So, your co-worker received the promotion you wanted? Maybe you did the adult thing and slapped them on the back to congratulate them. You probably told them they deserved it. Internally, however, you may have found yourself fighting bits of jealously. That’s normal.

Hey, it hurts.  It feels bad – especially when you worked hard and you believed you deserved that promotion.

Great people are frequently passed over for promotions. We have long been told that if you work hard, remarkable things happen. Hard work begets success, but hard work doesn’t always equate to promotions.

self-promotion is a key to success

Traditionally, employees progressed along a set-in-stone career path. Somewhere along the way, work changed. Old paradigms shifted. Managing your own career is more the norm today and simply being good at what you do does not always get you noticed.

One of the biggest hurdles to overcome in your career is your inability to feel comfortable in the spotlight. However, “out of sight, out of mind” is not a great strategy for advancement. If you stay tucked away and head down, your boss might love it because you are low key. The issue with that behavior is while things may work so smoothly, it is easy to be forgotten about.

P.T. Barnum said, “Without promotion something terrible happens – nothing.”

Self-promotion is tricky. It is not always a comfortable act, particularly to the introvert. Still, it is crucial for advancement and compensation. If you are serious about getting ahead, you cannot wait for someone to tap you on the shoulder. You must put yourself in the driver’s seat of your career.

8 Ways to Bounce Back After You Were Passed Over for a Promotion

1. Break Down the Game Film: It is football season here in the U.S., so I hope I can get away with a sports analogy.  After the football weekend, coaches and players spend the next week watching the game film. They want to see what worked and where their play executions fell short. They also watch game film from other teams in preparation for the upcoming week. This gives them insight into their opponent so they can beat them at their own game.

What do you see when you break down your game film? What did your co-worker do differently than you?  Be brutally honest. Cast aside any negative feelings about your co-worker’s promotion and list reasons why you may not have been chosen. This is not a comparison exercise. People are compelled to compare everything about themselves to others, from the house we live in to the car we drive. We are unique. Comparisons are unhealthy.

This is also not an exercise to pit yourself against your co-worker, but rather to take a second to reflect on your co-worker and what you can learn from them. How did your co-worker play it differently than you did and where can you outsmart them the next time? This is the insight you need.

2. Create Your Own Opportunities:  Don’t see an opening? Waiting for someone to leave before you get your shot? Watch. Learn. Listen. Study the challenges of your organization and determine what area needs help. Don’t be shy about telling your boss how your skills can plug that hole. Even if they don’t go for it right away, you’re showing them how your initiative can add value to the company. It’s just a matter of time before you are promoted when you show that type of drive

3. Be Your Own Spokesperson: You may have a lengthy list of career accomplishments but if you are the only one who has access to that list, your boss will never understand the full extent of your contributions. Many employees are disheartened with their annual performance review because it doesn’t always tell the full story. You owe it to yourself to make yourself heard. Help your boss out. When it is time for raises and promotions to be handed out, your contributions need to be at the forefront of manager’s mind. Track your accomplishments and have regular conversations with your boss because these systematic discussions will remind your manager of your value – on an ongoing basis, instead of once a year at performance review time.

4. Build a Reputation Outside of Your Job Description: Passive mindsets are dangerous to your career.  Don’t wait for someone to map out the way for you. Define your path and don’t be afraid to adopt an increased definition to your duties. Just because it is not in your job description does not mean you cannot do it. Make your role dynamic and show that you are willing to engage in work that is beneficial to your company even if it falls outside of your official duties.

5. Don’t Be Your Own Stumbling Block: Did you know that studies have shown that men apply to jobs when they meet only about 60% of a job’s qualifications? Women, on the other hand, only apply when they meet close to 100% of them.

If you are too afraid to apply to new positions, you become your own stumbling block. You get in the way of your own advancement. If you are waiting until you meet 100% of the qualifications, you might be waiting a while. Use realism in your search, but failing to act on an opportunity that could be a great match will only lead to regrets.

6. Form Key Alliances: People who get recognized are people who know people. Build your reputation by forming key alliances. Many people focus on trying to impress only their boss. Then they alienate or diminish their relationship building efforts with their co-workers, customers, or clients. You also do not want to focus exclusively on your co-workers who are on the same level. Relationship building with all levels of employees will be the formula for success.

7. Participate in “Forced Fun” (aka Networking and Extracurricular Activities): Ugh, I know, I know. I hear your groans. This introvert feels your pain. This may not be your thing. Maybe you despise large gatherings. Maybe you have a full schedule. Maybe you just don’t want to hang out with the people from work. Fair enough, but push yourself to do it – at least a little. The extra exposure and the opportunity to build relationships and alliances will never hurt you.

8. Kick It Kardashian Style: Love her or leave her, but Kim Kardashian knows how to get attention. Your name needs to be seen and heard and you don’t have to be a Kardashian to do that. Start attaching your name to more organizational initiatives. Does your company have a blog or a forum? Are there industry specific blogs in which you can contribute? Go for it! Be heard. Remember if you want to do something incredible, being comfortable is not the goal. When you want to stand out at work use your job description as the minimum standard that needs to be accomplished, not the guide for excellence.


One last note of significance – While you may have been passed over this go-round, understand that it may not have been because you lacked in expertise. It may have meant that your co-worker simply stood out more to your boss.  Take a step back and reflect.  Where did they surpass you and how can you do that the next time?

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Jan Johnston Osburn is a Certified Career Coach and Organizational Consultant. Her organizational specialties are Talent Acquisition, Training, and Leadership Development. She holds a Master’s degree from the University of Buckingham, UK, and has certifications in Executive Coaching and Advanced Social Media. Her website is www.YourBestLifeTodayCoaching.Com .