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What to Do if You're Denied a Promotion

Robin Reshwan

Rejection is miserable. It doesn't matter if it's being turned down by the cute girl you asked to dance or losing to your nemesis at work for an ideal role. Being rejected after you stick out your neck hurts, no matter your age or experience. How you react after the "no" can say a tremendous amount about who you are.

Here are a few immediate moves to try after you are passed over for a promotion:

Cool off. Start by taking a little time to calm down and get your emotions in check. If you are really shocked by the decision, you may need a day to two to simmer down before you are ready to have a rational conversation. In other cases, you may just require a minute to collect your thoughts. Either way, make sure you are able to approach any conversations with a cool head and an open mind.

Request a meeting with your manager to get feedback. The thoughts in your head rarely match reality, so ask to discuss how the decision was made. In a perfect scenario, you can get the information you need at the time the decision is announced to you. But often, the first explanation given can be very surface level, like: "You did a great job. It's just that another candidate had more experience." While that may be part of the reason, usually there are more contributing factors. After all, they knew you had less experience before they accepted you into the process. That alone implies a less experienced candidate could be an option.

Ask for specifics and suggestions. The true purpose of your feedback request is to learn what's required for professional advancement. Evaluate why you were passed over to determine if these are things you can (and want to) develop in your current role or company.

Should you stay or should you go? Consider your options. What are the benefits of your current role or employer versus the pros and cons of other roles and employers? List them out so you can weigh the pros and cons reasonably.

Emotions, like feeling scorned, pass -- but regret from bailing on an otherwise great position or employer can come back to haunt you. At the end of the day, your employer will move on. You have the most to lose if you act hastily.

Additionally, you need to assess if your employer can or will change his view of you when you demonstrate the necessary growth. Like it or not, sometimes there is just too much history to change perception. If your work relationships resemble those in your personal life where your big sister or parents always see you as you were when you were little rather than as you are now, it may be time to move on.

Have a plan. If you really must leave, know that you are always more employable when you are already employed. Create a networking strategy that will enable you to look for a new role while still doing great work at your current employer. No matter how disappointed you feel, don't tarnish your long-term reputation by reacting badly or performing poorly.

As much as it burns to be passed over for a promotion, it happens to everyone -- OK, most everyone -- at some point in his or her career. Managing how you react to the bad news can move you closer to your next opportunity more quickly or set you back considerably. We see great examples of this in sports all around us. You won't regret your choice to make the most from what seems to be an undesired outcome.

Consider this quote from Michael Jordan: "I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I've been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

Robin Reshwan is the founder of Collegial Services, a consulting/staffing firm that connects college students, recent graduates and the organizations that hire them and a certified Women's Business Enterprise (WBE). She has interviewed, placed and hired thousands of people across a broad spectrum of companies and industries. Her career tips and advice are used by universities, national clubs/associations and businesses. A Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Robin has been honored as a Professional Business Woman of the Year by the American Business Women's Association. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa and as a Regents Scholar from University of California, Davis.

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