For most of us it’s been a weird and not-so-wonderful time at work. Whether you’re an essential worker who was on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic or had an office job where you’re now being asked to work mainly from the living room – things have changed. For those who have lost their jobs or are working fewer hours than you might like that change is particularly tough and our best wishes are yours to keep.
Professional development is one of those phrases that gets thrown around a lot but is rarely maximised for the employee’s benefit. Often courses or ‘opportunities’ are thrust upon us that aren’t relevant, exciting or rewarding. If you’re extremely lucky then you’ve been on a corporate retreat that was exactly none of those things. We feel your link-arms-and-untie-the-human-knot-related pain.
It doesn’t have to be like that. If you’re at home with a bit more spare time on your hands than usual, then investing in your own skills is really worthwhile. In a tighter and tighter job market, having some quality leadership training on your resume could even be the difference that lands you the gig. The challenge, of course, is what to invest in and how to pay for it.
If your workplace has a specific budget for professional development or employee education, then lucky you. We’re here to help you make the most of it. If there isn’t a pretty pool of money at the office which you can dip into, join the club. During difficult economic times spare budget is very rarely advertised – but that doesn’t mean it won’t exist. Here are some tips to get your bosses on board…
Identify what you most want to learn
Most people, however, struggle to articulate to an employer why they want to do some professional development. Sit down with a pen and paper (ha! Or the notes function on your phone, let’s be real) and think about what you want to learn or build on. Is being in management a future goal? Then you need to hone your leadership skills. Is speaking in public something that makes you sick in the tummy? Presenting with confidence is absolute something that can be learned.
Be proactive and do your research
Never approach your boss with a vague ask, but rather a specific one. Before raising the question with your employer do the work online and tap your networks for recommendations. Have a look around, see what’s out there and identify the courses which best suit your needs. Remember, you’re not just looking at content but also the time commitment, mode of delivery and cost.
Timing is everything, so let’s get it right
There is no point asking your employers to invest in professional development when resources are so tight, people are losing their jobs. That may well be your workplace right now and if this is the case, wait till next year. Even in tighter budgetary environments however, immediately before end of financial year organisations tend to have pockets of money that have already been allocated for skills and education. It’s the perfect time to tap into those.
Focus on the value to the company, not you personally
Hopefully it goes without saying that we don’t pitch professional development courses to our bosses without knowing why. Money aside, most employers’ first question will be why the course would be beneficial and worth investing in. Your answer needs to be framed in terms of how the course will make you a more effective employee, and why that will benefit your employer. Make it about them. Not about you grabbing some sweet new skills and going looking for a better gig.
Be ready with options and a response to being told ‘no’
Your boss will probably list some roadblocks to your participation in the professional development course. Be ready to respond to those potential drawbacks. Will you be away from the office more regularly? Will you have time to complete a course during this busy period? Is there a cheaper option available? Think about the holes that can be poked in your argument, and be ready with some good ole’ sticky tape to patch them up in the moment.
For a limited time you can save 40% on the Future Women Platinum+ Membership when using the code EOFYS at the checkout. Platinum+ is a 12-month professional development program offering virtual events, leadership training and a curated network to its members. The next intake is open now.
Asking your boss to invest in your training? We’ve put together this helpful PDF that you can send to your employer.