"I just got passed up for another promotion. This is the third one in the last four years. I have a degree and great skills; I get excellent comments and scores on my yearly reviews, too. It seems impossible for me to break out of the job I've had the past five years. They still see me as the new kid on the block fresh out of university. Any ideas on how I can change my image and get the next promotion?"
You're not alone in this challenge, and there are many reasons why you may be getting passed over. With a little investigative work and some honest soul-searching, we should be able to figure out why it's happening.
1. Always ask for a debriefing when you don't get a job you applied for
You can ask why you weren't selected and they will likely be happy to explain. That takes a lot of confidence on your part because you will hear about all of the areas in which you were lacking. You will tend to want to defend yourself.
Instead, try to listen to the hiring manager objectively to learn why your application didn't make the cut. You'll hear things like, "You don't have any experience in project management" or "Your technical skills are just not where we need them to be." Those statements should create your action plan. They will tell you what you need to do, what to focus on, and where to improve. If you don't agree with the statements, that's your cue that you need to change your resume, or your answers to future hiring questions to highlight that you do have those skills.
Most people are unwilling to ask for a debriefing because it can be hard to hear. Do it anyway. If a promotion is that important to you, this is information you need to know.
I used to be involved in our local country fair, volunteering in the women's division. It's where the local women (myself included) entered their cakes, cookies, and pies to be judged. I'd been entering the fair since I was 12, and had had sporadic success with my (awesome!) cookies.
Once I joined the volunteer committee I was able to watch the judging. I found out that in order to be prize-winning, cookies had to be barely brown on the bottom. In my opinion, those cookies were under-cooked. But that's what the judges were looking for and that is what they rewarded.
I would have never have baked first-place cookies without knowing what the judges were looking for. I didn't agree with the criterion, but once I understood what it was, I was far more successful in acquiring the blue ribbons I coveted.
2. Make sure your supervisor/HR department/company is aware that you want a promotion
Sometimes we are hesitant to let it be known that we're looking to move up because it may look like we're unhappy in our current position. However, if the people who are doing the hiring don't know you want a promotion, your name won't enter their minds when they're looking for a replacement.
Apply for jobs that are in your skill set and are a promotion for you. And don't hesitate to tell your supervisor that you have done this. Let her know you want to move up.
Let your boss know you want to move up!
When a job is posted, it's natural for others to mentally fill it with certain names within the company. You want your name to be one of those automatic reactions when people see the posting. If you are indicating (through your words and actions) that you don't want to move, then your name won't occur to anyone.
3. Make sure your attitude doesn't indicate you are unhappy where you currently are
It's one thing to let your boss know that you want to grow because that is good for you; it's another thing entirely to imply that you're unhappy and that's why you're looking for another job.
If you are passed over for a promotion, don't let your disappointment seem like negativity. Sadly, people justify that they didn't get promoted because the other person was promoted due to an unethical reason (the person is related to the boss, is sleeping with the boss, is young and attractive, etc.). Don't allow yourself to go there. The damage you will cause to your own reputation will be something you won't be able to reverse.
Don't let your disappointment seem like negativity.
Skills can be taught, but people are hired for their attitude. Have a look at your last review. Are they focusing on your skills and not your attitude? You need to foster a reputation as someone who stays away from gossip and doesn't focus on the negative. You want to have a positive attitude and reputation. Keep your negativity and bad attitude away from the office. It will cost you far more than a promotion.
In the end, there are many reasons why we don't get promoted. All we need to do is be very truthful with ourselves and find out what we need to do to change things so that when the right job does come along, we're much more likely to be successful.
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