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7 Reasons You Didn’t Get Promoted + What To Do Next

Rena Philips  |  November 21, 2022

Consider these action steps as your guide for career advancement and a better shot at your next promotion (and raise!)

You’re sitting at your desk, wrapping up an important project when an email pops up from your boss. Seems your coworker has been promoted, and she is likely getting a sizable raise. You send the obligatory “congratulations” email to her, hiding the fact that you are actually quite upset about being passed over. Again.

Even in a strong job market, seeing someone else advance up the corporate ladder ahead of you can be hard to take. But instead of hosting a pity party, invite yourself to do some self reflection. There are any number of reasons you may have been overlooked. It could be as simple as she asked for a raise and you didn’t.

We consulted career experts and job coaches, including Karen Silins with A-Plus Career and Resume, LLC, for strategies on how to best prepare for your next promotion opportunity. Here are seven reasons someone might be passed over for a promotion and the action steps suggested to help you move forward in your career. 

Your boss looks at more than how long you’ve been on the job

Experience is great. But it is not the most important factor, notes job site Glassdoor.com. Job performance and leadership potential often matter more.

Successful companies don’t rely on automatic promotions based on time on the job, Silins explains: “That demoralizes everyone. People need to ask themselves if they’re doing enough? Are they only doing exactly what’s required? Or are they showing that they’re ready for the next step?”

Action Step

Are there training activities available at your company or from an online university? If so, sign up.

You haven’t taken enough credit for the great work you’ve done

It’s likely you are the only person who knows how much work you do, and how important your input into projects has been. Don’t assume your boss is keeping track of all those details, especially if you are part of a large department, notes Glassdoor.

 “You are probably doing enough, but you’re not keeping track of it,” Silins says.

Some people suffer from imposter syndrome, thinking they’re not skilled enough; while others feel like they would be bragging if they took credit for what they do. Don’t fall into either category. Instead, be objective, and keep a running list. Track your accomplishments monthly or quarterly, including your role on projects, and any measurable results. Sign up for committees and keep a record of your contributions.

Action step

Write it all down and be ready to share a synopsis of your accomplishments at your annual review.

Your boss may not know that you want a promotion

Asking for a promotion can be a difficult conversation. But it is necessary if you want to move forward, according to Glassdoor. You know the saying that empowered women empower women? The same should go for our supervisors.

“Good bosses want you to be promoted,” Silins says. “It makes them look good.”

Action step

Let your boss know that you want to grow in your career, and make her a partner in helping you move up.

You haven’t proven you can be a leader

There’s a big difference between being a great employee and being a great boss. If your promotion would involve supervising others, you have to demonstrate that you are ready and capable. “At some point, you have to show off your skills,” Silins explains.

Action steps

Take some leadership or management classes online. Check out books on the subject from the library. Listen to podcasts to help you gain some know-how. You can also volunteer to coach or mentor less experienced employees.

You don’t take constructive criticism well

We know – in theory – that feedback can be the breakfast of champions. Sometimes, though, criticism can make you feel like you aren’t good at your job. If your boss has provided advice on how you can improve, take it, and tell her you appreciate the input. 

“You will never be promoted if you do not take criticism well,” Silins says. In most cases, “your boss is there to help you, not hurt you. Accept what your boss says as an opportunity to make improvements.”  

Action steps

If you struggle with criticism about your job performance, check in with a career coach for advice. If your issues stem from your childhood or a traumatic event, you should consider seeing a licensed therapist. Some companies offer free counseling services for employees. Check in with your human resources department to see what support may be available.  

You don’t see the big picture

Even if you’re putting in long hours and completing all of your projects ahead of deadline, you may not understand the overall mission and goals of your company. Don’t just check off your list of daily to-do’s, notes Glassdoor. Ask yourself “How am I as an employee helping to make my company better,” Silins says. “When you can reflect and make it your own, that changes everything.”  

Action step

Take advantage of opportunities to learn more about your company and what your boss and co-workers do, and how you all work together.

You may not be challenging yourself enough on the job

If you want to move up, you have to prove that you can not only do your job well, but that you are ready for new assignments and more responsibilities. 

“Would you want someone who works for you to view the job as a paycheck? Or would you want someone who cares and who wants to be great?” Silins asks.

People who feel challenged in their jobs also feel better about doing them.

If you’re not challenging yourself enough, she says, “you might want to ask if it is the right job for you.”

Action Step

If you’re not challenged in your current position, try working in another position or department so you can learn new skill sets. Or, Silins says, this may be your opportunity to try out a new role somewhere else. 

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