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How to Pay for Your Professional Development

Chrissy Scivicque

You probably know that ongoing professional development and training is an instrumental part of achieving career success. Workshops, classes, seminars, webinars, and other programs and products can dramatically improve your skills and capabilities.

However, these things can be costly if you're paying for them out of pocket. While professional development activities provide you with a brighter career future, they also benefit your current employer--it may be worthwhile to approach your employer about sharing the costs. Here are some simple tips to help make it happen.

Shift your focus. First and foremost, this isn't just about you; it's about the business. Sure, you'll grow personally by taking a class or workshop, but if your employer doesn't see the benefit for the company as a whole, or believe that there will be a fairly quick return on investment, there's no reason for the organization to pay for it. Before approaching your boss about any professional development opportunity, be prepared to answer some questions and overcome a few difficult objections.

What's in it for them? What are the tangible, quantifiable benefits to the business or your team? Perhaps you'll be able to take on more responsibility or save the company money by doing specific tasks in a more cost-efficient way. Maybe you'll generate more revenue for the business by bringing new ideas or practices to the table. Clearly define the outcome you expect and how this professional development opportunity will pay off (using real numbers).

Give them options. Remember, this isn't an "all or nothing" proposition. Of course it would be great to have 100 percent of the costs covered by the company. But every little bit helps. Consider making an offer to split the costs. This helps show you're invested too and can potentially tip the scales in your favor. If time is a factor and this professional development opportunity will cut into your workday, consider offering to work additional hours to make up for hours spent out of the office. By being flexible with options, you'll increase your chances of getting a "yes."

Be specific. Ask for something specific, not just "general" financial support. Choose a specific training course you want to be a part of or a certain product you'd like to use. Have marketing materials handy from the provider or offer a website address where your employer can look at the opportunity in more detail to decide if it's a good fit. The more information, the better.

More bang for the buck. Let your employer know that you're looking forward to sharing what you learn with your co-workers. The company will get more out of their investment by having multiple employees benefit from the information and resources without having to assume the cost of paying for everyone.

Offer to compile what you've learned into a report that can be distributed around the office. Or you can speak about your experience at a staff meeting or give an in-house workshop or presentation to share your new knowledge. You might also suggest having a one-on-one follow-up meeting with your employer to discuss your experience and how you plan to implement your newly acquired skills. Seeing your excitement and willingness to put what you know into action right away may open doors for future professional development opportunities as well as advancement opportunities within the company.

Handle disappointment. If your employer still says no after you've presented your information with all of the facts and benefits, politely inquire as to why and find out what would be a more acceptable opportunity next time. Remember not to take it personally. It may be that it's just not good timing or the right fit for the company at this time.

If you still feel strongly about it, invest the money yourself. By taking this kind of initiative you will demonstrate your dedication to bettering yourself and your organization. Show them the benefit and the next time an opportunity comes along, your employer may be more likely to help with the costs.

Chrissy Scivicque, the founder of EatYourCareer.com, believes work can be a nourishing life experience. As a career coach, corporate trainer, and public speaker, she helps professionals of all levels unlock their true potential and discover long-lasting career fulfillment.

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