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One of the challenges often faced by professionals at work is ‘how do I get my employer to invest in my professional development?’

Well I’m going to turn that on its head for you and tell you to ask yourself this instead…

“Is my professional development worth more to me or more to my employer?” and the second question, “Who should be in control of my professional development, life and career? My employer or me?”

The easy and obvious answers to these questions are “Me and Me”.  So why do professionals seem to expect their employer to pay for training?

“In today’s global market, you can no longer afford to wait for your employers to invest in your professional growth and development.” Glen Llopis, Forbes Magazine 2012

Many investment strategies, supported saving plans or even charitable donations are set up so that the business will contribute dollar for dollar the amount raised by the individual.   Even mum and dad probably gave you this deal when you were saving for your first car.  If you save $2000 then we’ll give you $2000.   There also seems to be a greater attachment to that particular item if you put your money where your mouth is.  Perhaps more businesses should head in this direction with professional development  instead of having the “golden handcuff” clause in their training policy?

Now obviously I’m in the business of professional development so you’ll be thinking “of course she wants me to invest in professional development.”  That is true, of course I want you to invest in your professional development. I truly and without hesitation believe that if you are not investing in learning then you are going backwards.  As the rest of the world develops you stand still.  See the graphic figure above.

And when I say development, naturally I’m talking about focused and purposeful development.  You will develop through out your career naturally, unless you fight against it you have to develop somewhat.  However, if its not focused development in the areas that are needed for the future then you’ll be left behind.

I’ve used the dates in the figure above to demonstrate the fast change in the working world in a short period of time.  Even if you started your job in 1990 you would be doing a completely different job now just purely due to technological changes and introduction of the WWW.  Your job may not even exist anymore due to changes!

If you don’t develop the skills and thinking needed for the future then you’ll be left behind in the past.

Looking at that diagram… would you hire you now?  You were probably the best at your job when you were hired but without focused investment in development  you are now unemployable in the current market.  Where are you on the diagram?

Ok, we know that focused development is essential for long term success so what about paying for development?

My business coach last year said to me “Its not your business where people get their money for development, its your business to offer a service thats worth paying for.” Thanks Nicola Moras 🙂

So I’ve focused on creating services and development products that are worth paying for, however my curious nature still makes me wonder if people pay for their own development or not.  So I did a little research and a little survey to find out.

Turns out that about 80% of young professionals (i.e.: people in their 20s and 30s) spend about 10% of their yearly income on self development.   That’s pretty cool.   Approximately 70% of the people that I surveyed in the field of Human Resources said that they either pay for their development or pay 50/50 with their organisation.  That’s also pretty cool.  What I discovered surprised me a bit as I figured there was much more reliance on businesses paying… but on reflection it makes sense.

I don’t have to see a heap of academic research to tell me that people who are early adopters, innovators, and what I call “Intrapreneurs” are much more likely to 1. fill in surveys about development and 2. invest in their own development.  They want to stay ahead of the pact so of course they are not waiting for their employer to cough up the coin.  They take their career and future seriously so they invest in it.  They are also savvy enough to know the significant return on investment of professional development…but that’s a blog for another time. They are proud of their achievements so they tell people about it.

So whether to pay or not to pay that is the question…

One more point about investing in your own development is the psychological return from self investing.  Studies have shown that:

  1. A self of accomplishment from a outcome on the back of one’s own personal efforts increases self-esteem.
  2. Increased self-esteem leads to increased performance and personal happiness.
  3. Investing your own money leads to a higher desire for the outcome.
  4. Better outcomes, better results, better career, better business.

Ok so I added the last one…

Invest your own time and money in your development.  Its your life and career after all.  Plus who wants to hand over the control of whether they continually learn or not to someone else.  If its important enough and you see the value then you’ll always put your money where you’re mouth is.  I worked out that I’ve spent about $50,000 in my own money on my development over the last 10 years.

And don’t forget all of the free stuff online that you can get also e.g.: blogs like this one, articles, TED talks, audio books and video training etc.  You can be learning from industry experts every single day.  Remember that this is only ever a starting point and really development comes from application.

Michelle is a success and leadership coach who works with HR professionals and new leaders who want to get real results and live & lead with purpose.  You can find out more about Michelle at


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