Military Life

What to Do If You Are Passed Over For Promotion

A few years ago the percentage rate for officers was extremely high: 2LT to 1LT – 100%, 1LT to CPT – 90%, CPT to MAJ – 80%. In other words – things were good. Leaders were promoted based on time and not capability. The year group standard was in effect, so whether or not one was previously successful was generally not a major determining factor in a promotion either. Wow, how the times have changed. So what to do if you are passed over for promotion?

What To Do If You Are Passed Over for Promotion

Officer Selection Boards are still conducting their annual checks to remove service members, evaluation reports now qualify and compare members against each other quantitatively, and selection rates have dropped significantly. So what happens when someone gets passed over for promotion? More importantly, what can you do if this happens to you?

Under the current system, being passed over for promotion two times is justification for separation. Therefore, the first time is no laughing matter. Once a military professional has been notified that they have been passed over they need to take a good hard look at themselves.

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This Starts With One’s Peers

Ever had the feeling that you could not keep up with your peers physically or mentally? That they just had capabilities you could not compete with? If this is the case, it is time to identify some mentors at your level or start asking questions on how they are successful. Remember that an organization is only as strong as its weakest link, therefore anything you do to improve your capabilities will improve your organization overall. When you examine your own capabilities, ask yourself whether the inability to compete is due to lack of knowledge, or laziness. Both can be fixed, but both need to be recognized.

Check Your Records

Imagine being the best at what you do, but none of your records have been uploaded to reflect that? A college degree is the knowledge and experience attained, as well as the certification from the school to reflect it. Lose the certificate, and people may not recognize your capabilities. In the military, if there is no documentation to show the schools and training that has been received, then you may be missing out on a promotion because you do not appear competitive to your peers. Validate all records and ensure that missing files are updated.

Take a Look at your picture

A Department of the Army photo is a reflection of yourself. It is the most visual representation that a board can look at to get a quick picture of who you are. An outdated, out-of-shape, or even missing photo can separate you even if everything else is done correctly. Take the picture if there is an updated award or a change in appearance or rank.

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Look at who got promoted

What characteristics do they have? Have they been to a specific military school, do they have specific training that you do not have? What separates them from you? How can you use their experiences as a path that you can follow? The most important thing is recognition of what the board was looking for during the selection process and comparing that with what you have accomplished. If your focus has been combat deployments, but the military is seeking professional development through civilian education, then you need to start working to balance this out.

Most importantly, understanding that in a promotion system based on comparison with one’s peers, it is important to be competitive with them. This means striving to perform your best at all times. This means understanding your rater and senior rater’s intent and accomplishing it to your fullest capability. It also means that when in doubt, demonstrate humility and ask for ways to improve from those around you. You will be surprised at their input and you may learn something new about yourself at the same time.


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