First off, believe it’s possible. Most people aren’t even aware that their company has a professional development (PD) budget. It’s something I think a lot of managers and HR pros mistakenly conceal, as way to save the biz money and hit their own bottom-line targets. Sad but true. If you aren’t sure about PD budget, you can just ask. You might even get time off to study.

1. Believe in the existence of PD. (Then ask.)

When I decided to enroll in HBX I also knew I couldn’t afford it. But I realized that my reasons for taking the course were mostly to benefit my current workplace.

2. Choose a course that aligns with not just your personal goals but those of your workplace – answer the question: how will you taking this course benefit your company directly?

It didn’t make sense to me to have the conversation until it actually needed to be had — otherwise I’m just wasting my time and our CEO’s.

3. Apply and get accepted.

Business is reciprocal (or should be). My boss wasn’t going to pay for the course if I wasn’t getting my normal work done. So I made sure I asked him when the timing was right: we had had a very productive meeting and I showed him (in a spreadsheet no less) exactly where I was with my work priorities & projects. Which was all on track.

4. Choose your moment.

Although he seemed accepting right off the bat, I wanted him to have formal request in place. This was so that if he started thinking more deeply about the proposition, the rationale would be right there waiting for him. It would also keep me accountable for what I set out to do. I wrote up all my reasons & my deliverables in an email and fired it off with my acceptance letter.

5. Follow up with a formal written request.

And voila! If you follow these steps (you can use my email as a template – just ask me) then I bet your bottom dollar you get what you want. If not, let me know in the Comments, and I’ll try to find you the best free MOOC for whatever it is you were hoping to learn!


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