Career Watch: Asking for training when money is tight

Q&A: Katy Piotrowski

The author of The Career Coward's Guide to Career Advancement discusses how to get your company to provide training, even during the recession.

Many employees feel uncomfortable asking for training, even in the best of times. How can they do it in the midst of a deep recession? Training can take many forms, from signing up for an entire MBA degree to job-shadowing a co-worker to learn how she handles a specific process. If you're truly committed to additional training, think creatively about how you can boost your skill set in the most cost-effective way. Come up with a list of at least five possibilities, with a range of costs, in order to give your employer some options.

Next, schedule a meeting with your boss to talk about your hopes and ideas. If it's a degree you want to work toward, be sensitive to the current economic challenges and present your request one class or two at a time. Talk specifically about how each class will help you improve your performance. If you need facts about the results you'll achieve, interview the class instructor for details. For even more ammunition, speak with former students about the payoffs they've already realized.

If funding is super tight, offer to split the cost of the course. Other strategies are to identify cost-cutting measures within the company that will offset the cost of your tuition, or duplicate the value of what you learn by sharing your new knowledge with other people in the company through regular brown-bag training sessions. The bottom line is to emphasize that you believe your training will make you more productive, ultimately bringing additional income to the company.

Don't some employers worry that training just makes it easier for employees to get better jobs elsewhere? Savvy managers know that well-chosen training will result in a net-gain payback to the company, even before an employee might leave for another opportunity. Keeping this in mind, it's wise to ask in which areas your manager would like to see you develop your expertise. Listen carefully about the skills your boss is looking to add to her team's toolbox. Then, as you evaluate training programs, aim to incorporate your employer's needs with your own career training goals.

If your employer does voice a concern about you leaving once you've completed your training, ask what would make her more comfortable in committing to the expense. She may say, "I'd like to know that you're going to stick around for at least a year." And a 12-month commitment may be a worthwhile trade-off in exchange for a generous training perk.

If there's just no money available for training, doesn't the employee who asks for it risk being regarded as somewhat clueless? It's been said that you can ask for anything, as long as you do it in the right way. For instance, preface your training-support proposal with, "I know some of what's happening on the business side of things, but not everything. Please don't take my request as a form of disrespect. I'm thinking both about the company's future success as well as my own, and I want to be adequately trained to support both."

Keep in mind, too, that training is viewed with respect by almost everyone. Although you may not receive immediate approval for your request, your boss will remember that you want to improve yourself, and when the purse strings do loosen again, you may be near the front of the line for a payout.

--Jamie Eckle

Salaries on the Decline

Janco Associates Inc. found mostly bad news for IT professionals in its midyear review of salaries. As shown below, salaries for many higher-level IT positions declined at large enterprises. As bad as that looks, though, the falloff in pay levels was much steeper for those working at midsize organizations, according to Janco.

Mostly Down

Average total compensation (base salary plus bonuses) in large enterprises for selected positions:

January 2007

June 2009

Change

CIO

$174,979

$172,505

-1.41%

Vice president, security

$152,806

$151,102

-1.12%

Vice president, administration

$130,442

$132,275

1.41%

Vice president, consulting services

$140,809

$133,895

-4.91%

Vice president, information services

$144,928

$141,424

-2.42%

Vice president, technical services

$140,728

$148,808

5.74%

Director, IT planning

$124,928

$123,299

-1.30%

Director, production/data center

$132,823

$131,635

-0.89%

Director, systems and programming

$146,712

$149,835

2.13%

Source: Janco Associates Inc. 2009 Midyear IT Salary Survey, June 2009, using data from Janco Associates' Compensation Database for Information Technology professionals

Compiled by Jamie Eckle.

This story, "Career Watch: Asking for training when money is tight" was originally published by Computerworld.

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