by Josh Johnston at Lifelong


One of the biggest things we look to, when gauging our success at work, is how often we are promoted. Climbing your way up the corporate ladder, rung by rung, has been the pre-occupation for many of us over the years. As organisations are evolving and increasingly becoming flatter in their hierarchy, promotions have become harder to come by and each role is getting more and more sort after. Getting that promotion has never been harder.

So when you put your all in, try for that promotion but fall short – what do you do? How do ensure you continue to strive, grow and achieve? Here are three major reasons why you missed out on that big promotion and some ideas of how to grow from here.

You were missing a key competency

Regardless of how structured they may be, recruiters and hiring managers will often have an idea of what the perfect candidate will look like. They will build ‘profiles’ listing out the skills and competencies they would like to see from their ideal hire. Thankfully, you’ll find a hint to what these are in listed in the Job Description. Take a look through these competencies and consider where you stand for each of them. Given that we are generally horrible at self-analysis, ask some trusted colleagues where you are strong and where you lack. Even ask for feedback from the hiring manager. They will often be able to enunciate where you fell short. With this gift of feedback build out a development plan for yourself. How will you make sure that you can boast this competency as a strength in 90 days time? (Hint : Use Lifelong’s uncomfortable worksheet)

Before we can grow at any skill we first need to be aware of our incompetence. Harsh at it may be, a failed attempt at a promotion may be just what you need to become aware of a career-limiting development opportunity.

Next time you are lining up for an interview put yourself in the hiring managers shoes. Look at each of the skills listed in the Job Description and force rank them. Rate them from what you believe is most important to least important. This will help you understand what’s required from the role and focus your efforts and stories in the right areas.

You interviewed poorly

Sometimes you may be strong in the areas the recruiter is looking for but an interview can be a daunting place. Tough questions and sweaty palms don’t provide the best conditions for you to showcase your abilities. Remember that interviewers aren’t new to the game – they’ve heard all the lines before so don’t let the ‘power speak’ you read online get in the way of them connecting with you. With that said, consider what they want to hear. They want to know that you posses skill in the right areas so be sure you can recall a specific work scenario where you used that skill successfully. Does the Job Description call for strong stake holder management? Talk about that specific time when you were liaising between Marketing and Engineering for that product release. What techniques or concepts did you apply to ensure it went successfully? Share you inner voice and give insight as why you made particular decisions.

It’s not enough to be strong in the right areas – you need to be able to enunciate your strength too. Try this in preparation for your next interview. You’ve already ranked each of the competencies listed in the Job Description –  next to each of them write down at least one specific situation in which you used that skill to your advantage. Again, specificity is key. Don’t just list – “I’ve turned angry customers around” but think of a specific time. What was the customers name? Why were they angry? What did you do specifically to turn them around? Why did you use that technique and not another?

You didn’t show your change agility

In the highly competitive world of the flat hierarchy it can be the case that both having competency and being able to share about it still isn’t enough. The business world is in constant flux and successful hiring managers know that what got them here, won’t get them there. They need to hire people that are adaptable and perform in the rapidly changing, ambiguous world they operate in. So – how do you highlight your change agility?  Recruiters want to hear about how each experience you have helps you to be better, so as you discuss you previous experiences be sure to discuss how they shaped you. How did each experience, whether it be win, lose or draw, shape you to be a better employee? This will help highlight your self-awareness and your love of experimenting as you work to better yourself.

Struggling to think of what to say? Add to your next interview preparation by continuing on from the list of Competencies and Experiences you’ve listed above. Next to each, add what that experience taught you. That angry customer we mentioned above, how did that experience impact the next angry customer you dealt with? Were you quicker to introduce yourself? Were you sure to lower your voice more? Show the hiring manager that you learn from your experiences by discussing how you got to where you are.

Interviewing is tough – it’s high pressure, there never feels like there is enough time and you always think of the perfect thing to say… 10 minutes too late. Think about these three areas candidates often fall short and you can be confident that regardless of whether you get that promotion or not, you’ll be better for the experience.

 Josh Johnston is the founder of Lifelong. An organisation that helps people discover how small changes can help lead to happiness and fulfilment. Being deliberate in planning opportunities to grow is one of many ideas covered in Lifelong’s Audio series, Lifelong Online. Get started with the Introduction Class for free.



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