Building Support for Your Professional Development Goals

Posted on July 26, 2019


Professional Development

What I am listening to: Pandora’s Today’s Hits Radio 

What I am excited for: My upcoming camping trip to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park 

What I am reading: Harvard Business Review’s Managing Across Cultures 


Everyone needs professional development. Lately I’ve talked with a few people about how to get their supervisor’s support for professional development. I am guessing a few of you might have the same issue.

I transitioned from an organization that funded professional development to one with fewer resources for professional development. I have had some successful and less successful conversations with supervisors about doing professional development. I hope you can learn from what I found out and make your own path.

  • Build relationships with people who are either going to advocate for you. Either way it boils down to relationships so craft them carefully because you can’t stand on the other side of a burning bridge and expect their help. 
  • Take ownership of your professional development. This is your career, so shape it to be what you want it to be. Take stock of what you know, where you want to grow and build new skills as well as what resources you have to reach your goals. Don’t expect your employer to lay that out for you or pay for everything.  
  • Don’t be afraid to talk about your career goals. When I tell people I want to be a city manager and that I know I have a lot to learn, they are overwhelmingly supportive. I am surprised people I don’t know offer to give up their time to help.
  • Let your future supervisor know it is a priority for you. In my second interview I asked what resources where available to do this and I let them know it was important to me in general and I wanted to find ways to make any budget work. Shout out to my last boss who brought this issue up during the reference check and flat out told them it was a way to retain me. (If you are openly looking, you might ask a reference to mention it.) 
  • Show them the value! Be prepared to answer questions about what you want to/did get out of it, and how it benefits them. One thing I love about skill building professional development is you can go back and show them what they got out of the training.  
  • Professional development is more than conferences. I have read books, done webinars, gotten a degree and attended local events for professional development. Books have been one of the most helpful things because they provide a space for reflection. Harvard Business Review books are my favorite because they are focused, read quickly and show real life examples. Not every development opportunity needs to cost a lot of money.  
  • Invest in yourself and don’t ask for permission to do professional development. When you have a training or conference that you want to attend, but your organization has limited funds think carefully about how to approach the conversation. Right after I started my current job, a training from my bucket list opened up and it was local!  I decided to approach the conversation with in a way that focused on how we partner together so I can attend this great training that has been on my bucket list.  
  • Remember to look outside your professional organization for opportunities. In my last job, I started doing a lot of work around my department’s assessment and strategic plan which included reporting. I decided to attend the American Evaluation Association conference, which sounds kind of dull, but it was actually a really awesome conference.  I walked away with a lot of great tips and tricks to make my life easier and I got a ton of resources to share!  (If you haven’t heard of Stephanie Evergreen, google her!) 
  • You need professional development in more than one area.  Supervisors and manager are often promoted for their technical abilities, but supervising people is an entirely different skill set! 

The bottom line is that everyone needs professional development.  It is great when employers invest in their staff and help them grow, but you don’t need anyone’s permission to do it, so have fun and keep growing! 


Susan Barkman is a Neighborhood Liaison for the City of Aurora, Colorado.

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