4 Ways to Get Professional Development on a Budget

September is Self-Improvement Month! It’s a great time to start looking into professional development opportunities that you’ve put off. But if you’re on a budget and don’t have much expendable income, it can feel hard to afford those things.

Here are a few ways that you can make it work and improve your career!

 

1) Negotiate with a potential employer

I’ve written before about non-salary perks that you should negotiate for during the job search. Professional development is definitely one of those things! Don’t underestimate the value that this can bring to you and your career. It can make you a happier and more productive employee, so it’s in an employer’s best interest to offer it to you.

Ask a potential employer what kinds of funds they have to pay for professional development. If they don’t currently have any, negotiate to make that part of your offer package. Explain why it is important to you and how it will make you a better employee for them.

2) Ask your current employer

If you’re already employed, find out if your employer offers funds for professional development. My employer allows us to attend two conferences a year, with other opportunities available upon request. They even paid for me to attend Bossed Up Bootcamp in 2015! All I had to do was ask. So now it’s your turn: ask your boss and HR what is available to you. If you don’t like what you hear, ask how this can change.

3) Look for free or low-cost opportunities

Not every opportunity has to cost an arm and a leg. Look around for free or affordable classes and events in your career field. Here are some options for free or affordable online classes that you should check out:

Another option is to ask an organization if they offer scholarships or discounts for people who cannot afford to pay full price. It never hurts to ask!

4) Set aside money throughout the year

Perhaps you’re self-employed or your organization doesn’t have the funds to pay for professional development. You still have options. Just like with anything else, you can set aside money throughout the year so you can pay for opportunities that come up.

I have a savings account for my side hustle that is specifically for things like financial or women’s empowerment conferences and classes. You can do the same and set up a savings account for the opportunities that you’re most interested in. Estimate the amount of money you’ll need for registration, travel, accommodations, etc. Break that number down into chunks to figure out how much you’d need to save each month. Then automate that amount into your new savings account. By the time that conference or class opens up, you’ll have enough money to pay for it!

How have you managed to afford professional development opportunities? Share them in the comments below.

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Maggie is a Certified Financial Education Instructor and financial coach for women. Her life’s mission is to give women the support and the tools that they need to take control of their money, break the taboo of discussing debt and income, and achieve their goals and dreams. She does this through one-on-one financial coaching, monthly Money Circle gatherings, and speaking engagements. Passionate about many issues affecting women, Maggie also serves on the board of Collective Action for Safe Spaces, is a member of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington’s Developing Leaders Program, and was trained as a salary negotiation facilitator by AAUW.