How to get your boss to pay for your training

On-the-job training has to be worthwhile for both you and your employer. Here’s how to make your case.

A chance meeting put Zuzanna Pajtasz on a path that would change her life. Chatting to a fellow guest at a wedding about her struggle to find a job, he said: “Why don’t you work for us?” She started doing odd jobs for his building-management firm. This included a stint in the finance department. Her friends recommended AAT as a way to improve her job prospects, and Zuzanna decided to become qualified to secure a permanent role in finance. But she had to find a way to pay for the training. Zuzanna took her case directly to her boss. “I walked in and told him this was what I wanted to do.” He duly agreed. “It’s been life-changing for me,” she says. “I’m so happy with what I’ve achieved since.” Zuzanna now works as a finance assistant, working directly with the company’s finance manager. But it wouldn’t have happened if she hadn’t stepped into her boss’ office. According to research by recruitment company XpertHR, most bosses do want to train their staff, but often don’t do anything about it. So, if you want to persuade your employer to invest in your development, you’re going to have to make a convincing case. Here are some tips.

Sell yourself

Making your case requires clarity, confidence and a bit of self-promotion, which doesn’t come naturally to everyone. But the trick is to distinguish between deservedly talking yourself up on the one hand, and, on the other, drifting into unfounded boasting. “Rather than saying ‘What a splendid person I am’, it helps if you can demonstrate your skills objectively,” says business psychologist Dr John Nicholson. “Phrase what you say in factual terms.”

He suggests giving examples of when you have demonstrated your ability, commitment or passion for your work. For instance: “Do you remember that six months ago I did that, so don’t you think I’d be good at this?”

Do your homework

You must be able both to outline why you think training is the right thing to do, and to explain what the benefits are to the business. Try to frame the investment in your studies in terms of how it will benefit the team as a whole. You’ll also need to time your approach well. Try to be aware of when budgets are set within the organisation. You’ll have a greater chance of getting your training approved if it can be planned for within the budget. If your boss disagrees with you once you’ve made your point, you may have to accept their decision, but it is worth asking why it is not the right time to undergo training. With that knowledge in mind, it might be a subject you can revisit at a later date. In any event, “most bosses will be pleased that you have taken the initiative”, says Rick Conlow, a US-based management consultant. “It shows that you are willing to go the extra mile.”

Making your case: the essentials

1. Face facts

To back yourself up with the right facts, it’s important that you keep track of your big wins. Nancy Ancowitz, author of Self- Promotion for Introverts: The Quiet Guide to Getting Ahead, recommends keeping a ‘fan file’, in which you record tasks at which you’ve excelled, or qualities on which you have been complimented, so you can back up any claims you make.

2. Stay relevant

Timing and focus are crucial. If the skills you want to develop would be perfect for a particular project or function at your firm, highlight them.

3. Practice makes perfect

“Practise articulating your case at home,” advises Ancowitz, who suggests using a mirror or even videoing yourself. Psychologist Dr John Nicholson recommends studying the example of those around you: “Ask: ‘How did they do it? Were they selfdeprecating? Did they alienate others?’ Analyse and learn.”

4. Make an ally

Alternatively, get someone to make your case for you, says Ancowitz: “Search for a boss who will champion you, or buddy up with someone you know and trust. They can help promote you, and you can help promote them.”

Insights provided by Ray Pires, UK College of Business and Computing (UKCBC)

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