5 Best Ways To Spend Your Professional Development Funds

by | Career Growth

Many companies offer professional development funds to attract, retain, and grow talent. Some major tech companies offer massive PD stipends, meaning you may never have to dip into your own pocket to pay for development and growth.

However, deciding how to spend your professional development funds can quickly become overwhelming. Plus, how do you even make the time for personal development when you’re already working a full-time job?

In this article, I share a few ways to spend your professional development funds, how to request a PD stipend from your manager, and strategies to make time for personal development.

5 Ideas To Spend Your Professional Development Funds

How should you spend your PD funds? The following are five of the top ways to invest in your professional development:

1. Courses, Credentials, and Certifications

Courses and credentials are a popular option for using your professional development stipend, since there are ones on nearly any topic imaginable, and you can complete them at your own place. As a bonus, some of the courses also culminate in a credential or certification that you can add to your resume and LinkedIn profile. 

Similarly, you might consider using your PD funds toward a certification or credential that aligns with your future career goals. Since many of my clients are product leaders, the Product School’s certifications tend to be one of the most popular choices.

Many of my executive clients choose to pursue a C-suite certificate program like those offered through a program like Stanford or Wharton. These executive cohort programs are not only a great way to deepen your expertise and knowledge but also network with executive peers within your functional area.

2. Educational Webinars

If you’re looking for something more bite-size, educational webinars give you a real bang for your buck and can be a great opportunity to simultaneously stay on top of the latest trends and network with industry colleagues.

As an introvert and ferocious note-taker with both a love of learning and a limited attention span, I love adding a few webinars per month to my calendar.

3. Conferences and Retreats

Industry conferences and retreats can also be a good option for spending your PD stipend, and there has been a significant uptick in online and hybrid conferences and retreats over the last few years.

Some employers will cover all costs associated with a conference or retreat, including travel and food, while others will only cover registration, so be sure to review your company’s policy before signing up. 

4. Professional Memberships

Memberships are a personal favorite for investing in professional development, since you get to make use of them year-round.

While a quick Google search will generate countless options, some of the most popular memberships I’m seeing among clients right now include Troop HR, PMI, and Chief.

5. Executive Coaching

Finally, you might wish to spend your PD funds on leadership and executive coaching, particularly if you’re looking for one-on-one attention and want to create a customized experience.

As an executive coach, I will share that many of my clients use their PD funds to pay for some or all of our work together.

[Read: “What Is Executive Coaching?” Answered]

Ideas To Spend Your Professional Development Funds

How Much Should You Invest In Personal Development?

Now, how much should you invest in your personal development?

A good rule of thumb is to spend up to 5% of your income on personal development. Personally, I love learning, and it’s one of my greatest hobbies, so I invest approximately 10% of my income on personal development.

If your employer offers you PD funds, it may be a flat amount annually. Conversely, some companies reimburse a percentage of your outlay that may depend on how closely aligned the activity is to your current position and long-term career goals.

How To Ask Your Boss For Professional Development Funds

But what if your company doesn’t offer a standard amount of professional development funds annually, or at least not formally as part of your total compensation package?

A good place to start when requesting PD funds is your employee handbook, benefits guide, or intranet, where you can review whether your company has an existing policy and procedures on allocating funds. Many organizations have detailed processes and steps you need to follow to access your PD stipend, which might include:

  • Articulating how an activity relates to your current position
  • Connecting it to your career goals
  • Gaining your manager’s buy-in and approval

Next, you might reflect on whether there’s an ideal time to request a PD stipend, such as your performance review or following a major win at work.

Importantly, you want to come to the conversation with your boss armed with the relevant details and be ready to answer their follow-up questions.

Also, don’t expect your boss to respond with a decision on the spot, as it’s likely they’ll need to get approval from their boss and other internal stakeholders like HR and/or finance.

[Read: How To Ask For A Raise When You Are Underpaid]

How To Make Time For Personal Development

Once you’ve decided how to spend your PD funds and gained approval from your boss, it’s time to actually work on the activities outlined in your career growth plan.

Making time for personal development can be a challenging endeavor, especially when you work full-time. The following are a few strategies to help you carve out time for yourself and your continued learning.

Get your manager’s buy-in.

You might wish to ask your boss for approval to block out X hours per week or month on your calendar to dedicate to professional development and growth.

Break it into bite-size goals.

Breaking down a larger personal development goal, such as completing a certification or earning a credential, into bite-size pieces can also make it feel more achievable.

Develop an accountability system.

Someone who holds you accountable, such as your manager, a colleague, or a friend, can also be helpful. Personally speaking, I often find it helpful when someone checks in on my progress, as it keeps me focused on my goals.

Reward yourself along the way.

Consider if you might wish to reward yourself as you make progress toward your personal development goals as well. One of the biggest mistakes people make is waiting until the finish line to celebrate, rather than rejoicing in the small wins along the way.

How To Make Time For Personal Development

On a final note, if there is a professional development opportunity I’ve missed in this list, or you’d like to discuss using your PD funds toward executive coaching with me, please don’t hesitate to reach out or schedule a consultation. I’m here for you! You’ve got this!

About Dr. Kyle Elliott

About Dr. Kyle Elliott

Dr. Kyle Elliott is the founder and career coach behind CaffeinatedKyle.com. His expertise is in Silicon Valley and high-tech. As a result of working with Dr. Elliott, senior managers and executives have landed jobs at Meta, Amazon, Google, and nearly every other tech giant you can imagine.

A trusted career expert, Dr. Elliott’s words have been featured on Business Insider, CNBC, CNN, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, Fortune, Harvard Business Review, and The New York Times, among dozens of other leading publications. He has been recognized as a Best Career & Interview Coach, Best Resume Writer for Silicon Valley/Tech Managers & Executives, and LinkedIn Top Voice (the platform’s highest honor).

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