4 Ways To Bounce Back If You’re Passed Over For a Promotion


Finding out that you didn’t get a promotion that you spent time and energy preparing for can be a huge bummer. You might’ve been daydreaming about getting a bump in pay or envisioning all the exciting work you’d get to do with a more senior job title, only to find yourself back at the drawing board.  

So should you dust yourself off and try again or start looking for new jobs? It’s complicated, because everyone has different circumstances to consider after they’re passed over for a promotion. You should definitely talk to your manager, get some answers about why you weren’t promoted, and create a plan, explains Francesca Galbo, Codecademy Talent Director.

It might feel like a daunting conversation to have when your emotions are already raw, but it’s necessary: “Unless you ask and communicate, you will never get what you want,” Francesca says. Here’s an actionable plan that you can use to keep your head up and land that promotion the next time around.

Find out why

In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to feel defensive or jump to conclusions about why you didn’t get a promotion (or agonize over why someone else did). But you won’t know the actual reasoning until you have an honest conversation with your team leader.

You have every right to get feedback on why you weren’t promoted, Francesca says. Keep in mind that you typically need to meet at least 75% of the competencies at the level above your current role in order to get promoted, according to Asif Kumandan, Codecademy’s People Operations Business Partner.

Ask your manager to point out the gaps in your knowledge base: Are there specific programming languages or technical skills that you need to master in order to achieve those higher-level competencies? Is it a matter of honing your leadership skills or spending more time mentoring junior members of your team? Or do you need more experience collaborating with other teams within the organization?

Make a plan (and put it in writing)

Once you have a clear understanding of why you didn’t get the promotion you were vying for, it’s important to chart your path forward. Talk to your manager about the specific steps you need to take and determine a realistic timeframe based on your organization’s performance and compensation review cycle, Francesca says.

Set some SMART (stands for “specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound”) goals and objectives with your manager. If you’re not sure how to broach the subject again, Francesca suggests saying something like: “Can we discuss my potential trajectory and up-leveling if I’m able to accomplish these tasks in 3-6 months?”

Show tangible growth

Make sure to get your plan in writing. That way, you can reference it when it’s time to check in again, Francesca says. “As long as you have specific metrics down on paper, you can point to them and say, ‘Hey, remember when we had this discussion?’” she says.

In the meantime, keep a running list of your contributions and positive feedback you’ve received, so you have tangible points to use as you build a business case for your promotion. This could include everything from establishing a more efficient code review process for your team of devs, to learning a new framework, or becoming the go-to person for debugging code.

Think about what you want from your career

For some folks, getting passed over for a promotion might be the push you need to start exploring opportunities at other organizations or planning a career change. Rather than having a knee-jerk response, take time to reflect on the feedback you’re given, what you want in your career, and whether there’s room for you to grow at your current organization.

Francesca’s advice is to run towards a new job, rather than away from the one you already have. “You shouldn’t be immediately fleeing just because the performance review cycle didn’t turn out the way you wanted it to,” she says. “You have to at least try to have a conversation first before you decide, Okay, this is no longer serving me.”

Feeling motivated to learn something new or add another language to your tech stack? Check out this list of most popular programming languages to learn in 2022, or see what technical chops you need to land in-demand tech positions. Whether you want to learn the fundamentals of UI/UX or need to take your Python skills to the next level, our course catalog has something that will help you achieve the competencies you need for a promotion.

For more job-search tips from tech recruiters, practice projects for your portfolio, and advice for answering interview questions, be sure to visit our career center.

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