When it comes to benefiting your career, certifications undoubtedly offer major bang for the buck. However, even though certifications are relatively affordable when compared to earning a full degree, by the time you complete the necessary training and preparation and pay for the exams, you will still be looking at an investment of a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.
That’s why so many IT employees look to their employers for help in earning their certifications. While some employers have formal training programs and budgets in place for qualifying workers, many small and mid-sized businesses do not, and handle requests for training and education on a case-by-case basis. If you’ve been thinking about earning an IT certification, it’s well worth asking your employer for some financial assistance, but you have to go about it the right way.
It’s Not About You
Okay, so your primary motivation for wanting to get certified has almost nothing to do with your boss or company, and everything to do with your own ambition and desire to move up from your current position. That’s completely reasonable. However, when you’re trying to get your boss to foot the bill, you have to take yourself out of the equation. It’s not about what the certification can do for you, but what it will do for your company.
You have to put your request in terms of how it’s going to benefit the organization and move it toward its goals. Otherwise, your boss may be reluctant to pay for something that’s only going to send you looking for a better job at another company.
Spend some time brainstorming the ways that your certification will benefit the company. Will you become more efficient and productive at your job? Will you help qualify the company for better partnerships? Will you be able to take on tasks that are currently outsourced? Will you be able to better predict and respond to trends? Will the certification help you drum up new business, or expand the current slate of products or services? The more that you can show that the ROI of your online IT training and exam fees will support the company’s growth, the more likely you are to get a positive response.
At the same time, you do need to do a little bit of soul-searching to articulate why you deserve your boss’ support for your certification. Are you really at the top of your game? If you were to have your annual review tomorrow, what would your boss say? Be prepared to point to some of your successful projects and highlight your value to the company. If you can’t, you’re likely to hear that you should work on your existing performance before you start working on further certification.
Making the Pitch
Once you’ve figured out how you can “sell” the idea to your boss, then you can address the practical aspects of making the pitch. To ensure it’s successful:
Send an email first. You might be tempted to schedule a meeting, but it’s always better to put your request in writing first. You can make all of your points and give your boss all of the information he or she needs upfront, without putting them on the spot. If necessary, you can negotiate in person later, but a well-thought-out email may get you a positive response on the first try.
- Highlight why you need training. Establish the problem, and then offer certification as a solution.
- Provide all of the information about what you want. Are you looking to take a course? Do you need help with exam fees? Do you want a flexible schedule for studying? Specifically request what you want, in detail.
- Discuss alternatives. Show your boss that you have done your homework by mentioning alternatives, and why your plan is the best option.
- Spell out the benefits. Clearly explain how the company will benefit from your certification.
Chances are, if you can make a compelling case in your email, your boss will fully support your certification and offer assistance. If the answer is no, though, be prepared to explore other options. Your boss may only be able to help you with some of the cost, or ask to revisit the conversation at another time. At that point, it’s up to you how to proceed, but keep in mind, that even if you have to pay for it yourself, you’ll still gain the benefits of having the certification — and that makes it well worth the expense.