Dear Matt: I love my job and company, but don’t feel they invest in my professional development. I don’t see a direct career plan and training opportunities for me, so I am questioning their investment in me as an employee. How can I develop my own career path, while also enhancing my skills for future roles with this or another company?

Matt says: One area that sees a shrinking budget in challenging economic climates is training and professional development, says Elizabeth Petry-Lee, a Twin Cities-based trainer, coach and organizational strategist. “It doesn’t mean that employers are no longer investing in their employees,” she says. “It may be that they have diverted funds to keep employee health costs down, or to retain employees on the payroll.”

The most successful way to obtain the support and investment you seek from your employer is to develop an action plan before approaching your employer. Conduct research to gather information, says Petry-Lee:

• Identify the cost of training and how much time it will take.

• Visit industry association websites or social media discussion groups. What training is most valued in your field? Where can you obtain such training? What training is most transferable to another company in the future? What is most essential to obtain a promotion? What relates to my current company needs? What precedents exist at your company? Is there tuition reimbursement?

• Visit job postings for other companies. What certifications or education do they require for the role to which you aspire?

“Focus on training/professional development that directly benefits your employer, not just your professional path,” says Petry-Lee.

If cost is an issue, there are a number of opportunities for employees to advance their own development that have little or no cost, says Kate Richards, an HR executive who is VP of talent services at Twin Cities-based Talencio (

• Find a mentor. Work with your supervisor to identify someone who can help you develop new skills.

• Job shadow. Ask a colleague if you can observe what it is like working in a specific job that you feel might be a future position for you.

• Cross-train. Volunteer to train in other areas of the company or at industry events.

• Attend webinars/seminars. Check and industry associations.

• Stretch assignments. Take on new work that challenges you outside your normal daily duties. You can learn a tremendous amount in your assignment while demonstrating that you have great potential.

“If you want your employer to help you achieve your goals,” says Petry-Lee, “make it easy for them to do so.”

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