How to Effectively Secure Professional Development Opportunities

November 18, 2017

 

It is important for administrative professionals to continually develop their skills. However, it can be nerve-wracking to ask your company to fund such courses. Today we have guest Andrew Jardine, the General Manager from the professional training and membership organization The Institute of Administrative Management, here to give tips on how to obtain that much needed professional development.

 

Recent research suggests that decision-makers’ priorities have shifted over the past year, with 42% of CEO’s saying they have no plans to invest in new employee training. Whether it is a social media conference happening in a few months or getting an IQ/IAM qualification, some companies have established budgets for job-specific and career advancement training while other employees struggle in a ‘dog-eat-dog’ environment.

 

Nonetheless, how can you put a case together to get your manager to invest in your training and development? There are three key steps.

 

1. Identify what your company’s policy is for career development

You need to first determine your company’s existing policies. For example, if you are interested in pitching a potential training programme you want to go on, or you are looking to become part of a professional body, such as the IAM and want your membership fees paid, the company may already have a policy setting out parameters. This will help you weigh up if what you’re wanting to do is viable via your company, whether you are outside the boundaries and can negotiate, or if you need to look for an alternative.

 

At any rate, navigating company policies can be difficult. Sometimes you can’t find anything or there isn’t an explicit policy. You shouldn’t be discouraged if this is the case because it does not instantly mean that your company wouldn’t support your proposal. Has your company paid for an employee’s training previously? If they have, has it been a particular type of training? This will give you an indication of proven things they are happy to invest in. If what you are looking to do hasn’t been done before, again, it doesn’t mean that it would be a no.

 

2. Build your case

You have an indication now about the likelihood of your company investing. Next, you need to pull together the relevant information so your boss can make an informed decision.

 

i)  The training itself: You need to gather information about the training and prepare for any questions you might be asked. Being thorough also has advantages for yourself. It gives you a chance to familiarize yourself with the details and to make sure it is exactly what you are looking for. If it isn’t, or if you think you may struggle to keep up with the requirements whilst balancing work, you may want to seek an alternative. You will need to pull together all important facts about the training, such as the duration, days and times (be sure to include if you would need time off or if it would be an online course that wouldn't interfere with your work schedule), the cost of the course, other associated costs (i.e., travel expenses) as well as registration deadlines.

 

ii) Why this course and what else is out there? It is always worth having some alternatives prepared; it shows that not only have you done your research but that you are committed. Nonetheless, it will also give the decision maker some options to consider, including weighing up different costs and the quality of training for differing prices.

 

iii) Why should the company send you on this training? Even if your company has a clear policy that supports training, they will still need to understand the benefits of you completing it. You should focus on the benefits for your company. For example, many administrative assistants are starting to take on marketing and social media responsibilities and it is a social media course you want to do, with the benefit being producing new leads for the company.

 

3. Make your pitch

Timing will be essential here. For example, you may not want to make your pitch whilst your manager is tied down by an important project. You also need to judge the communication style of your boss, for example, your boss may be less receptive if you bring it up without warning and in person.

 

You could use something like this:

 

“Hello Manager,

 

To support you better and make time for other tasks I need to invest in my Microsoft Office skills. I have already found a company offering a comprehensive training program on the subject, as detailed below:

 

Company Name: _____________

Credentials: [List of affiliations and a testimonial.]

Curriculum: [A copy of the program’s outline obtained from their website.]

Cost: [Fee per attendee.]

Training schedule and duration: One day training from 9 AM to 4:30 PM on most weekdays.

 

The feedback for the course is excellent and the literature suggests an average time savings of an hour a day. Even if this is exaggerated, a savings of only half that is still 2½ hours a week. I found two alternatives, but one is nearly twice the cost and the other is not as focused on the areas that would help us the most.

 

Please let me know what you think.”

 

This person highlighted the need for training in the first paragraph and wrote a powerful close including more benefits. The phrase, “Please let me know what you think,” indicates that they expect a discussion if the request is declined without sounding pushy.

 

4. Just remember you need to anticipate resistance!

Think about questions you may be asked and brainstorm potential answers to them. Here are some examples:

  • “What will happen to your pending tasks while you're away?”

  • “Why does this cost so much?”

  • “Why should the company approve this?”

  • “Do you expect us to promote you, or, raise your salary after this?”

 

You can find a collection of some other hints and tips here.

 

Have you successfully secured professional development opportunities? Please share in the comments below!

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