support for professional development

How to Get Agency Support for Professional Development

You’re a hard worker and a go-getter. Your work ethic is rock solid and you take pride in public service. But beyond excelling in your current position, how can you take extra steps to make sure your government career advances? This is where support for professional development plays a critical role.

If you know your area of weakness, odds are you can find a training to help you improve. But when you find your ideal training, how do you gain your organization’s support?

In a recent online training with GovLoop and NextGen: How to Get Agency Support for Professional Development, Kim Peyser, Former Obama Executive Branch Employee and Owner of Stanton Park Advisory and Steve Ressler, Founder of GovLoop, discussed best practices for pitching a strong ask that can help you earn training approval and funding.

How to Get Agency Support for Professional Development

Be Prepared

When you approach your manager with a training opportunity, you should have answers to all of their questions. When it comes to making the ask, there is no such thing as being over- prepared.

“Your manager is focused on the mission and wants to use as much of everyone’s time as possible to achieve it,” Peyser said. “When you want to do something outside of that mission, you have to have a good reason for it and know what the implications are for your time.”

Before the meeting, it is important that you understand the time requirements of your training. How much time will the training consume? Will it occur during or outside the workday? Will any of that time take away from the tasks of your job?

“If you do have deliverables that will be impacted by time spent training, be proactive about directing that problem,” Peyser advised. “You want to come to your manager with solutions, not problems. As a possible solution, you can draft adjustments to your project plan to get your original projects done earlier.”

Follow the Money

In the current budgetary climate, many govies are worried about garnering financial support for their training. Ressler shared his best tips for budget approval.

“You need to understand when the money drops and how it is appropriated,” Ressler said. “Training dollars can be distributed in many different ways. Sometimes the money is appropriated to an HR office and other times the funds are distributed to agency organizations or sub agencies.”

If you know how and when the money is appropriated before you make your request, you can pitch your ask when funding is at its peak. If you can’t find out when the funding comes in, the close of the fiscal year is a safe bet for gaining training dollars.

“The budget process can work against you but it can also work in your favor,” Peyser said. “As the end of the fiscal year approaches, offices scramble to use those last dollars before the end of the fiscal year.”

Sell it

It’s hard to solicit support when you feel like you’re asking someone for a favor. When you pitch your ask, it’s important to demonstrate that you have something to offer in return.

“A lot of it is being strategic about how you frame your ask,” Peyser said. “You’re going to have to find a way to demonstrate that the training will help your team and the overall mission of the agency.”

An effective way to sell a professional development training is to make a commitment to bring lessons learned back to the office. For instance, you can offer to share the key takeaways from the training with your colleagues in a lunch and learn or in a meeting. “If you promise to bring those tips back, you’re more likely to be approved for another training,” Ressler said. “Or if you haven’t been to a training in a while, use that as part of your sales pitch.”

Get Support from Your Peers

According to Ressler, validation from peers that have attended similar trainings will reassure your manager that the training is worthwhile. “In government, people want to know that their training dollars are going to a good cause,” Ressler said. Have your coworkers talk to your manager about how the training improved their performance. “This way, your manager won’t feel like they’re taking a monetary risk sending you off, especially with trainings that require travel,” Ressler said.

Pitching the training as a group can reap benefits as well. “There is power in a group coming together. If five of you come together and present why you want to attend a training, you’re more likely to get approval.”

Don’t give up

Even if you plan ahead and made a strong ask, your manager could still deny approval. Ressler says that rejection is not the end of the road. Just because someone gives you a soft no doesn’t mean you can’t ask 2 or 3 times more,” Ressler said. “I’ve seen two people sell the same training in radically different ways and get different responses. Make a clear case and be sure to ask politely the second time.”

If all else fails, there are inexpensive alternatives to professional development training. “Look for opportunities to do on the job training,” Peyser said. “You can learn a lot of values and skills by just spending some time in another office. And it could be a way to help another office with something informally.”

To learn more about getting agency support for professional development, check out the NextGen Summit.

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