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Q I’m an experienced manager and was recently passed up for a promotion to a VP level position with my current employer. I was told by the VP of HR that I did not get the position because there was a stronger candidate who was referred by an external source. What can I do about this? I’ve lost my motivation to work and feel burned by the company.

A. What a disappointment. Use this situation as an opportunity to develop marketable skills. What can you do about this? I recommend that you schedule a follow up meeting with the VP of HR and ask, “What qualities did the other candidate possess that I lack?”

The answers to this question are your blueprint for developing your career. Each and every person should ask themselves annually, “Are my skills marketable?” For many of us we move through our careers with limited education and experience and believe that it is our employer’s responsibility to educate us and give us the experience we need to be marketable.

It is the responsibility of each and every person to obtain additional education and training. If your company does not have a sponsored program, then take the initiative to sign up for classes at a college in your area.

There is no excuse. Most of us are within a 30-mile radius of a community or state college. And there are thousands of online and virtual courses available with colleges and universities throughout the world. If you lack leadership skills, then take the necessary steps to get them.

How?

Recruit a mentor. Look around; there could be someone at your company, a professor from your college, a retired executive through SCORE or hire an executive coach. Do not ask your immediate supervisor to mentor you. It is important that you feel comfortable talking about work place issues without being judged.

Interview a mentor just like you would any other critical hire. Look for a mentor that you admire, who possesses a style that you wish to adopt. A few things for you to consider when searching for a mentor:

Do they have relevant industry experience?

Do they have progressive career development to the VP or C-level?

Have they experienced the things that you want advice on?

Does the mentor have the same values as you?

Does their working style compliment yours?

No matter how much we grow or change, one aspect of our being remains the same. We all still look to those who have come before us to serve as good examples. As young professionals, we seek out mentors. But, as with everything in life, we need to make good decisions and choices in selecting the people we want to emulate.

A good mentor can make a world of difference in how we succeed and progress in our careers. Keep in mind that mentors can serve a variety of purposes. They may offer us advice and guidance in getting ahead in the world and also give us encouragement and even push us when we need a gentle shove.

They also may simply lend us their ears when we need to talk with someone. You may want your mentor to offer advice on subjects such as continuing education and advancing your career.

A good mentor may also be able to help you with networking and making connections with others in your field who might help you. Or, you may want your mentor only to listen to you and offer advice when you need to talk with someone neutral.

When the time comes to actually ask someone to mentor you, it’s a good idea to explain why you selected the person as a potential mentor and how you would like the person to help you. Don’t take it personally if you’re turned down. The person most likely has other responsibilities that would stand in the way of being there for you.

Ask for a referral and don’t give up. Be patient. Finding a mentor takes some work and even involves some risk. You’ll find that the benefits that you reap from a relationship with a good mentor will be well worth your efforts.

A final piece of advice: Read “Change yourself and your work will seem different” by Norman Vincent Peale.

You are responsible for motivating yourself daily in your personal and professional life. First, be grateful for being employed in this economy when so many are unemployed.

If your career is not progressing as you would like then take it upon yourself to make your dreams come true. It’s all up to you.

Good luck.

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Jennifer Laxton is the CEO and executive coach with ESA LLC in Santa Rosa, www.esa.com. ESA is an executive search and consulting company. You can reach her at 707-217-4535 or jklaxton@esa.com.