Ask a trainer: Help! How do I get professional development when there’s no budget left?

You want to develop, both personally and professionally.  You’ve asked for training and been told there’s no budget left.  You’re not alone.  Many a budget holder has got part-way through the year to find there’s not enough budget to go round. If you’re affected by this, what can you do?  Here are some thoughts:

  1.  Identify the skills and behaviours you need to learn.  So this might mean talking to your manager, referring to your last appraisal, and getting hold of a job description (preferably your current job and the next one up).
  2. When you’ve done that, brainstorm and seek out as many options as you can.  Here are some starters.  You can read books, download articles and papers.  There is heaps of really good stuff on the web for free, such as the Harvard Business Review Blog.  Identify someone who’s really good at what you want to be good at, who would be able to coach you (I charge money, but a colleague probably won’t).  Look at an interest group, such as Toastmasters if you want to practise your presentation techniques.  Ask your social network contacts what has worked for them – your coach may be out there.  Consider a secondment to another department to build knowledge and skills, or a job swap to gain experience of a different sector or area of the business. Trawl the internet for online self-study resources – there are plenty, some good, some not so – be sure to preview carefully and take advantage of any ‘try before you buy’ downloads. Have a look at night schools and short courses at academic institutions – often affordable and high quality. At this stage, just get plenty of ideas; the next step will help you refine them.
  3. Draw up your criteria – what factors need to be taken into account in your decision-making?  Should the learning be in work time or your own time?  Must it be quick and immediate?  Can you learn steadily over several weeks or months? Does it need to be at or near work?  If you are paying for it, what’s your budget?  Do you want to learn alone, at your own pace, or in a group?  If you need your employer’s support, how will your learning this skill or behaviour impact the business?  How quickly will you be able to put the learning into practice?
  4. Now list your professional development ideas, down the side of a page. Across the top, list your criteria. Working through each of your ideas, give it a number according to how well it meets each criterion, then add the total up. Now rank your ideas according to the total scores.  What you will now have is the bare bones of a case to make for why you should take a particular option, and evidence that you’ve given it a fair bit of thought.

Good luck and let me know how you get on!

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