You've been at your job at least five years. You're hard working, loyal, and driven. Your boss says you're doing a great job. She even hinted at things looking up on the budget and new promotions coming down the pipe. Your projects have been getting excellent reviews and you've even been rubbing shoulders with some influencers at your company. You feel so confident that this next promotion has your name on it that you'd bet your bottom dollar on it.

Then, it happens.

You go to work Monday morning and Sarah walks past you with a big smile on her face. She's usually never that happy at work. You go past George's little cube and he is in a good mood, too, in his own geeky little ways. You wonder if you missed some good news. Over the break, you find out what really happened. Two promotions came to your team and your boss—the same one who said you're doing such a great job—handed out the promotions to Sarah and George.

All you can do is blurt out the words "congratulations" to them before you excuse yourself from the office and go outside to get some fresh air. Your mind is going nuts. You're trying to hold back tears just in case a co-worker walks by, and you're angry, too.

What happened here? Why did I get passed over for a promotion (again)? What else can I do to prove myself? Doesn't everyone know I work harder than Sarah and George and have been here longer, too?

Later that afternoon, you go to your boss's office and as nicely as possible, you ask her to explain this disturbing (to you) turn of events. She is very matter-of-fact. She uses big corporate words that mean little to you like "value" and "future potential" and "great communicator." You leave the office completely deflated. Going back to work with enthusiasm takes a herculean effort.

Fact: Smart hard-working employees don't always get ahead, and the confusion leaves most of them frustrated and discouraged.

The worst part is that nobody really gives you the answers. If only someone at corporate would explain the rules of the system, you would have a better idea how to position yourself for the next upcoming promotion and recognition. Welcome to Corporate 101, or what we should all have had when we first entered the building.

Let's dissect three reasons why Sarah and George got the promotion and you were left behind. Be completely honest as you examine the reasons why the other guy (or gal) got the promotion:

1. They Proved Their Future Value To The Company Better Than You

Young employee proves future value to boss so he gets the promotion

Your current value to the company is important and your results demonstrate that but you need to show your future value to the company.

Promotions are based on what you can deliver in the future, not what you do today.

You need to showcase clearly that you are a great investment for the future of your organization. You do this through clear communication, positioning, and speaking with a vision and how you would play a role in fulfilling that vision.

2. They Communicated More Benefits And Fewer Risks To The Boss

Employee talking with boss before getting a promotion

Your boss and entire management want someone who can benefit them in the future. At the same time, they aim to minimize any liability and risk. The person who can maximize the benefits they get and minimize the liability they pose gets the promised position.

This may be as simple as your flexibility and your ability to receive feedback professionally, or as critical as managing customer and partner relationships with tact and poise. Your company needs to be able to trust you implicitly before they can promote you.

3. They Put The Company Objectives Above Their Career Goals

Promoted employee puts company goals above his career goals

Here's the irony. You need to forget about your career goals and focus only on what your company is trying to achieve. Help them achieve it. Be the person that is critical in that process and you will have everything you want in your career.

Your dream career will happen as a byproduct of you helping your company achieve their dream goals. This is a shift in mindset that shows up in your communications, your interactions, and your approach to work. Do this one day and your management will take notice. Do it for two weeks and you'll become an invaluable asset.

So, are you ready to unleash your career success? If you want to become a fast-track careerist, you can learn the ropes to get there. You can become not only be the obvious choice for a raise and promotion next time, but also decide the course of the rest of your career. Start by executing on these three little known reasons!

This post was published at an earlier date and has been edited to ensure the content is up-to-date.

Looking to advance your career? Join our career growth club today!