Five steps to dealing with professional disappointment

Jeremy Hunt is not going to be the PM, but he can pick himself up again.

Jeremy Hunt isn’t the only person who’ll be feeling down about a missed opportunity this week. Here’s how to cope if life doesn’t go as planned

By Tim Gibson

Right from the start of the Tory leadership contest there has been a clear favourite. Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, or “Boris” as he’s generally known, looked certain to win from the moment he announced his candidacy.

But that didn’t stop notable others from having a bash at the top job. There were 11 names in the running at the start of the contest. And foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt came closest to rivalling the Old Etonian for the keys to Number 10.

Today’s announcement of the winner of the election among 160,000 Conservative Party members confirms what we all suspected: Boris Johnson will be the next Prime Minister. Which leaves poor old Mr Hunt to lick his wounds and plan his next professional move.

    Hearing disappointing news about a job application, could be the impetus you need to think about what you really want in life.   


He can take some comfort from the fact he’s not alone. According to some experts, it’s harder than ever to secure a career promotion thanks to tricky economic conditions.

On the plus side, that means there’s plenty of advice on how to deal with the disappointment. Here are five things you can do to get over your missed opportunity.

1) Get stuck into doing what you do best

It may feel like the hardest thing of all, but there’s a strong case for getting stuck into your current job after a professional knock-back, and doing it to the best of your abilities.

Okay, so you know that you’re ready for a change. And you may well feel as if you were the best person for the job you missed out on. But sulking isn’t going to do any good at all.

“The way to show your superiors that you’re a quality candidate who they need to hang on to is to deal with your disappointment and keep on delivering,” says Emma Kershaw, a director at Just Recruitment Group Ltd.

“You’ve been in the running for a bigger job, which means people will be paying close attention to you in the weeks and months ahead. Now is the time to show them just how good you are.”

2) Ask for additional responsibility

For many people, the key incentive for seeking a promotion at work is the promise of an increased pay packet. But that’s rarely the whole story. If you’ve thrown your hat in the ring for a bigger job, it’s probably because you’re ready for a new challenge. Maybe you want to manage a bigger team or develop your business-planning skills.

Whatever the driver, there’s no reason why you can’t up the ante at work even though you didn’t get the new job. Ask your manager if you can take on additional responsibility, even if there’s no short-term increase in pay or status. It will show that you’re keen to develop your skills and profile. And whatever you end up doing for your next steps, it’ll all be good experience for your CV.

3) Take stock of your priorities

For some people, failing to achieve a promotion at work is a catalyst to think more widely about their life choices. It may be that the path you thought you were on isn’t right for you, after all.

Emma Kershaw advises making a list of all the things you hope to achieve in life before retirement.

“Ask yourself if your current career trajectory will help you achieve those things,” she says. “It could be that you’ve got sucked into the progression route because it feels like the right thing to do. By taking stock of your priorities, you may find that the promotion wasn’t actually what you wanted.

“This could be the moment at which you realise what you really want from life and have the courage to pursue it.”

4) Find a distraction from work

Disappointment may not be the end of the line...

Another helpful technique for dealing with professional disappointment is to focus on something other than work.

That’s not to say you should stop doing your current job to the very best of your ability (see above). But it may be that investing your energy in a new hobby or interest is just the tonic you need.

“Perhaps you’ve always wanted to have singing lessons, or learn how to play jazz piano,” says Ms Kershaw. “Maybe there’s a sport you’d like to try, or you want to save for a big holiday.

“Finding a non-work-related focus can help you get things in perspective. It’ll stop you dwelling on what might have been, and may well improve your work-life balance.”

5) Seek a new opportunity elsewhere

If none of these suggestions work for you, you may need to confront an uncomfortable truth: it could be time to move on.

You’ll know within a few months of failing in your promotion bid if you’ll find it possible to stay in your current role. If you feel you’ve outgrown it, or feel even an ounce of resentment towards the person who secured the job you wanted, it’s probably worth moving on.

“Polish your CV and get in touch with a recruitment consultant,” advises Ms Kershaw. “They’ll help you work out the best opportunity for your skills and experience.

“Who knows? It may be that you end up in an even better job than the one you missed out on.”

Jeremy Hunt can take solace from that. And if he needs further encouragement, he’d do well to remember David Miliband. Losing a party leadership contest didn’t work out too badly for him…

First Published 23 July 2019

© 2019 Just Recruitment Group Ltd

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