As I sit hear writing today, I’m surrounded by cowboy hats, big trucks, and chew cups. You might’ve guessed it, I’m in Texas. It’s not that I don’t believe that Texas doesn’t hold some redeeming qualities; it’s just that I’m not in Austin.
So, if I dislike Texas so much why am I here? To guarantee myself a higher than average raise.
Now let me back up. When I was just graduating from school, I was lucky enough to have secured offers from multiple companies. Like any young arrogant kid I thought I could negotiate myself thousand’s more dollars from each of the companies and live the rich life.
Thankfully, I was lucky enough to have a mentor, and he suggested an alternative ask during my negotiations.
What do you really want out of your job?
Many of us want the same things, we want to be appreciated, we want to get good raises every year, we want to be viewed as a kung-fu master.
The problem is, everyone who is young and arrogant wants these things. What you have to find is what separates you from everyone else. What will make you stand out from your peers, and will make you recognized for your hard work and zeal.
My mentor’s suggestion… go back to class.
Why should I go back to school?
Not school in the traditional sense, of course you could spend thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours in a Graduate program and maybe garner a little praise from your boss. Problem is, it’s slow going and you won’t really reap the benefits until 2-3 years down the road.
Plus, after spending what felt like a decade in college, the last thing on my mind was more schooling.
He promised that in one week a year I could move light-years ahead of my peers if I asked for the right thing. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from all my electrical engineering courses, like electricity I prefer the path of least resistance. Let’s do this!
If you haven’t already guessed, he wanted me to focus on taking industry training and getting certifications.
He thought that asking for something like that in a negotiation would showcase my willingness to learn and ensure that I always had a resume that stood out. So I made the ask, and my former employer agreed (of course). I secured a promise that once a year he would send me to a week-long training course on something that was relevant to my work.
So what sort of classes should you take?
Personally I’m a big fan of industry certifications. There are a ton of different organizations out there that offer certifications, so it just depends on what you’re looking for. In my short career I’ve gotten the following certifications:
- Construction Document Technologist (CDT) from the Construction Specification Institute
- Distributed Generation Certified Professional (DGCP) from the Association of Energy Engineers
- Cathodic Protection Tester (CP1) from the National Association of Corrosion Engineers – actually this is the training I’m at right now
Now I’ve obviously been doing this for longer than 3 years, so what else have I done?
I also looked around at different types of software that is used and recognized by leaders in my industries. These software companies often will offer a training to get industry professionals proficient in their software, and these are great to take as well. I’ve done one of these, with a power engineering software named ETAP.
Another thing you can look for is industry specific trainings that aren’t associated with any certification. There are a lot of different companies who offer trainings that are taught by industry leaders. Even a good number of colleges have started to focus on offering shorter trainings throughout the year to capture a little of the money people spend for staying up-to-date on industry happenings.
I’ve tried both private companies training’s and university trainings. I really have no preference between them. From a private company I took a week long training on Electrical Markets, including day-ahead and five-minute ahead trading. And from my college I took a PE review course last year.
I’m telling you all of this not to pat myself on the back (though if you’d like to I won’t complain), rather I want you to recognize the potential there is for taking such courses.
So how do you get your boss to pay for these?
Really, it just comes down to a combination of knowing the right class and time to ask for it.
I didn’t try and negotiate with my current employer. I had multiple offers from different departments prior to joining them, and I was able to choose the group that felt right and understood my desire to better myself.
If you’re looking at asking for the opportunity to take a training course or certification, here’s the steps I’d take.
- Do your research. Few people ever put the time in to look at what’s available. Chances are that regardless of your industry there are a ton of opportunities out there, you’ve just got to locate them.
Hint: Start with classes taught close to your residence, it’s a lot easier to convince your boss of something when he doesn’t have to pay for flight or hotel.
- Gauge your performance. Before you ask for a raise or anything of substantial value from your boss, make sure you deserve it. Any class you find will likely require your company to shell out thousands of dollars, if you haven’t recently proved that you’re worth it… save yourself the embarrassment.
Stop procrastinating around the office and bust your ass on the next project. If you knock it out of the park then you can focus on a certification.
- Make the ask. I always prefer a direct ask over beating around the proverbial bush. If you think you’re worth it, ask your boss for a sit-down and explain why you want to do it. Focus not on what the certification or class will do for you, but what it’ll do for your company (remember, it’s all about them when they’re shelling out the money).
Now I can’t guarantee that following these simple three steps you’ll get to go take whatever course you want. Though if you did fail, try and figure out why. I’d start with asking myself the following questions.
Was it the wrong time?
Even if your performance was stellar, there still might be other items going on beyond your control that you’re either unaware of or didn’t think would impact you. Maybe your company was just named in a law suit, maybe it’s the end or beginning of the financial year and they can’t afford it, or maybe your boss is just a dick.
Will this class or certification really help my company?
Relevance is key here. If you can’t explain exactly how this will help your company will get more clients, work, or money than you’re probably fighting a losing battle even asking. If your original choice doesn’t meet these criteria then you should probably move on to something else that will.
Is my performance really good enough to justify taking this course?
Even when we sometimes think that we’re doing an amazing job at the office, there’s something holding us back. At least once a year your company likely sits you down to talk about your performance, what’d they say?
If everything was good, then I’d just ask your boss why he won’t approve it.
Some people just don’t want others to move up in their careers. But by-in-large this is the extreme minority, every employer I’ve ever had has wanted nothing but the best for me. I’d be really surprised if your boss wasn’t the same.
If you really believe that your boss is one of these smaller minorities… then the discussion really becomes is it time for you to move on?
So how exactly will this help me get a raise?
If you’ve been able to get your boss to approve a class, it’s likely because you were able to convince them that it’d benefit the company in some way. If you’re adding to your resume which they use to get potential projects, it’ll be hard for them to turn down your ask for more money.
Did you catch that little part at the end? The asking for a raise part?
Nobody is going to look out for you as much as you should. If you believe that you deserve a raise, you’ve got to ask for it.
And if they turn you down?
You’ll have this nice shiny new certificate to put on your resume.
So have any of you ever asked to take a class before? If not, do you think that you will now?