So you missed out on promotion? Maybe that appraisal didn’t go anything like as well as you hoped. Now one or two of your peers aren’t your peers any more – they got promoted and you didn’t. It feels pretty rubbish; it happened to me once. Looking back it was tough at the time but with hindsight they were right, I was wrong – and I needed to learn.
Don’t get down – at least for long – and don’t get bitter. Seeing other people get promoted can easily have both effects if you let it, and neither will help you catch up on the career ladder. Instead, you need to get going. Take one of these actions and you’ll be making a positive move; do the lot and you’ll be on your way.
Get a 1:1 with your manager
When you’ve calmed down enough, ask your manager for some 1:1 time and explain you need their help to plan your progress. Focus the conversation on what people do that gets them promoted (don’t focus on what you didn’t do, you’ll be off on a downward spiral). Identify behaviours, not personalities. Agree a short-term action plan and have regular 1:1 catch-ups on progress.
Get feedback – if you haven’t already done so
Chances are, if other people have been promoted and you haven’t, it’s not just about a shortage of slots. It’s likely that others’ feedback about you has played a part. If that figured in your last 360-degree feedback or appraisal, go through it really carefully and first highlight what you do well. Then look at areas where you need to improve. Use your ‘do well’ capabilities and strengths to address the ‘improve’ points. So for example if you’re good at getting stuff done, but sometimes at the expense of someone’s feelings, see building relationships as an essential part of doing the job well and make every interaction not just effective, but collaborative and respectful.
When receiving on-going feedback, ensure you’re clear on the behaviours that prompted it and if not ask for specific examples of when you have / haven’t demonstrated what’s required.
To achieve your short- and long-term goals may need you to get some specific support. Long ago I got criticised for my management style but hadn’t had a scrap of training in that area. An enlightened employer put me on a programme that provided plenty of both cringe-inducing and eye-opening experiences. You could do a training course, or some coaching, a relevant stretch project at work, a secondment or assignment. One or a combination of these will help you focus on your goals and stay committed.
Get your department head’s advice
Make sure they’re aware of your situation and what you’re doing to achieve your ambitions. Ask for their advice. Don’t overplay it; keep the conversation short and sweet.
Get a mentor
Someone who’s been there, done it and will happily share their wisdom can be brilliant as a dispassionate sounding board and pressure valve as you work things out. Your mentor may be at your current employer, or perhaps a former boss, or someone from your professional network. What they shouldn’t be is anyone directly involved in managing your performance – that’s down to your line manager. Your mentor is probably someone you already know and the hardest part will be approaching them, so think through how you’ll do that. Agree upfront what you want from mentoring, what you and your mentor are prepared to commit to time-wise and what you may be able to do in return.
Get a network – beyond work
All this effort and focus on your job should help you make progress – but don’t let it be at the expense of maintaining and building your professional and social networks, or an unhealthy myopia might set in. You need your network to help you stay connected to the world beyond work, to keep your feet on the ground and your eyes open to what’s going on for others.
Work at developing your skills / knowledge / attitude. Identify the results of your improved performance. Tackle each area for improvement as an opportunity to excel.