At a time when advances in tech and industry dynamics at large shift so rapidly, the significance of continual learning and skill development can’t be overstated. Interestingly, about 40% of employers are now stepping up to the plate by offering reimbursements for educational pursuits and Learning & Development (L&D) programs. Yet, a surprising number of employees are either unaware of these opportunities or don’t take advantage of them. According to a study conducted by InStride, only 2% of employees are actively using their employer’s learning benefit. This gap represents a missed opportunity for professionals, especially considering the career advancements it brings. A recent Gallup poll found that employees who participate in upskilling programs earn an average of $8,000 more per year than their peers who don’t. 

Understanding and utilizing these educational benefits, especially through trusted online learning platforms like Udacity, can be a game changer for your career trajectory. With that in mind, here’s a step-by-step guide to identifying the learning path that’s right for you and securing reimbursement from your employer.

Step 1: Consider Your Current Role and Career Goals

Your journey should start with a thorough self-assessment. Consider your current role – what are its demands, and what skills are crucial to have in order to excel? Equally important is to reflect on where you see yourself in the future. Which skills will catapult you towards your long-term career goals? 

To get the ball rolling, initiate discussions with your manager or mentors about potential growth areas. These conversations can uncover valuable insights and guide your learning path. You can also conduct targeted research on professionals who currently have your dream roles. What educational background or skill sets helped them climb the ladder? Platforms like LinkedIn can be a goldmine for information like this. Analyze the skills, endorsements, and career trajectories of these individuals for a clearer picture of your own upskilling needs.

Step 2: Identify and Evaluate Different Education Options

With a clearer map of your skill development, it’s time to explore educational options. Today’s landscape offers a wide variety of choices – from traditional degrees to flexible online programs like those offered by Udacity. When considering these, weigh the pros and cons of different learning formats. Do you prefer the structured environment and group accountability of in-person classes, or do you value the flexibility of online learning? Consider the learning style as well – are you more aligned with interactive, project-based learning or do you prefer more passive, theory-based courses?

Another important aspect is the credibility and industry recognition of the educational provider. A pro tip here is to connect with peers or industry professionals who have pursued similar educational paths. Their experiences, combined with the visibility of certain badges or certifications on platforms like LinkedIn and Github, can unearth important learnings to help inform your decision. 

Step 3: Compile a Simple Business Case for Reimbursement

Your next step is to put together a compelling business case for your reimbursement. This involves not only identifying the skills you want to acquire by participating in the opportunity but also detailing how these skills will directly benefit your role and the organization. Will they help in tackling current challenges in your workplace? Can they drive innovation or improve efficiency within your team? Also, consider the program’s duration and any time off that might be required, ensuring it aligns well with your work commitments. Remember, the goal here is to make a convincing argument that investing in your education is directly aligned with investing in the company’s future.

Step 4: Reach Out to Your HRBP

After building your case, approach your Human Resources Business Partner (HRBP). Start by asking about existing educational reimbursement programs. If such a program is already in place, get familiar with the application process and criteria required for approval. In cases where no formal program exists, use your business case as a persuasive tool to get one up and running. Present it to your manager and HRBP, emphasizing the mutual benefits. Again, during this process, it’s essential to demonstrate how your enhanced skills will translate into tangible results for the company.

What’s Holding You Back From Crafting Your Learning Path? 

Navigating the road to getting your education reimbursed requires a blend of self-awareness, strategic planning, and in some cases, persuasive communication. By understanding your educational needs, evaluating your options carefully, and presenting a well-thought-out case to your employer, you open doors to not only personal growth but also significant contribution to your organization’s success. Ready to get started? We have over 80 Nanodegree programs and 350+ courses for you to check out by visiting our catalog

Dakota Nunley
Dakota Nunley
Content Strategy Manager at Udacity