You just heard the news - you were passed over for the big promotion.
Now what should you do?

Here are some simple steps that might ease the frustration, give you some insight and help you plan your next career move.

Step 1 – Take a deep breath, assess the situation and ask yourself this dozen questions.

1) Did I really want the job or did I just think I should want it?
2) Were the decision makers aware of my aspirations? If not, why not?
3) What are their factors, within and beyond my control, which influenced the choice?
4) What role did personal chemistry play in the selection process?
5) How much time did I spend building key relationships so that the decision makers could say they “know, like and trust” him/her?
6) Who really made the choice? Are you sure?
7) What is my professional and personal reputation in the organization? Be honest.
8) What do I bring to the table that is unique and compelling?
9) Who is concerned I might leave the company? Is their concern valid?
10) Honestly, how do I compare in performance, training, education and drive to the person who received the nod?
11) Who would my colleagues and the support staff have chosen?
12) Was I prepared for the next step?

Step 2 – Speak with the decision maker(s)

Once you have a handle on the answers to these questions and can be more objective about the process schedule a meeting with your direct supervisor. No dropping-in, ask for a sit down, in a quiet place, with an agenda to discuss the decision and your career.

Prepare for the meeting
1) Develop a list of your accomplishments. Emphasize your contributions to the bottom line. Focus on results and the impact they had on your department, program and the company.
2) List the expertise and skills you have acquired recently
3) Note the trainings you have given or participated in this year.
4) What status or notoriety have you brought to the organization?
5) Be prepared with the ratings and comments from recent performance evaluations or 360 instruments
6) Speak with your mentor, coach and/or trusted friend(s) and get their suggestions
7) Practice listening.
8) Prepare what you will say and repeat it (out loud) watching your tone (no anger or arrogance) and achieving a natural conversational flow.

Step 3 - The meeting
1) Arrive dressed appropriate for the position you wanted
2) Be exceptionally calm and neutral at the beginning of the session. Look serious but never threatening.
3) Sit across, never next to, the person.
4) Take an active listening role. Listen more than speak, ask questions for clarification.
5) Take notes
6) Stress that you are disappointed and concerned you did not get the offer.
7) Ask what you could’ve done to have earned the position
8) Inquire as to what the plan is for your career development and ask what next steps are open to you within the firm
9) Never suggest you would leave the organization. Never say you won’t.
10) If you are not satisfied with the meeting or feel that your supervisor was not a significant factor in the promotion inform him/her you will need to have another conversation with the person who made the choice.
11) Always thank the person and assure them you would like to continue the dialogue
12) Consider writing a follow-up email summarizing what you heard and next steps
NOTE: If the conversation is negative, non committal or dishonest ask “What message should I be taking away from this discussion?”

Step 4 – Choices

Once you have given yourself some time to calm down, reflect on what you really what and taken ownership of your role, you can begin to think about potential next moves and an action plan.

It is impossible to predict, without knowing all the details, how anyone should or would react. Weighting your options and avoiding rash decisions is important.

The most obvious move also has the greatest short-term risk. Quit. This is rarely an immediate good choice but is always an option.

Another possibility would be to decide to better prepare yourself for the next opportunity and create a plan to get there quickly

Realizing that the decision makers might have been right would require a bit of pride swallowing but might also help you figure out your next step.

Researching what else is available, within the company and outside, often helps people make decisions. Information also can make you powerful.

If you have the sense that the politics, focus or management style of the company is putting you in the wrong corner start now to make corrections – internally or externally.

Let’s look at some examples -

You enter as a junior associate on the partner track of a law firm. You’ve risen with encouragement. At the 8 year point you are passed over for partner. It’s probably time to leave.

You’re a college teacher and you are not offered tenure. It is time to leave or accept.

People you mentored are now jumping over you on the org chart. Time to accept or leave. Either way you need to decide if you want what they have (and pay the price) or if you have reached your natural level.

A major regimen change. New people are being brought in for key positions. Probably best to wait but actively start looking while you carefully wait for the dust to clear.

The company is growing rapidly, the organization is in flux. It’s probably worth staying and demonstrating high value. Expansion means opportunity.

The dumb brother-in-law gets the job. Be grateful you’re not related. Assess every few months. Prepare to be asked to “help out” and when it continues bargain for title and more money.

Getting passed over for a promotion is a terrible experience. You need to understand the why and the what to tactically approach the issue before making any rash decisions.

Copyright Jane Cranston 2008

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Author's Bio: 

Jane Cranston is an executive career coach. She works with success-driven executives, managers and leaders to reach their potential, better manage their boss and staff, as well as develop a career strategy to reach goals and aspirations. Jane is the author of Great Job in Tough Times a step-by-step job search system. Click here to subscribe to her twice monthly Competitive Edge Report.