Are you putting off the next big leap in your skill development plans because of financial restraints? Your sponsor might be sitting at the corner office right now!
For many, the prospect of a jet-setting global career is as tempting as it is intimidating. This is primarily because, well, a lot of things, but mostly the economics of it. At its very core, upskilling for the not-so-distant future is a matter of cash, and more so in an increasingly fragmented world of MOOCs and learning communities. The staggering failure rates of MOOCs, even those by the world’s premier institutions, stands at 95% (if that made you gasp, you’re not the only one). After all, aren’t online courses the next big thing in learning?
Well, of course they are! But not in your “err.. I’m taking an introductory course in python to become a data scientist sometime in the future…because everybody’s doing it” kind of way. Your career is on the line here, and it makes sense to look before you dive. Yes it’s not just a leap; you have to dive in.
But why pay for a credential at all?
If that sounds interesting, you’ll be glad to know that more employers than you imagine gladly sponsor their employees’ skill development initiatives. 85%, to be exact, on last count (Source: Business and Legal Reports). Think about that for a moment – for every 100 employees who have asked their education to be sponsored by their employer, a whopping 85 have been successful. A no brainer, then, that you should follow suit.
In all honesty, you’d think there’s a perfect time to ask your employer for a certification sponsorship, but there is none. You’re not popping the question on your knees here. Experts, however, are of the opinion that it does help to have at least a year’s worth of experience under your belt at the organization, with proven performance, to ensure that the investment feels worthwhile to your boss. An approval for sponsoring your certification is the quintessential symbol of faith in your capabilities and potential, and it makes all the difference if you have the facts to reinforce your case. So, when you’re ready and gunning for that professional credential, prepare for the most important phase of the process:
This is what will make it or break it. Your approach, like most things in life, will determine the outcome. So let’s be clear, precise, and bullet-pointed on this one:
Request for a meeting – First things first, set up for a one on one with your case. This is a sales pitch for your skill development, as well as the professional credential of your choice. Be prepared to face some tough questions, having your answers ready. Dress to kill, and look sharp. It’s advisable that you book an appointment with your boss in the second half of the day and in all likelihood, an HR representative will be present, too. So be sure to pay equal attention to everyone in the room.
Features, Advantages and Benefits – Make no mistake, this is a sales pitch. You are specifying the value that your chosen credential will bring to the company, so share the reason for your choice. If it’s a premium certification or a new area, make sure you present a comparative analysis that establishes the grounds for your chosen credential over the others in the market. In many cases, your organization may have a partnership with an existing certification authority. All the more reason for a comparative analysis showcasing your choice over others.
Value Proposition - Everything boils down to the bottom line, same is the case with your certification sponsorship. Lay out the details and benefits of how your newly acquired knowledge and skills will positively impact the company and your colleagues. Most importantly, productivity is crucial and cannot be overstated. Mention some numbers if you think it helps, and talk in tangibles. This will get you ahead quickly.
Close, Close, Close – End with a flourish and you’ll have a significant edge over your peers. Most employees asking for sponsorship lose their way in justifying and rationalizing, eventually landing far from the target. Remember to keep your focus on the tangible benefits to your job, your team, your department and your organization as a whole. And then, just ask! More often than not, there will be a process in place for approval and release of funds. So it’s vital that you maintain the follow ups and prepare to back up any further enquiries that may arise in the approval process.
A professional certification, in the current day and age, is akin to having a massive stash of gold in the medieval era. So stock up wisely, and remember, with your employer as a sponsor, the possibilities are infinite!