I fear I am being passed over for promotion due to my age. What can I do?

I have been working for my employer for 15 years and I have a lot of relevant experience, but I have twice been passed over for promotion in favour of a younger colleague. I think this is in part because they assume that I am not as ‘dynamic’ and up to date on things like IT as my younger colleagues. Should I confront my line manager about my concerns or is there anything else I can do, eg, take courses externally to prove my interest?

Career Progression


It sounds like you have lots of experience having worked for your firm for 15 years and therefore you know the firm well and they know you well. They clearly trust you and know you’ll do a good job.

How often do you have career conversations with your manager? All firms are different, but these conversations are really useful, so you can have an honest conversation as to where you are now and where you’d like to be. Then, together with you manager, you can do a skills gap analysis and start to put together a development plan of skills to work on.

How is your network internally? How is your personal brand perceived internally? Do your stakeholders know you and your track record? Ultimately, do they know what you’re looking to achieve in your career?

What was the gap in time between these two rejections, and did you get any feedback (however vague) from the firm as to why you didn’t get either? It’s common for firms not to volunteer giving feedback, but given it’s an internal move, it’s always worth asking and you’re much more likely to get it given you’re currently working there. If you don’t ask, you don’t get!

It’s normal to assume things particularly when you’re feeling low about an outcome, but it’s always best to ask for the feedback directly so you know what you can work on for next time and even receive concrete examples as to why you didn’t get each promotion. Create an open dialogue.

You mentioned it might be related to updating your IT skills – could you find out what programmes would be helpful to be trained in, in more senior roles and then see if the firm run courses on this or if you can book an external course as part of your development? Then, in an interview you can mention that you’ve refined your IT skills in X course.

Another possibility – could you improve your interview style with further practice? Given you’ve been there for 15 years, you might not have interviewed for a while and selling yourself can be hard and answering competency-based interview questions can be challenging. It might be worth speaking to someone who can help with this next time there’s a role you’d like to apply for.

In short, I’d encourage having an open, honest career conversation with your line manager to explain how you feel post not getting either promotion, and ask their advice around what you need to do to step up in your career.

Good luck!

*Liz Sebag-Montefiore is a career coach and Director of 10Eighty, a strengths-based HR consultancy. For more information, please visit www.10Eighty.co.uk.

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