Ok, so you can read all about what you should learn from getting passed over (below), but you should also check out my new course to prevent this from happening again. Go on, check out GET PROMOTED.
There is nothing more deflating than getting passed over for a promotion. Especially when you know you not only “deserved” it but you are the most qualified person for the job. It happens every day. I could give you a list a mile long of people who were overlooked in favor of someone or something else. Me included. And let’s be real – there is nothing more demotivating than having to show to work the next day. Your faith in the company and even worse, your own performance, is usually shaken to the core. Many people turn nasty, ok, bitter. But getting passed over is almost one of the best things that can happen to your career. And it’s definitely better in helping you further your career, than getting a free pass.
Getting Overlooked is a Clear Sign
1. It’s an ego-check… but that’s a good thing.
Yes your ego is bruised and you are stuck in being bummed out by being overlooked (perhaps again). But it is an important reminder that your self-assessment of your skills, talent and readiness is not aligned with management’s. And guess what – that’s what matters. They are the ones making the decision, so their assessment is what matters. I know, you’re awesome and a superstar. I get that, but think of it like a bridge: you are on one side, their impression of your performance is on the other side. You need to find a way to meet them in the middle, so your performance and their perception, meets at the same point.
The lesson: you are either “not all that and a bag of chips” (which I do NOT think is the case), OR… you need to do a better job at promoting your accomplishments and skills. When you are good at something, you tend to forget that not everyone possesses the same talents, so they don’t feel unique to you – you’re just doing your job. But they are skills and you are accomplishing. So you need to find an authentic way to help your management team see just how much you bring to the table.
2. Your soft skills are not up to par.
In other words, you don’t play well in the sandbox. I just rolled my eyes along with you, but this is a real thing – and probably one of the more common reasons people do not get promoted. Delivering results is all well and good, but managers tend to want a peer group that a) they can get along with well and b) feel non-threatening to them and their jobs. I know, it sucks, but it happens often. If you are a top performer from a delivery perspective but continue to be overlooked or passed over, and hear areas of opportunity such as “communication, building relationships, collaborating, not approachable” year-over-year, than this is most likely the culprit for you. This is probably the hardest situation to overcome because people’s perceptions take a LONG time to influence and change, particularly in your favor.
The lesson: start working on your “people skills” immediately. Remember that delivery is only one part of the equation and being a part of the team is critical for upward movement. Include your management and peers in helping you find ways to improve your skills in this area, and include them in your journey. (This little nugget will go a long way). Ask for feedback more often, think before you speak, tackle obstacles in a one-on-one environment, and learn the art of persuasion a bit. Simply put, step of the gas a little and let others see you value their input as well.
3. You have just been provided with a very clear message of your importance and worth within the organization at a specific point in time.
I wish I could say that you shouldn’t read into an overlooked promotion, but you should. It is a clear message – regardless if you want to see it as such. There will always be reasons and sometimes excuses, but the bottom line is this: the company does not think you are ready for the next step; they do not think you are worth the extra investment in pay and training right now. So it’s time to take stock and figure out how knowing that, in plain black and white terms, how that makes you feel with your level of commitment and output within the company. It’s time to revisit your balance scale and see if it’s still intact or if there are adjustments needed. More than anything, if you have been on the fence about expanding your wings elsewhere, this is a clear indication that it’s not a bad to get a pulse for other jobs out there. This is a reality check on your long-term viability and/or career progression options at your current company – does it align with your own vision?
Overall, being passed over for a promotion can be very helpful for your long-term career path. It will show you some significant blind spots in your performance, the perception others have about you, and your worth to an organization. None of these things are signs that you should quit your job, but it does provide you with some significant feedback and knowledge to help guide your next steps. Do you need more experience in a certain area? Are you lacking managing-up skills? Is there a piece of the puzzle you have overlooked? Are you bringing extensive or mediocre value in your everyday actions? All things you need to ponder and take seriously when you are passed over, and help jump-start your next steps to move your career further.