Pitching a Professional Development Opportunity to Your Boss

The reality is, no one will ever be as dedicated an advocate for your career objectives and professional well-being as you are yourself. It may sound harsh, but it’s accurate. Your boss is busy too, and may not have the bandwidth to groom or coach you in the way you would like. You should feel empowered to take advantage of professional development opportunities as they arise and get your employer’s buy-in.

You will need to do a little bit of homework, but you are much more likely to get a “yes” if you can present a defensible business case to your boss. Let’s reverse engineer the problem; you want your employer to pay for a professional development opportunity, so let’s ask:

What are your employer’s/department’s/team’s strategic plan and objectives?

Understanding what your boss wants is the best way to get what you want. Demonstrate your knowledge of the “Big Picture” plan in your pitch and explain how you (and ideally you better than anyone else) can make your contribution using the skills you will gain  through the development opportunity.

How do current/future initiatives tie into those goals?

Initiatives can range from modernization efforts (reactive) to cutting-edge, trail blazing ventures (proactive) and they all should connect in some way to your employer’s “Big Picture” plan. Find an initiative that is relevant to your professional development idea and to your existing position (unless you are spinning this as an advancement opportunity – but that’s a blog post for another time) and cite opportunities for improvement within that specific initiative.

What skills can you pick up that will add value to the initiatives?

By skillfully laying the groundwork for your proposal you will have made an open-and-shut case for employee development as an asset to the business. But why invest in you? Can the money be better spent somewhere else in the company? How do you demonstrate return on investment (ROI) to your employer if they are footing the bill for your professional development?

Let’s say, for example, that you are asking your employer to spend $25.00 – $37.50 on your month’s subscription to Lynda.com. Now factor in your hourly wage (if development will take place on company time) and multiply that by the hours spent on the Lynda course. Compare that number to the cost of hiring a consultant. Compare that number to the cost, in hourly wages, of having untrained staff work the problem. If your bid comes out looking favorable in these scenarios then it should be an easy win for your employer to grant your request (hey, it’s like you’re saving them money)!

Ideally, you can do the job better, faster, and with a smaller headcount after your training. That means your training is decreasing your employer’s overhead. If you can’t quantify the ROI you should highlight the existing lack of expertise or a skills gap in your organizational unit and make a case for why you are uniquely suited to fill the gap.

Practice making your case and you can use your current job as a way of continually building skills.

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