I have written about this before. Recently, I have had several opportunities for professional development, and I felt compelled to share my thoughts on this topic… again.
In the past four months, I have attended the National SHRM conference, the National Speakers Association conference, the HR Indiana SHRM conference, and a credit union conference (I serve on a credit union board that masterfully requires us to attend a conference so that we can serve as better board members!).
I realize that’s a bit excessive and am not suggesting you need to or should attend that many events. It’s a lot of time away from work and a lot of expenses. I only paid for one of the conferences because I was either speaking or volunteering, and, at most of them, I was working during breaks, in the evenings, or on the plane (I’m a master at working on a plane).
I take my professional development very seriously. In the same four months, though, I’ve heard friends, colleagues, clients, and volunteers say over and over and over:
“My boss or my company won’t pay for me to go”
“I can’t afford to go”
“I don’t have time to go”
“I don’t need to go”
“I can’t leave my family/spouse/dog…”
I realize that each one of these can be the case and very real, but they can also be excuses, maybe “easy” ones. So, if you’ve been saying these, consider at least one of the following:
Are you interested in learning and growing?
Are you looking for opportunities to take on some new challenges?
Do you want to get promoted?
Would you like to serve on some company cross-functional teams?
Could your family travel with you and combine it with a vacation before or after?
If the answer to at least a couple of these is yes, you can’t just wait for your boss/the company/someone else to ask you about it or offer it to you. Go ask for it!
What to Consider when Looking at Development Opportunities
Write a business plan. Why you should go? How can the cost of going pay for itself if you learn something new that could improve processes, reduce overhead, eliminate a position, and keep you up to date on compliance issues that could cause penalties if you don’t handle them correctly?
Does the conference offer a discount if you volunteer a certain number of hours?
Do you suggest the training well in advance so that you can take advantage of the early bird discount?
Can you find someone who might drive/share a room with you to reduce costs?
If it’s reasonably close, could you purchase a one-day pass vs. the full conference rate?
Could you serve on the planning committee of the conference in exchange for a free ticket? A free hotel?
Could you apply to be a speaker at the conference (if the thought of that is horrifying to you, maybe you could be on a panel)?
Does the conference offer a scholarship (many do!)?
Could you craft a longer-term plan that you attend one national/regional conference a year and a local conference the next year?
If you are taking on a new role (at your current company or a new one), how can you negotiate it into your offer? This shows them you want to learn, that education is important to you, and more.
If you have a certification that requires annual continuing education, can you work that into the offer or additional benefits as well?
If it’s worth it to you, could you ask for a reduced bonus to be able to attend? If so, ask if they will pay for the conference and/or the travel expenses to be paid outright so that only part of it comes out of the bonus)
If you are asked, “Can’t you just watch free webinars?” remind them that a day or afternoon out of the office can help you stay focused on the topic. In live sessions, you can learn as much from the other participants as the instructor, make new connections you could reach out to later with questions, and stay afterward to ask questions of the instructor/speaker or other participants.
The more options you can provide your boss/company, the more likely they are able to understand how important this is for you. Prove to them it can increase your loyalty, offer to do a recap of what you learned, or train your team on some of your learnings so that more can learn for the price of one!
Learning & Development Options Besides Events
I’ve written mostly about conferences, training workshops, and webinars above, but the same can be true for other opportunities to learn and develop.
Coaching: Generally, coaches are there to support you, to “coach” you through situations or a growth plan, on thinking differently about yourself or your role, on interacting or leading others. The best coaches encourage you but also serve you well by asking you questions to consider other options. Some are not there to teach you about specific areas of your role like compliance issues, processes, or new tools and technology. So, understand the difference between the two, but if you can get both, I highly encourage you to have a coach in addition to conferences, webinars, or training workshops.
Consultants: At Purple Ink, many times we are there just to support an HR professional, be available for technical assistance, or to be trained on processes, compliance issues, and more instead of coming in to do a project, an assessment, a compensation analysis, set up a new technology, and more.
Reading: I have always loved to read, but the first year I started Purple Ink – 2010 – I set a stretch goal to read ONLY business books that I thought could help me be a better business owner, leader, business developer, etc. I was very spoiled in my first 25 years in business to have the opportunity for lots and lots of training, conferences, workshops, seminars, etc., but I might have learned as much in 2010 as I did in the other 25 years. It was a huge growth and learning opportunity for me. Many of the books I got from the library or on audio from the library’s app, so I didn’t spend a nickel on expenses. (By the way, in 2011, my goal was to read one fiction book, then one business book, then one fiction book, etc., so my learning continued by reading!)
I don’t know who said it, but I’ve heard it many times: what happens if you train your employees, and they leave? Well, what happens if you don’t train them, and they stay?
What happens if YOU don’t look for more opportunities to learn? Make a plan and make it happen!
JoDee Curtis is the Founder of Purple Ink, Powered by Purple Ink, and the ink pad, author of four books in the JoyPowered® series, and co-host of The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast. She has a passion for helping organizations and individuals discover their talents, do more of what they do well through her speaking and training, and find joy in their work.