4 Ways To Move Forward If You Were Turned Down For A Promotion

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You’ve been at your company for a year and performance reviews are coming up. You know women face a glass ceiling and a wage gap, so you’re determined to negotiate. You want to move to the next level, but your boss sees you as someone who’s barely gotten started. So how do you negotiate if you have no leverage? Sometimes you have to play the long game.

Here’s an example of a time my ambition outpaced my experience. I had been working at an organization for about two years when a new position became open on my team. It was at a higher level but also in a different specialty. I decided to go for it (even though I had no direct experience in that specialty) and interview for the role. It was a disaster. I was overconfident and had nothing to back myself up. I wasn’t well prepared because I was hoping my work spoke for itself, and frankly, because I assumed I would figure it out as I went along. Perhaps I would have, but I wasn’t exactly making it easy for the vice president to say ‘yes’ to me.

If you’re ready for a new challenge but your boss doesn’t see it that way, here’s how you can prepare to be in a strong negotiation position the next time a good opportunity comes up.

Get clear on your goal.

In the example I shared, I was reacting to an opportunity that came up. It would have been better to thoughtfully examine my goals and identify what I wanted my next step to be. This might be easier said than done depending on your situation, but it’s worth spending the time to consider what you want so you can articulate it to others who can support you.

No surprises.

Don’t surprise someone you care about. And someone you want something from, like a promotion or a raise, is someone you care about. So give your manager a heads up that you’ve got your sights set high. Try something straightforward that fits your situation. For example, “I’d like to get promoted by this time next year. What skills do I need to get there?” It might feel scary at first. If you’re nervous, practice saying it out loud to a friend a few times in advance. Now you and your manager both know what you’re aiming for, and you can work together to determine how it can happen.

Identify your dream evidence.

What would make you a shoo in for the job you want? Gather the metrics or qualities that are going to help you build a strong case for yourself. Do this by talking to your manager, your mentor, and the people who are doing the job now. You can also expand your research beyond your own company and look at what other companies in your industry look for. Request a few informational interviews and compile a list of the top three to five metrics you need to advance to the next level.

Get after it.


Even if your manager says you’re not ready for a promotion, you can negotiate now for other beneficial experiences. This likely won’t cost your manager much, if any thing, and it will help you advance toward your goal. Come up with a plan to tackle each of your evidence metrics and ask for opportunities that support your plan. This could be a professional development opportunity like leading a team project, managing direct reports or shadowing someone to learn from their experience. If you need a hard skill, request funds to take a workshop or class, and then find a way to follow that experience up with on-the-job tasks.

This post originally appeared in Women@Forbes, where Alexandra Dickinson is a contributor. She writes about how to use a negotiation mindset to achieve your goals.