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How to Move On After Being Passed Over

In 1968, legendary comedic actor Bob Hope was hosting the Oscars when he told one of the best jokes of his career, “Welcome to the Academy Awards, or as it’s known in my house, Passover.” Like most great one-liners, it is funny on several levels. The audience laughed at his poking fun at himself. Mr. Hope hosted the ceremony for nineteen years, but he never won the award himself. On another level, the situation is also completely relatable. Virtually everyone recalls a time when they were ignored, dismissed, or felt undervalued. As a woman in traditionally male-dominated hospitality fields, it is still all too common an occurrence. 

Kate Buhler Profitable to Train

To illustrate, take any hotel and calculate the percentage of employees working there that are women. Next, calculate the percentage of women to men at the senior management level. While there have been welcome improvements in some departments, our industry as a whole still has a long way to go.  Throughout my career, I struggled with issues of being overlooked and undervalued, and have written a book that discusses these and other subjects, Inhospitable: Lessons Learned from a Lifetime in Service. It follows the trajectory of climbing a corporate ladder, sharing not only my successes but also my failures in painful detail. Over thirty years in the luxury hospitality industry, I have experienced: being passed over for promotions, told that I am too bossy when sharing my opinion, and have felt taken for granted. While reading my story, you may recognize yourself in some of the situations I found myself in. A large motivation for exposing my private feelings for anyone to read was to help others avoid some of the pitfalls and mistakes I made along the way. I hope you will read it, and if you do, write to tell me what most resonated with you. In the meantime, here are my three tips on how to handle being passed over for a job, promotion, or simply how to get the credit you feel you deserved on a project. 

Front cover of book 'Inhospitable' by Kate Buhler
Inhospitable by Kate Buhler

Scenario: You juggled fire, saved the day multiple times, and were one of the top earners in your company, but still saw the latest promotion go to another (in your opinion, less qualified candidate). This can feel infuriating, but know that you still have a few cards left to play. First, request a formal meeting with your manager, and ask him/her how they like their coffee. Tell them you will bring the coffee (or tea) if they will give you a few minutes of their time. Next, show up to your appointment, beverage in hand, and calmly express your surprise at not getting the promotion you applied for. Also come to the meeting prepared with facts, statistics, and client letters of thanks in a neat folder. Instead of accusing the management of overlooking your talent, ask, “What was I missing from my portfolio that the other candidate had?” also ask, “What do I need to develop to ensure that I am your main candidate next time?” Do your best to keep the meeting positive, and leave the meeting with a clear action plan on what your next steps are.

  • What to do when they are just not that into you: The manager might say, “I don’t like you, and you will not move forward in this company as long as I am here.” This actually happened to me! Be prepared with a positive answer, such as, “Thank you for your honesty and time.” Then consider your options privately after the meeting is done. Do not do or say anything rash, but decide for if you will start looking elsewhere, or if you are will wait for the manager to leave. Knowing someone did not like me used to really hurt my feelings, until I learned to ask myself, “Do I like that person in return?” Usually, the honest answer was “No.” Which made us even, and took some of the sting away. Amazing things happen in life when you no longer need to be liked by everybody. A feeling of freedom and personal strength takes over when you are proud of who you are, regardless of anyone else’s approval. 

  • Handling rejection…We’ve all been there: It happens, but every time, it still hurts. During your one-on-one meeting with your manager, you might discover exactly why you were passed over for that job or project. Naturally, it is important to thank the manager for clarifying the situation and then to draft out an action plan to improve in the future. It is also crucial to take some time to privately work through your feelings, being able to move your actions from the ‘Mistakes’ category to ‘Lessons Learned’ in your mind. We all make mistakes. How you recover is what really matters here. Congratulations! You now know what was wrong with you, but it still isn’t fun hearing about your shortcomings. Examples: 

  • “You are unprofessional, always late, unreliable, immature…” etc.

  • “You made a large mistake, you don’t have the right experience, and you are not as good as you think you are.” 

  • “You did not officially apply, so I assumed you were not interested.”

  • Success is the best revenge: Sometimes there is no way to salvage a situation other than to move on to a position and place that respects and appreciates you. While change can be scary, I look back at my own life’s crossroads with pride and nostalgia. Whether career moves were because of my own mistakes (ahem, lessons learned) or because leadership didn’t see my potential, it made my later success that much sweeter. I fought my way to the top of my field and have the battle scars to prove it. In your case, when someone knocks you down, get up, think it through, and get better. Every step of the way, you are proving to yourself what you are capable of. 

About Kate Buhler and the Book Based on Her 30 + Year Career

After thirty years of working in luxury hospitality and traveling the world training dedicated teams in the industry, Kate Buhler has a few things to say! She has written a book, Inhospitable: Lesson Learned from a Lifetime in Service, which explores the past, present, and possible future of global exploration through the lens of human connection. Through her stories, the usually hidden-from-view experiences of employees and managers are given the spotlight. It will spark discussion about what it means to navigate the workforce today, and act as a cautionary tale to those who would sacrifice people in search of ever-increasing profit margins.  Since 2011, Kate has been an independent consultant, founding Profitable to Train®.

Kate is an active member of the National Speakers Association and has served as a board member of the Association of Talent and Development, participated in Toastmasters, and HSMAI. She lectures to college groups and organizations, hoping to inspire the next generation of travel industry professionals. She has written articles for various trade publications, Les Clef d’Or, and Womenkind Magazine, and a book of stories about her career entitled Inhospitable: Lessons Learned from a Lifetime in Service, released in January 2024.

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