1. Do your homework
Discover if your company has a tuition reimbursement program and what it includes. If you don’t find a formal policy, don’t give up. Some companies, especially smaller companies, might not have a formal policy, but still may offer financial compensation for professional development or training.
2. Follow the money
To make your best case at getting your company to pay for your graduate business degree, you’ll want to first find out where the funds would be coming from. Is it coming directly from your department or is it coming out of a fund more central to your organization? Knowing this will allow you to more clearly show how your degree will benefit your organization. It will also help you know how to best frame the conversation on ROI of this investment — will it benefit your department or organization overall. Knowing this will help you have a stronger case in your ask.
3. Build a base of support
Having an ally in your corner, beyond your immediate supervisor or a human resources staff member, can be extremely valuable for helping you build a base of support. Ideally, that mentor would be someone in a leadership position who could either advocate on your behalf or be in a position to make this kind of financial decision on behalf of the company.
If you can’t find an ally within your company, then reach out to the Graduate School of Management. Our Admissions office has a lot of specific knowledge about a program that will make it much easier for you to assemble your case. They might enlighten you with things that you may not have thought of before you’ve had a chance to sit in a classroom.
Also, our alumni office can help connect you to alumni who work at your company. Those people can often times share first-hand experience of the value of the program to both you and the decision maker in your company. Hearing a personal testimony can be a powerful tool in persuading someone who might be on the fence.
4. Time to shine
Compile an easy to read list of the positive impact you have made at your organization during your time there. Be sure to highlight proof-points and data of your contributions and accomplishments. This is not the time to be overly modest. Pulling together your past accomplishments will remind your employer of your capabilities and potential, and will also help make them realize you are worth the investment.
5. What’s their expected ROI
We all know a from UC Davis will be a good investment in your career, but you also need to address your employer’s perspective and answer the question “What’s in it for them?” To do this, think about what project you are currently working on. How will a degree help you with this? What will you bring back to the company as a result of advancing your business education? How will you having an a degree give them a competitive advantage? What you will be able to do faster, better, cheaper or more effectively if you have a graduate business degree?
Share curriculum specifics with your employer to illustrate the skills you’ll be gaining in strategy, finance, marketing, and leadership. Help your employer connect an investment in you to an investment in the company, one that pays returns through your knowledge, skills, and network. Be specific. You need to make sure can quantify how exactly you will be better at your job.
If you are asking them to make a financial investment in you, then you need to be sure to highlight what the financial return is for them.
6. You’re a keeper
You can also research how many job openings there are currently at your workplace and find out how many of them require a graduate business degree. If there are several, then that can help your case. It can be a big benefit to an employer if they can retain a good employee and promote from within than to recruit and train someone from outside the organization.
7. No such thing as a free lunch
When you approach your boss or the decision maker, be prepare for a conversation to be much more than a one-sided ask by you. Instead, you should expect it to be a negotiation aimed at meeting both party’s needs. For example, some employers offer financial assistance for education in return for a contract specifying a length of time you will remain at the company following your studies. Write down the specific contributions that you’ll bring to the company, or anticipate that your employer will have list of expectations for you as a result of them paying for your degree.
At the end of the day, the key to proposing a case for support to your employer is to present a plan where they can see that paying for your graduate business degree is mutually to them and to you. You want them to be just as excited as you are about taking this positive next step in your career and a making this worthwhile investment.