When There's No Promotion in Sight

Don’t sit idly by when you’re eager for a promotion but there’s no opportunity to climb the career ladder at your organization anytime soon. You can still take steps now to advance your career.

By Cheryl Palmer

Are you ready to move to the next level professionally? Your plans for taking that next step on the career ladder could be thwarted if someone else gets the promotion you wanted or, worse yet, if it’s unlikely that an opportunity for promotion will arise at your organization in the foreseeable future. You might feel like you’re left with two options: hope that next year you will be the one who will be promoted or wait 20 years until someone at your organization retires.

Even in such a frustrating situation, you can take steps to better position yourself for career growth with your current employer or with another organization in the future.

When You’re Passed Over for a Promotion

It never feels good to watch someone else get the promotion you wanted, but you can turn this apparent setback into a learning opportunity.

Find out what management considers necessary to make you worthy of promotion. You need specifics. Is it your education level? Do you need a certification? Is it your lack of managerial or supervisory experience?

Do your own due diligence. Check out the credentials of the person who got the job. You can often do this by researching the person’s background on LinkedIn, or, in some cases, the person’s bio may be on the company website.  But also realize that the fact that you were not promoted may not have anything to do with credentials. It may have much more to do with fit. If this is the case, you may have to work harder at improving your relationships with management so that they will see you as worthy of promotion.

Swallow your pride and ask your manager what you could do differently next time. Before you start this conversation with your manager, think through your approach. It isn’t just about the questions you ask. It’s also about how you ask them. You may need to practice with a friend first to make sure that you are coming across as genuinely wanting to know how you can improve instead of seeming bitter because you didn’t get the job.

Engaging in self-assessment to determine why you were not promoted and then working on these issues will help you to use this experience as a stepping stone. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, you can work on becoming more promotable.

When There’s No Opportunity for Promotion

If it’s not likely that any upward mobility will be available to you for many years ahead, do you just wait it out? You obviously can’t create promotion opportunities out of thin air, but there are steps you can take while still at your current organization:

Consider asking for a new job title. If you are willing to take on additional duties without asking for a corresponding raise, your organization may be open to that. This could position you for a promotion in the future, either where you are or at another association. That new job title could mean a lot if you decide to look outside the organization for your next position. Having a job title that shows that you have been doing high-level work can open the door to advancement at other associations where you can receive the compensation you are due.

Develop your skills right now. This is a perfect time to work on your professional development by obtaining a certification or additional degree. Instead of bemoaning the fact that you have no promotional potential where you are, prepare yourself for the next step so that you are ready to make a move in the near future.

As you can see, there is no need to be a victim. You can take concrete steps to invest in yourself and your career so that your fate is not entirely in your employer’s hands. Instead, with careful planning and execution, you can promote yourself.

Cheryl Palmer, M.Ed., CPRW, is a career coach at Call to Career. Email: [email protected]