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Five Tips for Presenting Professional Development to Your Boss

Today’s professional skills landscape is moving faster than ever before. Are you staying up-to-date on your skills?

Jul 17 , 2018

Whether it is technology, globalization or other disruptive market forces, there is constant pressure to better your skillset to maintain relevance and marketability within your industry. Thankfully, there are plenty of opportunities for professional development, so you don’t have to look far for courses, workshops or professional conferences to provide you with additional avenues for learning. The question is, how do you present these opportunities to your boss in such a way that she will be willing to underwrite your professional development? Most companies have resources designated to support professional development, so all you have to do is convince your manager that it’s worth it. Here are five tips to make your case:

  1. ROI – These three words, “Return on Investment,” are essential for a successful case for support. Make it clear to your boss what skills or tools you will gain through your training and how they will affect the bottom line of the organization. Will you be able to automate a manual process with a new software package, better identify potential clients through data analytics or better manage your team through advanced leadership techniques? Make it clear to your boss just what you will bring back to your office.
  2. Trainee to trainer – Will you be able to pass along your upgraded toolkit to your organization? If so, lay out your plan for becoming a super-user, an in-house trainer, or a leadership coach, and make your enthusiasm to help the organization succeed clear to your boss. Playing one of these roles increases your value and makes your role more critical to the organization’s success.
  3. Personal development plan – Tie your professional development to your personal development plan. This personalized growth plan should include goals for development within your organization and how these goals relate to the organization’s strategic plan. You should discuss this plan with your manager frequently so that he is already familiar with it when you request professional development funding. By asserting your commitment to the organization, you make it easier for a manager to invest in you.
  4. Do your homework – Make sure you are able to answer questions that your manager will likely ask: Why do you need to take this course at this point of your career? What is the benefit of this new skill or toolkit to the organization (see 1-3 above)? Where else do they offer this same training? Can you take this course online? Is this the highest-quality, most cost-effective way to take this course/workshop? If your manager sees that you have already done your homework, she will be more likely to say yes.
  5. Be candid* – When making your case to your boss, be honest about skills that you need to develop to be successful, and where your current skillset falls short. Your boss will appreciate your openness and candor.
    *Caveat: If there is a skillset that you should already have, given the nature of the job you were hired to do, you may not want to be quite so candid. Otherwise, your boss may second-guess your hire in the first place.

To sum up, be prepared to make the case that the investment in your professional development is worth it to your company. By connecting your development to the organization’s success, you make it easy for a savvy manager to make that investment in you. What tips have proven to be successful for you?

David Vassar, Ph.D.

Assistant Dean for Professional Programs at Rice University's Susanne M. Glasscock School of Continuing Studies and native Texan, David Vassar has spent the majority of his 20-year professional career working with commercial and higher education partners throughout the world, with emphasis on global partnerships. He has an MBA from the Mays School of Business at Texas A&M University and a Ph.D. in Latin American literature from the University of Virginia. He has served in various senior administrative roles at Rice University and the University of Texas System as an advisor to key university leadership and as an academic director for system-wide US-Mexico activities, respectively. Dr. Vassar has also worked for a variety of companies in his career, including oil and gas producers, a petrochemical service company, a brewery and an IT consultancy. In his current role, he manages a wide-ranging portfolio of professional development programs for both nonprofit and for-profit professionals, including those relevant for financial services, business communication and marketing, management and leadership, paralegal studies, computer and data science, engineering, and non-profit management.