What To Do When You Don’t Get the Promotion You Deserve

by Coach Jill Farmer and Coach Gabriella Dennery MD | Physician Coaching, Podcast, Resilience

In this episode, find out what to do when you don’t get the promotion you deserve. How to deal with that disappointment.

Find out what to do when you don’t get the promotion you deserve.

“…and also, to let yourself grieve. Nobody wants to use that terminology unless we know somebody has died. And we’ll even say, ‘Well at least nobody died.’ But there is a grief. We had an idea, we had a dream, we had an expectation and you know, grief is really healthy.” -Master Certified Life Coach Jill Farmer

In today’s episode, Master Certified Coach Jill Farmer and Coach Gabriella Dennery MD talk us through the healthy way to deal with not getting that promotion you’ve been waiting for or other major disappointments in your life. We have all dealt with disappointment, it’s a natural part of life. The key is to allow yourself to feel that feeling of disappointment and to grieve the loss of the thing you wanted and had worked so hard to achieve. When you allow yourself to feel those feelings and move through them, you come out better on the other side. It allows us to grow and to build our resiliency muscle. We gain from the disappointment when we let ourselves feel it and then move through it. 

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Podcast produced by: Amanda Taran

Please enjoy the full transcript below

Jill: -and also to let yourself grieve. Nobody wants to use that terminology unless we know somebody has died. And we’ll even say, “Well at least nobody died.” But there is a grief. We had a dream, we had an idea, we had an expectation and grief is really healthy.


[DocWorking theme]


Hi, everyone. We are so glad you’re here. I’m Jill Farmer, cohost of DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast. And today, I am joined by my amazing colleague, Gabriella Dennery, MD, cohost of the podcast and life coach at DocWorking. Today, we’re going to be talking about something that for a second might make you a little agitated, right? Because it’s thinking about one of those experiences in life that all of us have had but that can be really hard. And that is not getting that promotion that you really wanted to get or not getting that position that you are really hoping for. Gabriella, a lot of physicians have this experience, because when we try for things in life, unfortunately, we can’t guarantee. It happens the way we want it to every single time. What are your thoughts on where to start when somebody has had this experience? 


Gabriella: Wow. Well, actually, the reason why this is very present right now is, one of my clients had a similar experience very recently. So, I’m changing details, of course, for confidentiality. But this was actually a very big promotion, something that this person absolutely deserved, and was a perfect fit for in a large academic center. And the answer was no. After going through pretty rigorous interview process, a resume that just– curriculum vitae that checked all the boxes, and oh, my goodness, and that was heartbreaking. That was absolutely heartbreaking. 


In our conversations, I thought, you know what, one of the things I realized is not to chase away the heartbreak. I think that would be number one. Because it would be easy to try to come up with some kind of easy statement, some kind of platitude, some type of, “Oh, it’s better this way anyway. The universe has something other in store for you, etc., etc.,” which can come up at some point later, maybe that really depends on the client. But if somebody is hurting, let them hurt. Acknowledge that pain and that’s really, really important. I learned a valuable lesson from that process, not to rush into trying to find a way to fix it and to make it feel easier. I think that would be the first thing as a trusted partner. 


And to continue, number two, the other thing we talked about is other trusted partners as well, whether it’s family and friends, whether it’s other professionals who’ve had similar experiences to be able to reach out to colleagues who say, “Yeah, that sucks and I’ve been through it too, knowing that you’re not alone,” that this is not a singular experience. I think those as initial approaches, initial steps become very important. What do you think, Jill?


Jill: I can’t agree more. And in my own experience of way back in the day, when I was wanting to move from television reporter to anchor, and I applied and applied and was not able to get that promotion for a long time to as recently as two weeks ago [laughs] when I connected with an opportunity that I thought was going to be a really good fit for the work I do in the world, and for somebody who I thought needed what I have to do in the world, and they said, “No, thank you.” You said it beautifully. It can be a really heartbreaking experience. 


What I’ve learned through myself, and also many, many, many clients now through the years is when we try to circumvent or speed up the process of letting those emotions that are going to come up when we have this experience, things like disappointment, anger, frustration, insecurity, when we try to speed up the experience of having those emotions, when I notice happens is then later on, it will come back to bite me because then I get into self-protection mode. So, I’m like, “Well, I’m not going to try for it again,” because I don’t want to feel those feelings and I didn’t really let myself feel those feelings so that they can be processed and move through me. They’re just kind of stuck down in there somewhere. But I want to avoid really feeling them. So, I’m going to keep myself small honestly by not taking the risk of moving forward. 


I just can’t reiterate enough how important it is to do exactly what you said, which is to make space for the natural emotions of disappointment that are going to come up and also, to let yourself grieve. Nobody wants to use that terminology unless we know somebody has died. And we’ll even say, “Well at least nobody died.” But there is a grief. We had a dream, we had an idea, we had an expectation and you know, grief is really healthy. It’s really healthy to sort of let yourself grieve. But I find especially, my physician clients tend to be quick to, tried to, again jump over that, move around it, run from it, and they do that with a lot of self-talk, like, “Oh, well, at least it wasn’t blah, blah, blah, or minimization of whatever emotions or feeling.” Thoughts on that?


Gabriella: I agree and I was going to say the same word. Grief, it’s a loss and it needs to be acknowledged. I agree with that 100% and you’re right. It’ll stick. I’ve had that experience many times before, where I thought that my work was the greatest things as sliced bread, then next thing, you know, somebody else disagreed, because bottom line, nobody really knows the agenda what is going on behind the scenes. I don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes, what the decision makers and stakeholders are looking at and facing. I will never be privy to that information. So, even if I know it would be a good fit, even if I know I’d bring something amazing to the table, even if I know that everybody who was involved will benefit from what I bring to the table, I don’t really know what they’re talking about behind closed doors. So, not to jump and fix and try to say, “Well, I don’t really know what’s going on.” So, okay, it’s just another day at the office. No, it’s not another day at the office. Something big just happened and major shift happen, which really causes a person and this particular client had to go through this experience, and is still going through this experience of really looking at everything. It appends everything. It is not a small thing. 


At the same time, knowing that there’s a growth process to happen through the grief. I think that allowing that growth to happen will then yield a result that I think is bigger and better than it could ever be imagined initially, but you have to go through that. You can’t ignore it or pass it by, as you said, self-protection. No, I’m not going to bother anymore, forget it. I’m not going to try anymore, this is going to happen again, it hurts too much. So, Jill, I think you’ve made some really, really important points to be able to understand that the ups and downs in life are ups and downs in life. So, yes, sometimes, the downs and they hurt, and to be able to say, I hurt and to seek support with that hurt. And knowing that I’ll be okay in the end that, that is not going to last forever. But it’s part of the process. It’s part of the growth. 


Yes, it’s a tough lesson to learn but most necessary. I guess, it goes back to other things such as allowing myself to be vulnerable, allowing myself to deal with what I expected things to go, and it ended up being something completely different and unexpected out of left field, and how do I deal with that, and sometimes, I’m wondering, Jill, do you really deal with it? How do you get to that place where you can accept it? What do you think?


Jill: Well, for me, it was thing to use– the term I’ve used before that I borrowed from Glennon Doyle, author. It was kind of brutaful. The last time I was turned down on something that I really was shooting for, because I noticed in myself that I could feel the disappointment, a little bit of anger, some sadness, all of those feelings, and I noticed that when I just went outside, sat on my deck, looked at my tree that I know tends to bring me a lot of peace, when I go outside and just let myself breathe that I could feel those feelings moving through me, and I noticed that I seem to through the years of really letting myself feel these feelings cultivated some resilience, because I could feel that it was moving through me I wasn’t quite as shutdown, reactive, and it didn’t feel like it just– completely derailed me in the ways that it had when past experiences of disappointment and lack of promotions had come up. So, I think that’s the beauty in it. It’s not beauty as in like rainbows and unicorns, “Oh, it’s so great. This is happening.” 


But there is some richness to the experience of going through these things, because it does help us cultivate resilience, which means we do deep, deep down in our bones know it’s worth it. Because we got to take those risks in order to experience some of the really cool things that life has out there waiting for us. But we have to have the lived experience of grieving it and moving through it to get to the other side before we build that resilience. We can’t just shut it down by, “Oh, well, kind of dust off our hands and pretend.” I don’t think we’re served in the long run with that.


Gabriella: I absolutely agree. I think you summed it up beautifully because it is about going through the grief. Grief, I think is a perfect word for it. It’s a loss. But at the same time, the loss is an experience and it’s a growth experience. As you move through it and build your resilience, and I think emotional agility is something that you and I talked about as well to be able to say, eventually, as a person goes through these kinds of experiences, and we all have gone through them, and we will continue to go through them these kinds of disappointments when I anchor my life satisfaction or happiness on this one thing happening, and it doesn’t go through then, what? Then it’s like, “Well, I’ve realized that my happiness is not dependent on that one thing. There’s so much other aspects of my life that I get to lean on that will also help me move forward in understanding that, that that’s just one aspect of my life.” But it does take time to get to that point. 


For every time, a person goes through that, then you get to learn that lesson. It’s not an easy lesson to learn but it’s a very rich one and I agree with that word as well. It’s a rich experience to go through this process. Would you like to add anything else about how do you recover from a ‘no,’ a meaningful, big ‘no’ in your life?


Jill: I think, you said it beautifully. When you said having somebody else to compassionately witness the experience is important, and that means not the person that’s going to necessarily stoke the fire by saying, “This is terrible and they’re horrible.” Because sometimes that can even make us ultimately feels good for a second, but then it feels worth or the person who’s like, “Come on, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, now move on.” It’s finding the person that can hold the space to listen and as you said, just say, “Yeah, that sucks” and listen more than they’re talking, and also, somebody who knows that you’re amazing, regardless of promotions or other extrinsic moves. 


When they know that about you, you feel that in your heart when they’re talking to you. I think that can be really important for that holding witness space is said. So, I love that you said that. Thank you for sharing this experience and for reminding us all that there are some ways that we can move through navigate even the hardest or most disappointing situations in ways that can strengthen us over the long term. Really, really well said. So, on behalf of my friend Gabriella Dennery, MD, I’m Jill farmer. We’ll see you next time on DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast.


[DocWorking theme]


Jen: Do you ever feel as a physician that you’ve lost the connection between why you went to medical school and what you’re doing now in your career? As a physician, you’re trying to make so many people happy all day long, and you’re trying to accommodate whatever is heaped upon you as excessive as it often is. It’s just too much. It’s exhausting. And sometimes I feel like I just want to throw the towel in. But what if you had an online community of like-minded physicians, facilitated by coaches who specialize in working with physicians to help you get back on track and figure out what matters most specifically to you?


Amanda: I’m Amanda Taran, producer of DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast. Thank you for being here. Please check us out at and please don’t forget to like and subscribe. Thank you for listening.



Jill Farmer is an experienced physician coach who has been helping doctors live their best lives, increase their success, and move through burnout for well over a decade.

She has delivered keynotes, programs, and training everywhere from Harvard Medical School to the American College of Cardiology.

She has personally coached hundreds of physicians, surgeons, and other busy professionals to help them be at their best—without burning themselves out. Her coaching has supported professionals at places like Mass General Brigham in Boston, Washington University in St. Louis, Northwestern University in Chicago and too many others to list.

Jill wrote the book on time management for busy people. Literally. It’s called “There’s Not Enough Time…and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves” which debuted as a bestseller on Amazon. Her work has been featured everywhere from Inc. to Fitness Magazine to The Washington Post.

Nationally recognized as a “brilliant time optimizer and life maximizer,” Jill will cut straight to the heart of your stress to liberate you from its shackles. She has two young adult daughters. She lives with her husband and their poorly behaved dachshund in St. Louis, MO.

Life Coach Gabriella Dennery, MD OMD is passionate about helping busy physicians rediscover the joy of their calling. She draws on her training as a physician, a musician, and an ordained non-denominational minister in addition to health & wellness and life coaching to offer professionals from all walks of life the benefit of her broad experience and deep insights.

You can find Gabriella as one of the co-creators of STAT: Quick Wins To Get Your Life Back.

The daughter of a psychiatrist mother and a neurosurgeon father, both from Haiti, Gabriella and her five siblings were expected to choose from five noble callings: Medicine, Dentistry, Engineering, Law, or Agronomy (caring for the delicate soil of Haiti).

Gabriella, an innately gifted healer and teacher, chose Medicine and graduated with honors from Howard University College of Medicine, “The Mecca.” Following her residency in internal medicine at Duke University Medical Center, Gabriella moved to New York City to serve as an attending physician and clinical instructor in Harlem and later as medical director and attending physician at SUNY Downstate Bedford-Stuyvesant satellite clinic in Brooklyn.

Her greatest joy as a primary care physician was supporting her patients, shepherding them to Aha moments, and nurturing positive shifts in perspective that measurably improved their health and wellbeing–a strength that makes Gabriella so effective as a coach.

After more than ten years of practicing internal medicine, Gabriella chose to explore the integration of medicine, music, and ministry to promote better health of her fellow physicians by becoming a physician coach. She successfully coaches physicians to prevent and/or navigate through physician burnout, reach career and personal goals, clarify and take actionable steps to achieve their own personal vision, and is well known for helping doctors at all stages of their careers, from students to residents/fellows to practicing physicians. She maintains her work-life balance by playing percussion and violin, composing music, and enjoying a very fun and fulfilling marriage.

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