Business/Economy

New year, new you: After a stinging rejection, put together a plan for your next career chapter

Q: Several months ago, a career opportunity I’d been seeking for more than a year came open in our company. I’d been feeling stagnant in my present position. I immediately applied for this exciting new challenge.

I thought I’d be a shoo-in. I’ve worked for my employer for 16 years in a variety of technical and administrative positions, moving laterally or upward every two to three years. I’ve always received glowing performance reviews, and my skills completely matched the job requirements.

Then, nothing. No one contacted me acknowledging my application; however, I learned through the grapevine that two other internal candidates also applied. Since neither of these two had any management experience, I felt I was the best candidate. I am also the oldest candidate.

I received an interview six weeks after submitting my application. After that, I learned HR was soliciting more internal and external candidates. I feel that I’ve received a loud and clear “not interested” message.

I need advice on how to proceed with grace, both in withdrawing my candidacy and in avoiding the bitter rejection I feel. I have moved from sad to mad, and neither of those states will serve me well because I lack a poker face.

A: Avoid reacting.

You’re wise to realize your emotions can undermine your ability to act in your best interest.

Before you withdraw your candidacy, consider what led to the lack of acknowledgement and delay you received.

Some employers make huge mistakes in how they treat internal candidates.

Is it possible you’ve taken your work for granted because you’ve felt stagnant and have slacked off? Or have you stopped growing professionally because you’ve waited for a career opportunity to open?

Does your organization want to keep you in your current position, one they’d have to backfill if they promote you?

Are you the victim of disguised age discrimination?

Withdrawing your candidacy

You can gracefully withdraw your candidacy with a visit to the head of the promotion selection committee and your HR officer. Simply say, “I have the sense you’re looking for a candidate you consider a better match for this position than I. I’d like to withdraw my application.”

Hold each of these meetings in person rather than by email so you can ask diplomatically phrased questions and read the other’s nonverbal responses, particularly if you suspect your age has impacted your chances for this promotion. Since you’ve withdrawn your candidacy, when you meet with your senior manager you can say, “Since this promotion is no longer on the table, how do you perceive my career growth and future here?”

If your age has been a factor, you won’t be told directly. However, listen with total focus to what’s said and not said in response to your question. Also, ask follow-up questions. When someone covers up the real reason for a decision, their answers often sound flimsy, and they quickly run out of things to say.

You can make it clear you want additional challenges and that you’ll be a team player and support the candidate selected.

Handling rejection

It’s a new year and you’re in an old job. Is it time to move on?

By acting in your own best interest, you apply healing to bitter rejection, replacing anger with a plan and sadness and disappointment with the potential for excitement.

You’ve been seeking an opportunity for more than a year and feel stagnant. Start with that reality. Remind yourself that despite your employer’s reaction to your candidacy, you’ve been successful in a variety of positions for 16 years. You’re a catch.

Have you stopped looking outside your employer for your next career move? Perhaps losing this promotion is the wake-up call you needed to springboard your upward career movement – outside your current organization.

Here’s my Rx for you: New Year, old job, new you. Put together a plan for your next career chapter. Your employer didn’t act promptly and in your favor. But you can.

Lynne Curry writes a weekly column on workplace issues. She is president of Communication Works Inc. Send your questions to her here.

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