve gone for a promotion or a new role that you feel you’d be a great fit for and despite having the right qualifications, or having an excellent interview, you didn’t get the job.

What if you’ve been in your organisation for a while and you keep getting overlooked for promotion. Or other people are getting promoted that don’t seem to have the experience or qualifications that you have.

It’s exhausting, demotivating and unsettling to constantly feel like you don’t have what it takes. You start to doubt yourself and feel a lack of confidence in your ability to manage at a leadership level. You then start you feel anxious and worried about going for a new role, promotion or even project in case you don’t get it.

When I went for my first big leadership promotion and was unsuccessful, I struggled with self-doubt, started to question myself and felt like crying for a week. I thought that I’d never get there and move into the leadership roles I knew I was capable of.

In this blog, I’m going to share three of the key reasons why you might have been unsuccessful

and what you can do about it to empower and motivate you to go for the next big role you really want.

It wasn’t the right role (or organisation) for you

Not being successful at interview can be really crushing, especially if it feels like it’s the right time for you. Through honest reflection, you might begin to see that it wasn’t and having this opportunity means you can positively learn on the learning you can take from the experience.

Take time to consider whether this role met all the values that are essential to you. Your key workplace values might include working in an inclusive and supportive team where your responsibilities are challenging and inspiring, or a role where you have a compassionate boss and mentor, or be a place where you can access unconditional support and guidance when you’re stuck.

Only you know what’s important for a role to be fulfilling and motivating for you. If this is something you’ve never considered before then a good next step is to make a list of your workplace values. You might find when you review it that the promotion you didn’t get, wasn’t going to deliver what you really want and need in a role anyway. Additionally when apply for your next role, you’ll have more clarity about whether both it and the organisation will deliver what you’re looking for.

If this is something you’d like individual help and support with, you can always book a free Leadership Clarity Call with me to make a start exploring your personal workplace values.

The more awareness you have about yourself, the easier it is to work out where you can improve, not only in your level of competence and responsibility, but new factors will help you develop a plan for next time and your career overall.

You don’t ask for promotions

Often the most obvious explanation for not being promoted is the simplest; you didn’t ask.

Maybe you think your work speaks for itself or you think that your manager and seniors are aware of the fact that you’re ready for more. But they may be thinking that you’re happy where you are. Let them know that you want more of a challenge, more responsibilities, more of a leadership opportunity in your role, department or organisation.

Look around for things that would be a good fit for you that you can get involved in, particularly if it means working with other departments and directors. If nothing else, it will be a good opportunity to network and build relationships.

When new projects come to you, even if it means taking on additional work in the short term, volunteer your expertise and skills. This will provide you with the opportunity to test your skills and learn new ones, and ensure that you get noticed by others across your organisation.

The same goes for external organisations you may be working with. Get to know people, be proactive and share the heavy lifting on projects.

Your attitude and output will speak for itself and you can back it up with a conversation about how you’re looking for more responsibilities and are keen for further challenges. Most of my promotions came because people knew me, my abilities and more importantly, they knew what I was looking for.

Bear in mind your boss may also be happy with you where you are and that having to support your career development, or recruit to your role should you move on, is an inconvenience. If that is the case then you can still ask them for support but be prepared that they might be reluctant and you will have to look elsewhere for mentorship and advice.

If you want impartial leadership mentoring and advice then book a free Leadership Clarity Call with me and we can chat it through

You feel like an imposter

We’re all guilty of comparing ourselves unfavourably to others and feeling like we’re not good enough. This can easily happen at work when your manager or seniors don’t acknowledge your contributions or recognise your achievements, making it difficult for you to appreciate that you are ready for a promotion. And that can have a detrimental effect on your overall confidence too.

We feel like imposters because we believe what people have told us in the past about our skills and experience or our general level of competence. Even worse, we remember all the negative feedback or criticism we’ve received over the years (and that includes when we were children) and when we fail at something, our mind helpfully reminds us of all these things.

In order to counteract this, whenever you find yourself thinking negatively about yourself, make a list of all your successful achievements. It doesn’t have to be a long drawn out list – just two or three points that you’re really proud of can be enough to help you realise and acknowledge the great stuff you’re capable of, question the validity of the critical voice and support you to look at things from a more balanced perspective. You can also ask others that you trust to help you think about your achievements.

We are far more critical of ourselves than anyone else.

What you can do today?

Ask for help and then take action

Ask for feedback from the interview panel or your boss as to why you didn’t get the job or promotion. It might be the other candidate was better or more experienced and that’s fine but don’t accept that at face value. Find out what made the other candidate the preferred choice.

Get help to work out:

· What elements you might be missing at this stage

· What you can work on right now

· Whether there was more you could have demonstrated throughout the whole recruitment process

· What additional preparation you need to consider for next time

What else you could do

Ask for honest feedback as to why you weren’t successful and then take action based on what they said.

If you don’t have sufficient experience or expertise, ask your boss for support in order to obtain it, maybe undertake a training programme, request secondment into another department or organisation, or volunteer to take on more leadership responsibilities within your own team.

All these will empower you and increase your confidence as you work through them.

You can also take time to review your CV and identify where there may be gaps in how you’re presenting yourself.

Make a list of the key learning points from the whole experience, use the practice of reflection to put give you a new perspective and if you have mentors or coaches in your organisation, ask them for their support and advice. Sometimes an hour with someone objective such as a leadership coach can make all the difference to your perception and outlook.

You might want to wallow in how you’re feeling and it’s good not to step over how you’re feeling. But have an end date to it otherwise it will start to affect your attitude and you might begin to feel resentful. The longer you wallow, the longer you’ll stay where you are.

Everything is an opportunity for learning; it’s up to you to find out what that is.

Next steps

I hope these have inspired you and got you thinking about what steps you can take next.

I’d love to hear how you get on and if you realise you need more focused support in preparing for interview, get in touch and find out more about the “Are You Interview Ready?” Programme, it might be just what you need right now.

Topics covered in the "Are You Interview Ready?" Programme include:

· Identifying your key skills

· Discovering your workplace values

· Crafting key workplace examples to showcase your skills and experience

· Building your confidence

You can either undertake a half day intensive or join the next 4 week course. Get in touch directly and find out more today

Later this month I’ll also be delivering a series of three free mini-training sessions focusing on the specific interview challenges you might be struggling with and if you want to find out more, get in touch with me directly to be added to the mailing list so you’re the first to receive updates.

I look forward to hearing from you

BW Jackie x

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