Skilling up: How to approach your employer about professional development opportunities

You have a great job and love the company you’re with, but you’ve always been interested in software development. You want to find a way to learn to code and grow your technical skills, but do so without leaving your current company. Sound like you? This is a familiar scenario and one we have heard from tons of people over the years. That’s one of the reasons why we recently started offering part-time courses and in Texas, a 24-week part-time immersive program.

One trend we are starting to see among people who are interested in part-time courses is that they are working with their employer to fund and/or support them in a coding course. Asking for professional development opportunities at work can be nerve–racking, but in the tech industry, where trends and technologies change rapidly, it’s important to keep your skills up-to-date in order to progress in your career. The best way to stay ahead of the curve is to take your career into your own hands and simply ask for the professional development opportunities you think will benefit both you and your company.

Below are five steps you can take to make the case for professional development opportunities to your employer:

Step 1: Gather information

Before you even start looking into the details of the professional development program you’d like to pursue, start by looking into the existing policies your company has in place for employee training, tuition assistance and professional development stipends. This information can typically be found in employee handbooks or on the company intranet. Not there? Ask for help. Your HR representative or office manager could be great places to start.

With that information in hand, next, gather all relevant information regarding the professional development program you’d like to pursue. In addition to basic details like cost and length of program, talk to representatives about the daily and weekly commitment you’ll need to make to be successful and make an estimate of how many hours per week you’ll need to devote to the program.

Another great source of information would be someone who has completed the program you’re interested in. Ask if you can speak with people who have gone through the program first-hand to see what their experience was like.

Step 2: Make the case

Once you’re armed with information, start thinking through how you can make a compelling case to your employer. To do this, put yourself in your boss’ shoes. What new skills will you bring to the team? How will you incorporate these new skills at your place of work? How will these new skills benefit the company overall? The answers to these questions will be key in getting your employer’s support.

Step 3: Write it down

Put pen to paper and prepare an email or memo with details on the opportunity you’d like to pursue. This is your chance to showcase the research you’ve done and outline the benefits this opportunity will provide for you and the company.

By being thorough in your proposal, you will show that you have thought through and anticipated their questions and have a plan that justifies the expense of the program. Make sure to ask for a follow up meeting or call to talk through your proposal and answer any additional questions they have.

Step 4: Pitch your plan

Once your employer has reviewed your professional development plan, sit down with them one-on-one to talk about it. Explain why you want to pursue the program and all of the skills you hope to gain. Be prepared to compromise and answer questions about the program cost, how it will impact your work and tangible results from attending the program. This conversation can be a negotiation to determine a plan that works best for you and the company.

Step 5: Set yourself up for success

You got approval – great! Now what? Time to make another plan. Come up with a few actions you can take throughout the program to reassure your boss that they made the right decision. This could be something as simple as a weekly check-in email or keeping a blog that talks about what you’ve learned.

Interested in The Iron Yard’s part-time options? Read more about our courses here.

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