Having worked in my HR role for two years I was eager to advance to the next level. Given my successful performance track record, I felt fairly confident that I would be the selected candidate for the internal promotion I had applied to. When I found out that I did not receive the promotion, I felt a range of emotions, starting with disappointment, then anger, and finally confusion as to what to do next.

It took me a couple of days to be able to process what happened, but as someone with a background in HR, I knew this much: it came down to 1 of 2 reasons for which I may not have been selected, either timing and circumstance, or I didn’t have the skills or competencies necessary for the role. Thinking through these two scenarios helped me to calm my emotions and react positively versus letting them continue to bring me down.

1.Maybe the decision was made solely due to timing and circumstance –

Depending on the situation, there is a strong likelihood that the fact that I did not get the promotion had nothing to do with me personally or my specific performance. While I was working hard to exceed expectations and develop the required skills to advance to the next level, there were potentially others in the same situation competing for the same role.  Perhaps it was the “right” timing for someone else to get the promotion, and it wasn’t yet “my time”. Additionally there is always the possibility that there were other changes happening within the organization structure, and it made more sense for someone else to move into the new role . Regardless, the point is that the decision could have been made based on factors that were outside of my control.

2. Maybe there was a gap  in my skills/competencies, and this IS in my control

While there may have been some determining factors that were out of my control, there is a likelihood, of course,  that I wasn’t in fact the strongest candidate for the role. While this was a hard pill to swallow, I understood that I needed to do some investigation to find out where any gaps could have been between the requirements of the role, and my skills and experience. A combination of self reflection and seeking advice and feedback from trusted leaders within my  organization, helped me to uncover blindspots of areas that I needed to develop in order to have a better chance at being selected for a similar role in the future.

The above recap of my own experience and learnings hopefully provides a strategy of how to reframe the situation and react both rationally and professionally when faced with what seems like a career setback.  The key learning is to understand the steps to take that are in their control versus being weighed down by those that aren’t.

All of this said, if you are repeatedly turned down for broadening job opportunities it might be a good time to step back and think more broadly about:

  • Whether or not this type of work is really what you are best cut out to do?
  • Why is this your career goal?
  • Is there another type of industry or organizational culture in which you might be better suited to succeed?
  • Are you in a career track and work environment that leverages your key strengths?

As a final thought, a career is a journey that has many stops, starts, and turns.  There are potentially many roads that will take you to your destination. It can be discouraging to get hung up on the idea that there is only one way to get to your career goal. As long as you have a final destination in mind – and are focused on continuing growth and development, chances are you will eventually get to your career destination. A certified career coach can help you develop the necessary skills to land that promotion and stay accountable to your goals and continue to build success and fulfillment. Controlling what you can, staying positive, and being a lifelong learner will generally lead to career success, whatever that means for you.

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Kristin Simon

I love being a coach and find fulfillment in empowering people to make decisions that will bring them closer to their goals and the life they want. I find that when people gain an understanding of how they can be happy and impactful in their professional life, they frequently utilize these skills to improve their satisfaction in other aspects of their life as well.

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