The ins and outs of professional development budget

30% of Powrsuiters haven’t used any of their professional development budget in the last year. That’s a third of us leaving free money on the table. No judgement – we’ve both been there. However, no matter how small that budget is, not using it costs you more than you think. 

Like any investment, the benefits compound over time

We were co-founders of an investing platform. One of the fundamental investing concepts is compounding returns. Put simply, your money earns more money over time when your returns start getting returns too. How does that apply to your professional development budget? Well, that money is an investment in your career. The capabilities you develop enable you to identify those strategic yeses, negotiate pay raises and apply for roles that stretch you.

The sooner you start investing in yourself, the sooner those compounding returns kick in. Today’s $5,000 salary increase equates to $100,000 more income over 20 years. And that’s just the beginning. We use the term ‘career trajectory’ for a reason; like those infamous Covid graphs, your career can chart an exponential line. One small step up today can mean a big leap forward tomorrow and change the course of your life. Think we’re being overly optimistic? A quarter of the participants in one of our pilot programmes negotiated a pay rise during the month. 

Another system that wasn’t designed for us

Thankfully, there’s increased awareness about the gender job application gap. We know that the language used in a job ad can discourage women from applying, but we’re less aware that the same issue can impact women’s uptake of professional development budget. Simply having access doesn’t mean we use it. But use it we should. So, it’s time to bust some myths and put that money to use:

Budgets aren’t as fixed as you think

When your contract states that your budget is $400, it’s easy to mistake that figure for fact. Surprise; it often isn’t. Most of the time, organisations have a bucket of money that averages out to an individual amount. But every year, some people use more than their allocated amount and others? None at all. The same goes with the 34% of Powrsuiters who have the budget available on a case-by-case basis: there is a bucket of money, and a portion of it has been earmarked for you.

Yep, our rallying cry ‘If not you, then who?’ applies here too. If you’re not using the money…who is?

Money isn’t going to be handed to you

Our employment contracts usually include many benefits – retirement fund payments, insurance, parental leave, etc. One of those line items is usually your annual professional development budget. 

Don’t let it languish in your contract.

Proactive managers may hunt down opportunities to invest in you, but many don’t. It’s up to you to figure out what you need and then ask for it. We have a template for asking for budget – yes, it’s for our Membership Network, but with a couple of small tweaks, you can use it for anything. 

You can negotiate it

Many of the senior executives we’ve spoken to negotiate one-on-one coaching as part of their employment contract. Take a leaf out of their books.

When you land a new job or promotion, everything is negotiable. Most of the focus is on pay (quite rightly – money in your pocket is the most valuable), but if there’s no movement there, perks are next. In a recent 15-minute Powrup episode, we walk you through how to negotiate them. 

Too busy? Use. Your. Budget.

We talk to a lot of Powrsuiters and survey y’all regularly, too. We hear so many reasons excuses for not using your professional development budget.

We’ll give it to you straight: you’ll never become less busy by continuing to do the same thing. Professional development will help you escape the busyness trap and avoid burnout.

The earlier you invest in yourself, the better. Do you feel intimidated by the calibre of people attending a course or programme? Great, you should be. It means they’re people you can learn from.

Well established in your career? Wonderful. You’ve probably honed your strengths and achieved some epic things. But learning is a lifelong endeavour. There is no downside to revisiting the basics or taking the space to work on yourself. And, in case you think you’re alone, feeling like you don’t have it all figured out yet… we promise you’re not.

Take action

Identify one investment you’d like to make in yourself this year.

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