In our work with professional women we have encountered some key issues that seem to hold women leaders back from getting the professional development support they want and need. So we hope this post may go a little way towards helping some of you get unstuck and get the development you want and need to keep movin’ on up!
A surprising number of professional women are afraid to ask their boss/human resources/Leadership & Development teams for the money to pay for a training course. Sadly, they literally don’t think they are worth it.
So much has been written about this already, so all I will say is: You are worth it, and stop selling yourself short. No man would ever doubt whether their company should pay for them. They demand it. So don’t go in apologizing for your existence and stating upfront that you know this might be a big ask, etc., etc. Ask with confidence, and advocate for the value this opportunity would bring to you and your organization.
Another, often unspoken, mis-conception is that asking for training signals a weakness. Nothing could be further from the truth. It signals the exact opposite: Proactively asking for training suggests that you are self-aware (a fundamental quality for any leader) and that you have the self-belief and aspiration to develop further and are willing and have the grit to put in the effort to do what it takes to increase your professional abilities.
INVEST IN YOURSELF
Perhaps even more baffling to hear was that many women haven’t considered making a personal investment in their development. When their manager/HR rep says “no,” they give up.
But who controls your career and advancement in this scenario? Should you leave your development up to the mercy or willingness of your employer?
We’re big believers that companies should invest in their employees’ development, and we coach our clients on how to ask for budget for workshops, courses or seminars to further their skills.
However, we also counsel them to establish a personal and professional development budget so they can fund these trainings if their employers turn them down. Because, ultimately, YOU need to be the one in control of your career and professional advancement. Don’t ever leave that up to the powers that be in your company.
What that budget is exactly, is very personal. For me this has been a long-time personal practice and the size of my budget has increased as my career has progressed. I set up a special savings account and an automatic transfer each month to save up to my budget goal. And once I became eligible for an annual performance bonus, I always allocated a percentage of that to my personal and professional development budget.
Also note that in the US, you can deduct job-related education expenses up to 2% of your adjusted gross income. Tax-deductible training courses must allow a person to sustain or develop in her current job and include professional skills such as decision making, time management, communication, leadership and negotiation, as well as learning about new technology and regulations.
So, take control of your development. Ideally your company should invest in this on your behalf. However, if they still don’t after you have repeatedly asked, then it’s on you to make sure you can, and do.