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Beyond the No: How to Excel After a Promotion Snub in the Publishing Industry

You’re probably reading this because you, or perhaps a colleague or friend of yours, has recently been turned down for that dream job, and maybe it’s been getting you or them a bit down. First off, I’m sorry that things haven’t gone your way this time. It can be so hard, especially in large organisations, where it seems like some people climb that corporate ladder especially quickly, securing a new promotion every couple of years, while others struggle to get a foothold. What you may not realise is that everyone, even the people skipping up the ladder, has faced rejection. It’s what you do after that rejection that leads to even better and greater things. 

In my first job in publishing, a job opened up that would offer me a nice opportunity to progress. My colleague (now one of my good friends) and I both interviewed for the same job. I knew I would feel fine even if I didn’t get the role, because my colleague was probably more qualified than me anyway and was very deserving of a promotion. But the outcome shocked both of us. Rather than selecting an internal candidate, an external candidate was hired. It probably hit my colleague harder than me as she had been at the company longer than I had and, in all honesty, she could have done an amazing job in that role, but it really shook me as well. At the time I thought, how could they have chosen an external candidate, when they had two great people to choose from already? I was asking myself the wrong question.

You’re not always going to be the right person for a job. You could be the most qualified person for the job, loyal to the company and trustworthy, always giving 110% and volunteering to take on responsibilities outside your job description. Sometimes hiring managers can just sense that the job wouldn’t be a right match for you. On the one hand, I’m a strong believer that if you really want something, you can make it happen, if it means that much to you, then it’s worth failing over and over again to achieve it. But I also believe that there are some paths we aren’t meant to take, failure often leads to unexpected paths unveiling themselves. Paths you might have never even considered, had the route you originally planned had not be blocked.

Before I delve into these options a little more, it’s important to really truly understand what you want from your career. There might be value in looking for other jobs, but there also might be value in taking some time to develop key skills within your company that will secure you another dream role at a later date. I often see posts on LinkedIn advising people to move to a new company every 2 – 3 years. While I think there is value in this, especially if you don’t know exactly what you enjoy and you’re still establishing yourself, if you’ve found something you enjoy and you’re good at, why not just enjoy life for a while? It all depends on what drives you and what gets you out of bed in the morning. Personally, I’m driven by two things, having independence and trust to make important decisions for my work, and knowing that ultimately, I am working towards the next level of my career. When the day comes that either of these two things are compromised, it might be time for me to explore the options below.

1) Unblock the way ahead

So you’ve been snubbed for that dream promotion, but you’re committed, you know that this job is for you, so you’re going to make it happen. Great, the most important step is a decision. The next step is a bit of manifestation (I’m not going all woo woo on you here). What would it look like if you achieved this promotion? How would you be different from how you are now? Think about this right the way down to what your day would look like, how you would you interact with your team, with your manager. Now think about the steps you would take, small changes over time, to make this happen. You also need to validate these steps with someone in authority, ideally the hiring manager for the role the next time the opportunity comes around. Make sure that they, as well as anyone else who might have influence over this decision, understands and knows what you are working towards and exactly what success will look like when you have achieved this. No good manager will promise you a promotion if you complete X, Y and Z, but a good manager will work with you to ensure that next time that opportunity comes around, there will be no question that you are the only choice.

2) Explore Alternative Roads On The Map

It might be that after your promotion rejection, you feel lost, demotivated, or just plain unhappy. Although we all usually experience some of this after a rejection, if your current role and situation leaves you feeling like this longer term, it would probably be better for you and for your company if you find another opportunity. Unhappy employees are not productive employees, and ultimately this won’t end well for anyone. In this instance, stop passively scrolling job ads and wondering if it’s time to move on. The first priority is to make a decision and commit. It might not be a new role that you want, it could be education, or an opportunity to give back and volunteer, or pursue a creative passion, something that supplements your working life. But if it is a new job you’re after, we need to go back to that manifestation technique that I mentioned above. Think carefully about your new role, what sort of culture you want to work in, whether you want to work in a fast-paced collaborative environment, or have time and space to concentrate on deep-work, or a combination of both. Think about whether you want to do a side-step into a different niche. You may find this niche within your own company; sometimes a side-step in a career opens many new doors. It may be a big change, but it could be just what you needed.

3) Create Your Own Path

Hello dreamers, this one’s for you! Sometimes you need to shake things up completely. Take some time off. Review your life and maybe do something new, and perhaps a tad crazy. This might be starting your own business, taking a course, or going travelling. This option is not for everyone. It involves a certain about of risk and you need a good emergency fund or some other financial support to make a choice like this. I would love to be an entrepreneur, and boy do I have some ideas, but it’s not a choice I can take in my life right now and instead I scratch that entrepreneurial itch by running this blog and having a small creative crochet outlet on the side, where I sell my crochet creations at local craft fairs. If you have the opportunity to make a bold move and create your own path, why not go for it #YOLO…

Looking back at my career, there have been times where I have taken option 1, or led with option 2, and as I’ve mentioned, I’ve dabbled with option 3. And reflecting on that role that I lost out on to an external candidate, well, it was honestly the best thing that could have happened to me. I knew if I wanted to be a leader in publishing, I needed to be in London where all the action was. Without this set-back, I wouldn’t have taken the steps I took next. I let out my flat, I moved myself and my partner closer to London so I could commute, and I got myself a job at one of the biggest publishers in the world. I commuted 2 hours to the office in the morning and 2 hours back every day for the first 6 months before being granted one day working from home a week. It was hard and tiring, but it was worth it. As cheesy as it sounds, without that set-back, I wouldn’t have been as driven to succeed as I am today. So if you’ve just experienced a similar set-back, take some time, really feel that pain, accept it, and do something about it. And don’t forget, this blog is here to help you along the way.

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