July 2019

How do I ask my boss for the training I need?

Dear Leah M, 

Last week my boss asked me to take over project budgeting - yet another thing I haven’t been trained to do that was put on my plate! I am constantly in this situation where I don’t feel like I have adequate training to do my job, to the point where I sometimes I feel like I’m just making things up because I have to get it done. I’m eager to contribute and feel that I’m being under-utilized because I don’t have the right skill set. How do I ask my boss for the training I really want and need?

Train Me Ted

Dear Ted,

When faced with an impossible task you generally have two options. The first is to give up, leave work early to meet your friends for a drink, and talk endlessly about what a miserable job you have. The second is to charge forward, get creative, and do your best to deliver on the request. As the option two type, you deserve congratulations for your ingenuity to date (congrats!) as well as some proper training.

There are many progressive organizations and fantastic bosses who are proactive in training employees and creating environments that tap into the best of their staff. You clearly don’t work at one of those places, so let me be frank - your personal needs do matter, but not where you currently work. Know that and use it as your strategy. You need to appeal to your boss’s needs, not sell them on yours.

Let your boss know that you have been thinking about how you can better contribute to making the team (or organization) more successful and if you were trained on [insert training you need] you could accomplish [insert specific benefits] for your boss. Offer real, tangible ways your boss/the team will benefit from spending money on training you. If your boss seems enthused, then have some options to present, including their costs. If your boss is not enthused, maybe it’s time to switch tactics and simply ask them about where they need more support. This about finding a win-win – that sweet spot where your needs and your boss’s priorities overlap.

Your conversation could go something like this:

  “As I’ve been working on our budgets, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I could do them more quickly and accurately. Since I haven’t been formally trained in finance and budgeting, I just figure it out as I go. I have to ask help from friends and others quite a bit to ensure I am doing this correctly. I found an entry level budgeting for nonprofits course online and was wondering if you’d be willing to let me take an afternoon off to take it to brush up on my skills? I think this would really save us a lot of time working on this. I found an inexpensive option and have a breakdown of the costs for your review.”

Of course, don’t open by asking for the five-day workshop at a resort in Bali. Start with the options that are a little cheaper…and a little closer to home. When your boss begins to see the benefits of investing in you, you will have the leverage to ask for more.


Leah M.  

P.S. Okay, shameless self-promotion here, but IbD also offers public workshops so if you’re looking, check them out.

Also from Leah M…

Help! Previous project manager won’t let me do my job. Transitions are tough, especially when a controlling colleague won’t let you take the reins on a project.

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