You put in the time, eating lunch at your desk and ordering in after hours. You took your annual company review to heart, asking for constructive feedback during the interim. Thus far, your career remained mainly on track, until you got derailed — passed over for the promotion you thought you had a real shot at.
Now, you duck your head around your boss, not ready to hear the “why” part of being turned down. You may think of settling with your current position since it’s what you’re good at anyway — or shooting off your resume to every job board imaginable. It’s better than verbally shooting off at the person who got the promotion, right?
Reserve the dramatics, and don’t jump ship just yet. It’s natural to feel the sting of rejection when you were so invested in growing your career with this specific promotion, but it doesn’t mean other opportunities aren’t on the horizon. It doesn’t mean you’re not good enough or didn’t deserve it.
Here’s how to cultivate positive meaning after being passed over for a promotion and rebound more brilliantly than ever before.
1. Refocus negativity on productivity
Naturally, you feel put off by missing out on this opportunity, but you need to take time to cool off. Don’t make any next steps until you work through your initial feelings. You could risk going full Hulk on your established reputation and smashing all the solid work you’ve contributed to the company. Don’t do that.
Better yet — channel your negative emotions into productivity. Don’t give up. Let those emotions fuel your hard work to up your game. Maybe not this time. Next time. Let those negative emotions transform into positive ones and creative professional alchemy.
Redefine the way you think about failure. Known as the “Pied Piper of Potential” entrepreneur Sarah Robb O’Hagan, the CEO of FlyWheel and one of Fast Company’s “Most Creative People in Business,” says you should use failure as your fuel to operate optimally at the edge of your potential. Stop playing someone else’s game with your career and calibrate your potential to your advantage.
2. Use feedback to increase visibility
You will be in a better position to seek feedback after cooling down and getting back into your workflow. A committed employee looks for feedback more than once during the year, as you’ve demonstrated. You were working toward the promotion before rumor got out that one was finally on the horizon.
Employers recognize this level of loyalty and dedication — it doesn’t mean you’re invisible. Proactively seek feedback to increase your visibility and viability for future promotions. Visibility goes both ways — your employer notices your dedication, and you notice where you should grow.
Don’t waste time beating around the bush and tapping the grapevine for rumors. Go to the source and talk about the decision process and your candidacy with your boss. It’ll save your sanity several laps around the hamster wheel, too.
3. Get over entitlement
Sometimes, a sense of professional fate gets the best of you and inflates your ego two sizes. Your sense of entitlement to a promotion may negate other factors, and sometimes, the key is getting over yourself before you can move on and upward. In fact, you may not think you’re entitled at all, and there are likely many good points to your sides of the matter, such as seniority and a strong track record of sales.
Learn to balance assumption and expectation with reality, or you could run your career into the ground.
Perhaps, there is an issue of favoritism going on behind the scenes. Typically, it’s something more innocent and even boring: The promotion may require leadership or technology skills you didn’t possess at the moment. If you haven’t pursued those skills yet, do you want to? Would you want to work in that capacity? Do you think you’re entitled to big rewards for doing the basics of your job? What makes you unique professionally?
Rethink your position and consider any feelings of entitlement you carry. It’s a needless weight. Take feedback to heart and get out of your own way.
4. Be your own crystal ball
How does what you’ve learned, affect your future? Did you learn you don’t want to go down a particular path professionally? Maybe this promotion wasn’t the one you wanted after all, and you can now take this opportunity to explore other departments.
Perhaps, this was a wake-up call to work harder for your calling. You wanted that promotion, so you’ll develop the necessary skills to get there next time. Don’t sit around waiting for fate to shift in your direction. Don’t give up. Be your own crystal ball.
Have the vision to envision your future with concrete steps because you don’t need a promotion to succeed or grow at work: Focus on lateral moves up the corporate ladder. If you see an opportunity to mentor with someone, pitch a game-changing project or propose a promotion for yourself — go for it. Reach out to leaders and talk to them about opportunities, innovation potential, and their career paths.
Step up to bat for your future, because you’re the only one who will. You will strike out from time to time. You might feel like you got hit by a freight train, but you will get up and risk doing it all again because you love what you do.
Put the blood, sweat, tears, and passion into your work, and the right people will take notice. You have to take notice of yourself first, and the rest will follow — you must start with leading the way now.
Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks, a leading career advice blog. Her career development advice has been featured on Forbes, Levo, The Muse, Business Insider and other top publications. She had the honor of participating in Mashable’s #BizChats with the biggest names in the career world and was honored to have been listed as one of the top career websites and career experts to follow.