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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

3 Questions to Ask Yourself if You Keep Getting Passed Over for Promotions

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It sucks when you get passed over for a promotion. And it sucks even more when it keeps happening every single review cycle. All kinds of thoughts probably cross your mind. You might wonder if you’re not good enough. You might wonder if you’re not valued. And then, you might wonder who you should blame for your lack of growth.

But before you start pointing fingers, here are a few tough questions you should ask yourself.

1. Are You Going Above and Beyond—or Are You Just Doing What’s Asked?

If you’re doing everything your boss assigns you, that’s great. If you’re doing those things well, that’s even better.

But let’s be honest: That’s the bare minimum you need to do to stay employed. People who go above and beyond identify problems before their managers give them assignments, take initiative to find solutions, and tackle projects no one else wants to take on.

So, take a closer look at your recent work and ask yourself if you can identify problems you’ve both identified and helped to resolve.

If You Can’t Identify Anything

Think of ways that your promoted teammates took initiative. The ways they went above and beyond are a blueprint for you to land a promotion in the future. If you’re stuck, Muse writer Katie Douthwaite White recommends these four basic steps: putting feedback into action, anticipating needs, bringing ideas to the table, and going out of your way.

But, If You Are Going Above and Beyond

If you felt you were bringing something extra to the table, ask yourself if it’s possible your manager didn’t realize it. After all, even the best bosses aren’t mind readers and if it’s not directly impacting your work in a way she can see, then she might truly have no idea. (And for more on how to brag without feeling like a jerk, read this.)

2. Was There Definitely a Promotion on the Table?

What’s one of the reasons you’re seeking out a promotion? If you’re like most people, it’s a salary bump. But what’s your current company’s situation? If the business is struggling or your team has maxed out its budget, there simply might not be any cash left to give you that raise you’re looking for.

If There Isn’t

You can ask your boss for other perks. Maybe your job title doesn’t reflect the work you’re currently doing. Maybe you want to take on new projects. Identify what you want to change (other than your salary) and talk to your boss about it. Then, when the budget resets, you’ll be able to discuss adjusting your pay to reflect your new responsibilities.

If There Is

Have a heart-to-heart with your boss about your frustration, but also ask for honest feedback about why you didn’t get promoted. Of course, this is way easier said than done. So use this email template to get the conversation started.

3. Is the Promotion You Want Actually a Fit for You?

Look at the job description for the role you’re disappointed you didn’t get. Then, compare it to your current career goals. Did this job help you take another step toward what you want? Or were you just chasing a more senior title and a bigger paycheck?

If it Is

Ask yourself a tough question: Does your boss know that this is what you want? If not, remember: She’s not a mind reader. Of course this conversation is much more complicated than saying, “I want this so much.” Instead, make the discussion more productive with this game plan.

If it Isn’t

That’s OK! You don’t need to rush a promotion if it’s not on the track you want! Instead, take a step back and figure out what you really want. Then it’ll be much clear what your next move should be.

When you feel you deserve a promotion, it’s hard to be passed over for it. But by being honest about what you can improve, what you’ve done to earn it, and what you want, you’re putting yourself on track to land it sooner than you think.

With that said, you might have noticed a pattern here, and it’s to keep your boss in the loop. After all, if you want her help to get ahead, you need to tell her what you’re looking for. More importantly, you need her honest feedback to understand how to land the job that you want.

Now get out there and have an honest conversation!