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You come in early, stay late, and take on extra projects before applying for a promotion. After a round of interviews, you hear the news it went to someone else. What you do next can have a profound impact on your career. Take these steps to help lessen the rejection and use the experience to bolster professional growth instead of seeing it as a career setback.
Ask for feedback
While it may feel uncomfortable, it's the most critical step. This will enable you to move forward in the best possible way and can actually help your career long-term. Be prepared for positives and the negatives, and ask about areas of development to focus on for growth. For example, if they brought in someone from the outside, perhaps it's because they have a mix of skills you've never been asked to bring to the table, or they offer experience that you lack. Whatever the reason, use this meeting as a learning experience and take the feedback with a professional smile. If you know what you lack to advance, it's actually a good thing as it arms you with critical information to be better at your job.
Understand that it's (usually) not personal
There are often times when organizations hire from outside because they need someone with new skills or experiences for reasons that have nothing to do with your ability. If the company is growing in new territories or trying to launch a new business unit, it's understandable that you wouldn't have those skills, especially if you've been in your current job for a long time. You might be great at your job and ready to take on new responsibilities, but if they really need a sales director who can speak Portuguese (and you can't) because that's where the growth is forecasted, walk away from the experience understanding that it's strictly a business decision. If there are other factors in play, or if you honestly feel you were passed over for reasons that are unprofessional or illegal, go to HR.
Take a break
After being passed over for a promotion, career experts advise taking a step back to process emotions and recenter. Perhaps that's a long weekend to refocus before a big presentation, or it could be a good time to take that long-anticipated trip to Bali. Use the time away to work out frustrations and relax so all those emotions don't bubble to the service inside the office. When you do return, be as positive as possible, and don't get wrapped up in gossip, even if colleagues encourage you to vent.
Carefully consider next options
If you were able to get honest feedback and understand the skills gap, make a plan to work toward the next level. That might mean taking a class, raising your hand for new projects, or even volunteering if it will help with professional development. If the lack of advancement was about more than your skill set, seriously consider if it's time to quit. Will you still be able to come into the office and do your job if the promotion went to the coworker you love to hate? Did office politics play a big factor in the decision? Most importantly, seek to understand what advancement options exist at your current company. If the company is growing and regularly hiring, that points to plenty of opportunities to polish your skills and move up the ladder. If it's a small company or one that tends to only hire from the outside, then you may need to deal with an uncomfortable choice.