Make the Case for Your Professional Development

Ask The Expert

By Barbara Mitchell

Q: I know I need professional development to get to the next level in my career, but my manager tells me there’s no budget for courses or conferences. Should I bite the bullet and pay for it myself, or just resign myself to the fact that my organization isn’t going to invest in me?

A: There isn’t an easy answer to your question, but it’s certainly one that many employees and organizations struggle with. We know that today’s employees, especially millennials, are extremely interested in building their skills, and they aren’t afraid to leave a job if professional development opportunities aren’t offered.

If your organization sees you as a valued resource, it certainly makes sense for them to help you get the development you need. However, the costs involved make it difficult for many organizations to offer adequate programs. Your best approach is to make that case to your manager that building your skills will benefit the organization, and not just you personally.

Do some research into no- or low-cost options. Your local community colleges may offer relevant classes for a minimal fee. Major universities offer courses through the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) platform. These programs, many of them free, cover an amazing array of topics and can be accessed at your convenience. Also look for free or low-cost webinars offered by associations or other professional groups.

Point out how the skills you gain will benefit your team and the organization, and make it clear that you’ve taken cost into account.

Once you’ve done your research, schedule a meeting with your manager to lay out what you’ve found. Point out how the skills you gain will benefit your team and the organization, and make it clear that you’ve taken cost into account.

If you’ve made a good-faith effort and the answer is still no, you still have options. You can gain new knowledge on your own by taking advantage of free podcasts and webinars, as well as books, newsletters, and other resources available online or at your public or university library. Another option is to look for a mentor in your organization who can help you develop your skill set.

You may find that as you begin to increase your skills on your own, your organization may decide it’s time to invest in you.

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR and The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook. Do you have a question you’d like her to answer in “Ask the Expert”? Send it to [email protected].

Career Development Coaching and Mentoring