Skills & Expertise

Why You Didn’t Get Promoted, and What To Do Next Time

By not articulating what you want and why you deserve it, it can cost you

Let’s say you’ve taken on more duties or sought new challenges that strengthened your employer’s bottom line. Then review time comes and you’re passed over—again. Say what?

Unfortunately, simply doing your job well is not always enough. There are some universal no-no’s that can prevent you from advancing your career.

1. You’re Too Shy

Although being too aggressive is one reason many people don’t get promoted, being too timid is another.

By not articulating what you want and why you deserve it, it can cost you. Even if you are not one to request a promotion, you still want to have a positive standing so when it comes time for things like bonuses, you are a shoe-in for the rewards.

“There is a fine line between over-asserting yourself and therefore annoying people, and being too timid resulting in the appearance of a lack of confidence,” says Sharon Blaivas, founder of, based in New Jersey. “Speak up, make decisions, but be careful not to appear arrogant, reckless or annoying.”

Sandra Lamb, author of How to Write It: A Complete Guide to Everything You’ll Ever Write, agrees. “It’s what people don’t do that results in them being overlooked for promotions. And that basically means they are invisible in their organizations, or are not high-profile enough in their organization, so their name doesn’t come up during promotion discussions.”

She says coming forward with fresh ideas and communicating more with coworkers can help you build up a stronger, more positive reputation. “Always think in terms of value-added in bringing something more to the task at hand,” she adds.

2. You Don’t Have Achievements

One way to get noticed is to make things happen. This can give you some major leverage when it comes to moving up.

“A significant change to media over the past 10 years is that it has become more quantitative,” explains Mark Herschberg, CTO at Flashpoint. “It’s no longer about a good campaign or one liked by the customer… It’s about a campaign that generated $2M in business, or a 5 percent click-through rate, or whatever the measured quantity is.”

He says to pay attention to your numbers and note when you make an accomplishment. Write down the amount of sales you attained or helped to secure, or note the increase of viewers as a result of your contribution. “To get promoted, you need to be known for having concretely achieved something,” he adds.

3. You’re Not Tooting Your Horn in the Right Direction

Let’s say that you are communicating in the office, building a solid basis for career growth. That may not be enough, according to Danielle Forget Shield, the Texas-based author of Exceeds Expectations: Take Control of Your Performance Review.

“We all move along in our careers and expect that others will recognize our efforts and successes. Even if someone is phenomenal at self-promotion, they will only be successful if they are promoting the right successes to the right people,” she notes.

Shield notes that the right person to promote yourself to may not necessarily be your manager because someone else may influence him or her, or your supervisor may not have authority to dole out raises and positional moves.

Darrell W. Gurney, a career coach found at and based in Los Angeles, says some bosses are just too busy to recall all the things you have—and have not—done. This is why it’s important to be aware of your accomplishments and be ready to promote your performance.

“Failing to track each and every one of your own accomplishments doesn’t help you in justifying your promotion or raise when the time comes,” Gurney advises.

Sometimes it’s not even about achievements: You simply need to forge relationships with the right people in order to get ahead.

“Truthfully, performance and execution can get you in the door, but when colleagues, co-workers and executives are able to speak positively to your reputation, your integrity and the manner in which you treat, develop and engage people… that speaks volumes,” adds John Haynes Sr., a life and business coach living in Maryland.

4. You’re a Hot (Emotional) Mess

Another reason for missing out on a promotion—especially a pay increase—may be because you are simply not objective enough. It is nerve-wracking approaching your boss about these things, but you can’t let your emotions take over.

“Asking for a promotion is about making a very logical case for why you are valuable to your company,” notes Avi Karnani, ceo and co-founder of Alice Financial, based in Brooklyn, New York.

He says many people are quick to go into a performance evaluation with statements like, “I feel,” I think” or “I want,” and forget to use hard data that supports industry standards.

So even though it’s okay to say why you feel you deserve something, some quantifiable facts are great for back-up. “Make it logical. Make it data-driven,” Karnani says.

5. Your Body Language Is Off

Even if you’re not a nervous wreck, what’s going on in your head regarding the promotion can certainly be conveyed and may hamper the outcome of your request.

Sharon Sayler, author of What Your Body Says (And How to Master the Message): Inspire, Influence, Build Trust and Create Lasting Business Relationships, says there are a number of body language indicators that can position you in a negative light. This includes breathing too high in the chest, which may indicate you are in danger, angry or nervous.

“Training yourself to breathe completely, low and slow into the whole belly will help you look more intelligent, too—especially if you breathe through your nose,” says Sayler. “Nothing will make you look less intelligent than breathing with your mouth open.”

Even your voice pattern has an impact on how you are perceived. Sayler says combining a friendly, connecting tone with a credible voice is the best choice.

6. You’re Not Up On the New Stuff

In the media world, new skills and technologies change as often as the news does—all the time. That’s why showing that you can quickly and effectively grasp and apply new information is a huge asset if you’re shooting for a promotion.

“Media is going through unprecedented change, and most people are scared and confused,” says Herschberg. “If you can show that you are in front of these changes and can lead the way, you have a future.”

Staying on top of industry trends via websites and magazines can help, as can attending industry events and taking online courses. This shows your company that you are up on the latest happenings.

“Especially in media, if you stay tied to old technologies, you’ll go the way of the printing press,” Herschberg adds.

7. You’re Too Negative

To be blunt, you could just be a Debbie Downer, and that could spell a disaster if you are going for a leg up.

“Nobody gets uplifted by the person always pointing out the problems without the solutions,” notes Frances Cole Jones, New York-based author of The Wow Factor: The 33 Things You Must (and Must Not) Do to Guarantee Your Edge in Today’s Business World.

She says that you may not be a dismal person at all, but if you feel you have been slighted by the company, you may display a negative energy.

The key is to not let it show because companies remember the negative when it comes to rewarding employees. “Take care to vent your frustrations and resentments in such a way that there’s no chance of [them] harming your future,” she advises.

8. You Haven’t Asked For It

Even if you’re not shy about speaking up or showing what you have to offer, you may be missing the mark simply because you’re not being direct.

There are a lot of ways to let your company know that you’re interested in a promotion. Jones says it’s important not to let your boss know you are aware of colleagues’ salary advances. Also, catching your boss off-guard may not bode well to state your case—instead, schedule a meeting or bring it up during your annual performance review.

Finally, know what you’re asking for— in terms of any promotion. “If you don’t know what you want, you could lowball yourself in the pressure of the moment,” says Jones.

There is definitely a lot of pressure when it comes to requesting a salary increase or a move up the corporate ladder. To snag a promotion, make sure you stay professional and polite—and above all, prepared.

Up your exposure at work by being the employee who’s in-the-know on trending skills. Check out Mediabistro’s online courses designed to give you the professional skills and training you need to advance your career.

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