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How to Bounce Back If You Were Passed Over For Promotion (Step-By-Step guide)

Being passed over for promotion sucks.

If you’re ignored without an explanation, you may tell yourself that you are just not good enough or haven’t worked hard enough, spiraling into negative thoughts.

I’ll be honest: sometimes, you’ll be passed over because you are not ready. But before you jump to any conclusion, consider using this setback as an opportunity to reflect and develop an action plan that will help you get back on the promotion train.

It may not feel like it, but your next promotion could be in your control if you understand the real setbacks and what you could do instead to prepare for the next opportunity.

How to BOUNCE Back

Navigating the disappointment of being passed over for a promotion can be challenging but also an opportunity for growth and resilience. You get to choose how you react to this setback. Let it keep you stuck, or use it to drive you forward.

To help you bounce back stronger, I've created an action plan using the acronym "BOUNCE" to guide your journey.

Brave Reflection (B)

Take the time to reflect on your emotions and thoughts. Acknowledge any disappointment or frustration, and then focus on identifying lessons learned and areas for personal and professional growth.

Write down your thoughts and revisit them a few days after you have time to process them.

With time, you’ll gain perspective, allowing you to open up and accept responsibility.

Open feedback (O)

Initiate an open and honest dialogue with your manager or relevant decision-makers. Seek feedback on why you were not selected for the promotion and ask for guidance on areas where you can improve.

Asking for feedback is not easy, the last thing we want to hear, is where we are lacking in skills or experiences. However, it is truly the only way to learn and grow.

Set up a dedicated meeting with your manager, and let them know in advance you will be asking for feedback.

Use specific questions to clarify why you didn’t qualify for the promotion.

Look for:

  1. Skills / Knowledge

  2. Experience / Results

  3. Behavior / Communication

  4. Leadership / Relationships

During the meeting, ONLY listen and acknowledge. Do not push back or negotiate the feedback. Your goal is to learn, not win an argument.

Upgrade your mindset (U)

Bouncing back heavily relies on your ability to believe you CAN become qualified for the promotion. Even though you were passed over, you need to have a conviction about your ability to rise to the challenge.

Your internal confidence is likely to have suffered, so you’ll need to remind yourself who you are and what you are capable of.

Create a brag list with your greatest hits, speak to a friend or mentor who can provide positive feedback, or work with a coach to regain your self-confidence.

Network and Connect (N)

Networking can serve a dual purpose here.

First, these stakeholders can provide additional feedback and guidance for your promotion. If they know what you are working on, they may even provide you with opportunities for growth.

In addition, when it comes to promotions, you want to avoid having one point of failure. When you rely solely on your manager to support your application, you put yourself at risk. Instead, you want to nurture a group of advocates who will go to bat for you.

This way no matter what happens (think reorg, your manager leaving), you’ll have options.

Create a Plan (C)

Develop a strategic improvement plan using the feedback you received from your manager and stakeholders. Set clear goals, outline actionable steps, and establish timelines for achieving milestones.

I recommend sharing this plan with your manager and asking for their support. Check in monthly and share your progress to ensure your manager sees your growth. It’s also a monthly reminder that you are working towards a promotion, so your manager knows you are interested in the opportunity when the next review comes around.

Executive presence (E)

You may go through this entire process only to realize you don’t really have any skill gaps. You are qualified on paper, but the decision makers couldn’t see it. You were not at the top of their minds when making the decision.

To become the obvious choice, you’ll need to work on your executive presence alongside your improvement plan. You’ll also need to work on your communication skills, decisiveness, and strategic thinking. The more you act like you are already at the next level, the more your stakeholders believe you belong there.

Your Next Steps

Being passed over for promotion is not the end of your career. In fact, it can become a career accelerator if you use it to your advantage.

More often than I would like to admit, people let being passed over burn them twice.

Once when they get passed over, and then again, by letting this setback define what they can and can’t do.

Don’t do that.

Anyone can get passed over. But staying stuck is a choice.

By following this BOUNCE action plan, you can turn adversity into opportunity and continue moving forward in your career journey with confidence and determination.

I believe in you, and I’m rooting for you.

Maya ❤️


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