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Will passing up a promotion when my children were younger ruin my chances this time?

  • Publish Date: Posted over 6 years ago
  • Author:by Caroline Macklin

Question: I am trying to move up in my career but I am worried past decisions may come back to haunt me. Five years ago, when my two children were quite young, I passed up a promotion as it would have meant working longer hours. The same position has opened up again recently and I now feel ready to take on this role. I am worried that because I refused in the past, I will be passed up by my employer this time. How do I approach going for this promotion?

Answer: Try not to worry as it is unlikely your previous refusal of the role will impact your career path at this stage.

There is no doubt that your choice to prioritise your home life in the past should not be held against you in this process. Under the Employment Equality Acts, your organisation must not discriminate against you on the grounds of family status. This means that all things being equal between your application and that of another candidate, legally your organisation cannot choose another candidate above you on the basis that you have a family.

However, be careful not to let your concern impact your application negatively as this will result in you approaching the process in a more negative light. It can often happen that more experienced candidates are so concerned with a potential difficulty – such as the possibility of being discriminated against because of their age – that they fail to communicate their competency for, and their genuine interest in, the role to the best of their ability.

Focus instead on preparing your application and hopefully subsequent interview. Think about the reasons that you are now ready to move forward and highlight your personal unique selling points. Here are a few pointers that will hopefully put your mind at ease.

  1. Decide if this is the right move for you now

Ensure that you are certain that this is the right career move for you at this time. Don’t just go for the currently available promotion because you feel you may have missed out before. It has to suit your circumstances now. You have to choose an opportunity that fits your personal development plan.

  1. Request a meeting

Rather than mentioning the opportunity to your manager or the hiring manager in passing, ensure that your interest and application is given the gravity that it deserves. You want to be taken seriously. Request some time with the manager or hiring manager in question and ensure that confidentiality is maintained.

  1. Prepare for the conversation

Think about your suitability for the role now. Do not focus on the distant past. Don’t talk about how you passed up the role before. The interviewer will want to know why you are the right person for the role now and not dwell on the past.

  1. Keep your application positive

Put any concerns to one side. Don’t let any negative thoughts you may have about turning down the promotion previously colour the application process. Focus on the current process.

  1. If you are unsuccessful, request feedback

If you do not receive the promotion, request some further information from the hiring manager.

This will give you the reassurance that the reason you did not get the promotion this time had nothing to do with you passing it up previously.

The information you receive could be useful in positioning yourself for your next move. It will help you when approaching your next role, preparing for an interview and building your personal development plan. Don’t let disappointment impact your career or your relationship with your colleagues negatively. This won’t serve you or the company in the long run.

If you are ambitious and career-minded, it is important to be constantly open to new learning opportunities. This will help you take advantage of any future opportunities. Ensure that you are actively seeking upskilling opportunities, joining project teams and making the most of all opportunities to further develop your skills, as well as your profile within the organisation. This should ensure that when the right opportunity presents itself, you are well-positioned to move forward.

This article first appeared in the business section of The Sunday Independent on August 6th 2017, and the original article can be found here.

Caroline Ward - Senior Occupational Psychology Consultant
Caroline Macklin​
​Senior Occupational Psychology Consultant