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Your Guide to Employer Tuition Assistance

We’ve all been there at one point or another – you feel you could do better work with a little more training. Maybe you’re eyeing a promotion, or maybe you have a bit of Imposter Syndrome and feel like you don’t have the skills you need to excel in your current position. In other words, you feel like you could benefit from professional development. If you work for a company that has funds set aside for annual professional development, great – you are halfway there. If your company doesn’t have funds set aside for you to take classes on a regular basis, take heart: you can still have a conversation with your boss and make the case for why it will benefit both you AND the company.  

Why Professional Development Matters 

Professional development has the power to maximize an employee’s potential. As an employee, it opens your eyes to new ideas and innovations, and gives you the tools to explore ways that you can do your job better. From an employer’s perspective, when employees gain a deeper understanding of their jobs, they are more prone to creating efficiencies and adding value to your organization.  

Prepare for the Conversation 

You may have found an engaging, interesting, and downright cool class or webinar to take. But before you highlight the “cool” factor to your boss, take a step back and shift your focus: think about how this will benefit your employer. Ask yourself what skills you will pick up that will make it a worthwhile cost for your manager. It’s not about you, it’s about the business and how it will improve the bottom line.  

When you have your conversation, be prepared to answer the simple question “What’s in it for them?” Will you learn new skills that will help you take on additional responsibilities? Will you be able to solve a problem your team has been wrestling with for months? Will you be able to share new best practices with the group and improve the bottom line?  

Take a moment to think about the potential objections your manager might raise as well: Will the class require time away from your job responsibilities? Would you be willing or able to take the course on your own time?  

Be Specific with the Request 

When starting the conversation, know what you are asking for. Choose a specific course or conference to attend and ask for the dollars for that. Many employees make the mistake of asking the broad question “will you pay for my professional development?” and leaving it at that. Successful employees will do their homework and be able to outline specifics during their conversations with their bosses.  

Stay Flexible 

Remember: most employers see the benefit in professional development, but they are under no obligation to help you pay for it. If your boss doesn’t have the budget to pay for your full training, would they be willing to split the cost with you? If you offer to split the costs, it will show that you are invested too. If the time away will affect your productivity, offer to catch up on work in the evenings. The more flexible you are; the better chance your boss will say yes.  

Maximize the Investment 

Consider offering to share the information with your coworkers so that your team can benefit from what you have learned. You can share best practices and get the entire team on board, which is a great way to maximize the investment. Offer to put the information you learn into a presentation that is easily shared, or offer to speak about your experience at your next team meeting. Share your excitement with your manager and your team.  

Professional development is an important part of your growth as an employee. And there are literally hundreds of classes available, from online to in-person classes. In an ideal world, your employer has the funds set aside to help you pay for your classes. But if that isn’t the case where you work, there are funding opportunities available. If you are looking to take a class, ask about PACE and Gap funding to help cover the expenses.  

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