Negotiating Your Way to Training
In honor of today being the last day to get the special preview rate for the 2012 PASS Summit, I thought I'd offer some tips on negotiating with your boss for money to attend such a conference or training event. For more info about registration, click here.
Keeping up to date in the technology world is a journey, not a destination. I'm at peace with the fact that I'll never know everything about SQL Server, but that doesn't make me want to stop learning more. If you're not putting in the extra time to keep your skills and knowledge up to date, rest assured that someone else is.
Because of this, I've made sure to bring up questions about professional development in my last two job searches. Employers should value employees who strive to progress in their field, and lack of willingness to allow me to do this is a total deal-breaker for me in a job search. Of course it's very easy to lie about it as well – I could make myself sound totally ambitious and energetic just to get my foot in the door somewhere, knowing that if I do a decent job they probably won't get rid of me for lack of seeking out training. Similarly it's very easy for an employer to mislead an interviewee and tell them they have a budget for employee education and support such initiatives. It's also quite possible that an employer had a training budget when you were hired and those funds have since dried up or were reduced due to budget cuts or the like. Unfortunately things like this can happen from time to time. The question, then, is what to do about it.
So you've pitched a class or conference to your boss and they've come back to you saying that they'd like to send you because it seems like a great opportunity, but there just isn't room in the budget. Many will just give up at this point, but we're more persistent than that, so some bargaining is now in order.
Offer to pay part
The first step is to ask if they can cover only part of the expense. Offer to pay for the travel and hotel expenses yourself if the company can cover your registration fee. Not only do you get to attend the training you wanted, but you also show your employer that you're really serious about it and willing to contribute to the expense. Be sure to stress that you'll be happy to share the knowledge you gain with the rest of the team upon your return. Another great point to bring up is that the company spends big money on SQL Server licenses, and a few thousand dollars extra to ensure you are well-trained to maintain such software is paltry by comparison.
Pay for it all in exchange for time
If the above doesn't work either because your boss won't budge or perhaps there's really no training budget at all, the next step is to offer to cover the costs yourself, provided you are given the time off to attend said training outside of your vacation time. Both sides benefit from this – you get the training you want, and your employer gets the benefit of a more educated employee at no real expense to them. Even though you're paying, it's still a win-win in my book.
This most common rebuttal to this will probably be along the lines of "we really can't have you out of the office like that". Assure them you'll be available by cel phone and email, just like when you're at home on evenings and weekends. Also mention that if there's really an emergency, you'll have your laptop with you and will be available to login remotely and work with the rest of the team back at the office to resolve any issues. Point out that this is even a better deal for them than when you take vacation time, because you'll be able to guarantee your availability this time around.
Go completely on your own
Finally, if your employer can't stomach the cost of having you out of the office for free to attend training that will make you better at your job, my first thought is that you should think long and hard about if you want to remain working at that company. Switching jobs is a pain, but I'd say chances are quite good you can do better somewhere else. At this point, if you're really serious about attending and you have PTO to burn, take the time off and go. You'll be glad you did.