How to Ask Your Boss for Professional Development

Concept of woman meeting with her boss to discuss professional developmentThe contemporary workplace is an evolving environment of new technology, information, and ideas. Workers are expected to keep up with constant change if they want to maintain or advance their careers. Keeping up with this shifting landscape is a challenge that can’t be met without ongoing education through professional development. 

Professional development helps you gain specialized training in your industry or specific skills like communication or management. This is a targeted way to improve your current skill set and deepen your knowledge. It’s also a way to help you gain new skills that may help you advance your career and move into roles with greater responsibility. 

Although workers benefit when companies support professional development, employers benefit as well. The most obvious benefit is that skilled workers can perform better and provide greater value. The larger benefit, however, may be in attracting and keeping talent. In their 2022 report, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that 76% of employees are more likely to stay at a company with training opportunities, and 48% consider it a factor in choosing where to work.

While the benefits are clear, asking your employer to pay for professional development might be nerve-racking. The following article provides tips that can help you illustrate the need and benefits of professional development in your organization.

How professional development benefits your career

Professional development can play a significant role in your career advancement and growth. Whether it’s through taking courses, attending workshops, or obtaining certifications, professional development helps you expand your skills and knowledge. This allows you to take on new responsibilities in your current role but can also make you more competitive in the job market. 

Professional development can also allow you to move past limitations in your current role to gain skills you may not otherwise have the opportunity to develop. For example, you can take courses on communication, learn about new technology, and gain managerial skills through classes and workshops. This can increase confidence, motivation, and a sense of purpose in your work. 

How professional development benefits organizations

Investing in professional development can bring numerous benefits to a company. By understanding and highlighting these benefits, you can strengthen your case and gain support for your own professional development goals.

Here are several key advantages that companies can experience when their employees engage in professional development activities.

Attraction and retention of talent 

Offering professional development opportunities can be a powerful tool in attracting and retaining top talent. With a tight labor market, this becomes even more important. 

Closing the skill gap

Many executives feel the skills shortage may be the largest threat facing organizations. By focusing on creating an environment that embraces ongoing education and skill development, a company can combat this problem from within.

Increased job satisfaction

Employees with opportunities for growth and development tend to be more satisfied with their jobs and less likely to leave the company. This reduces turnover and saves money from the cost of dealing with worker churn.

Improved productivity

Professional development helps employees acquire new skills, knowledge, and techniques to improve their performance and productivity. This helps them do their jobs better and contributes to a more effective organization.

Competitive advantage

Employees with advanced skills and knowledge can give the company a competitive edge in the market. Additionally, retaining and attracting talent more effectively is a serious advantage over companies that need help to keep or attract talent. 

Signs that indicate you need professional development

Many professionals consider ongoing education a critical factor in their career success. Those that work in fields that experience rapid change, such as technology, may view it as a baseline necessity. But regardless of your field or career goals, there are some signs that indicate that it’s time to focus on professional development. 

If you’re not sure you need professional development, ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Do you work in an industry that is evolving? 
  • Do you want to transition to a different career? 
  • Do you want to move into a management or an executive position?
  • Do you find yourself passed over for promotions or new opportunities? 
  • Do you feel you lack some skills to be effective in your current role? 
  • Has it been a long time since you’ve focused on gaining new skills? 
  • Do you feel stagnant in your career? 
  • Do you lack confidence in some areas? 

If you answer yes to any of these, it may be time to consider seeking out professional development opportunities.

How to ask your manager to invest in your growth

If you’re interested in professional development, it’s important to approach your manager and express your goals. This lets them know you’re serious about your career, but it can also be the first step in asking your employer to pay for professional development courses or training. 

While persuasion skills can be helpful in gaining support, you’ll also need to demonstrate your desire and a thoughtful plan. Here are a few tips for effectively communicating your professional development goals with your manager:

Schedule a meeting 

Schedule a one-on-one meeting with your manager to discuss your desire for professional development. This will ensure you have their undivided attention and can discuss your goals in-depth.

Be clear and specific 

Explain why you are seeking professional development, what areas you want to focus on, and what courses, workshops, or certifications you have in mind. You’ll need to research this before your meeting, but being specific will help your manager understand your request more clearly. 

Highlight the benefits

Emphasize how professional development will benefit you and the company. Explain how the new skills and knowledge you will gain can make you more valuable and effective in your role. Look for ways to tie your new skills to the organization’s overall success.

Present a plan

Present a well-thought-out career development plan for how you will pursue professional development. Since you have already identified potential courses or workshops, include specific information about the cost, time commitment, and how you plan to balance your responsibilities at work.

Follow up 

End your first meeting by letting your manager know you’ll set a follow-up meeting. Put time on your schedules for the follow-up and include an agenda to remind them that your goal is to take action on your initial request. This shows them that you’re not only serious about your professional development goals and that you value their support.

By effectively communicating your intentions and highlighting the benefits, you increase the likelihood that your manager will support your goals. Creating a plan for your own professional development also makes it easier for them to make a case in your favor to upper management. 

Where can you enroll in professional development courses?

Professional development can benefit you and your employer, but you shouldn’t wait for an opportunity to be presented to you. By seeking out your own opportunities for growth, you take charge of your career path and future. Start by carefully considering the direction you want your career to take and research learning opportunities to help you get there. Next, talk with your manager about your plan and illustrate how your growth benefits your organization. 

Last but not least, research specific paths for professional development. Inquire about internal learning opportunities first, but don’t stop there. Create a list of courses, workshops and training related to areas you want to grow from educational organizations, workforce training centers, and industry conferences.

If you’re interested in developing leadership skills, you may want to explore the Leadership and Management Certificate Program at Wharton Online. The courses in this online program help you develop valuable skills with just two-to-four hours of study each week.