There are a number of courses, conferences and seminars available that can help you gain technical skills and advance your career. A growing number of organizations are establishing budgets for these development trainings, but you might feel awkward or unsure about how to broach the subject when asking for these opportunities up front.
It’s important to remember that most managers want you to succeed and continue to improve. These trainings will have a demonstrable, positive effect for your employer, as well as for your personal development and job performance.
So, how can you be more proactive about pursuing these career development opportunities? How can you build the best case and rationalize the expenditure for a particular training or event? Here are some tips for how to sell your pitch and increase your chances of success:
1. Do your research. One of the main considerations in determining the value of a development opportunity will be the cost to your employer. If you come across a training or conference that you want to attend, make sure you have as much information to provide to your supervisor as possible. Be able to cite the cost, program duration, deadline for registration and any estimated lodging, transportation or miscellaneous expenses.
It might also be helpful to look into best practices for similar requests within your office. Determine if there is an established process for requesting funding for job-related activities. Is there a clear budget or maximum cost for these trainings? Are there any restrictions on the types of trainings for which the company can provide financial support or reimbursement? Are there any tax credits or deductions available to employers for sponsoring these programs?
2. Have a clear plan for your work responsibilities. Trainings, career development and other outside-of-work opportunities shouldn’t detract from your day-to-day responsibilities. Be cognizant of what work you need to get done, and how your team’s workload would fare in the time you plan to be away. Are you able to delegate some of these tasks to your coworkers? Are you able to work on or complete any upcoming projects beforehand?
You can also establish that you’ll be available remotely over email or Slack. If you’re attending a longer conference, offer to check-in with your supervisor with a 20-minute phone call in between sessions.
3. Emphasize the ROI for the company. It’s on you to convince your supervisor that paying for a particular program will be a sound investment for the company. Explain in detail why the course is a good fit and why a certain provider or training offers the best value. Be able to articulate how your request can bring tangible improvements to your workplace, and how the specific skills you learn will translate to your work.
For example, if your job is in social media, attending a social media conference can directly impact your day-to-day work by allowing you to learn best practices and strategies from other successful companies, keep ahead of industry trends, network and learn about new applications your company might incorporate in the future. Knowing these details can strengthen your case by demonstrating to your employer that you have identified and thought through all of the potential costs and benefits.
4. Be flexible. If possible, provide a number of options and alternatives. For example, if the conference you want to attend takes place over three days, propose taking off time from work to attend only the sessions that will be most relevant and useful. Maybe opt for a cheaper, introductory program first to ensure the curriculum is valuable and worth the investment.
For example, subscribe to an online tutorial before paying for more expensive off-site, in-person seminars). If the next couple of months are an especially busy season for your agency, be willing to hold off on requesting to attend a training until things die down, or register for online training modules that offer more flexibility.
5. Share the knowledge. Offer to hold a brief presentation, send out notes or write a recap piece for the company website after getting back from the event. Your employer might be more willing to pay for you to attend trainings if the skills and information can be disseminated company-wide and benefit multiple employees.
6. Demonstrate the value of past experiences. If you have attended conferences or trainings in the past, thank your supervisor for those opportunities for professional growth. Be able to explain how these experiences helped you become a better employee. Provide examples of what you learned and what practices you changed as a result.
For example, if you participated in a leadership program, you might speak to how the curriculum helped you better manage your team, improve the way you communicate expectations and concerns with your coworkers and increase productivity overall. If you attended a training about new software, point to how implementing these technologies has allowed your company to improve its network security. Be as specific as possible! If your employer can see that these investments have had measurable returns, she will likely be more willing to continue supporting these initiatives in the future.
7. Be open and responsive to possible refusal. Even if you present the best possible pitch, your company might be facing budget constraints and simply not have enough resources at the time to pay for certain trainings. Your office might be going through a period of transition or be planning for a large event that requires all hands on deck for the foreseeable future.
But if you’re respectful and thoughtful about your request to your supervisor, it can pay off when these opportunities arise later on.
Check out last week’s post on how to implement what you learn from trainings, here. For more information on all things professional development, check out all of the NextGen Leadership Program’s blogs here.