Engage! Cleveland's Next Generation of Women and Asking to Attend Professional Development Events

As a former intern for Engage! Cleveland, I know a thing or two about the opportunities that can present themselves in the form of a professional development event. This year Engage! Cleveland’s Next Generation of Women is back to provide professional and personal advice for up-and-coming women in Cleveland, and I’m attending.

I know it can be daunting to think about asking for a “day-off” for a professional development opportunity. In fact, it might be easier to just take a vacation day and get on with registering for the event… but it doesn’t have to be that way! I was having trouble asking my employer for the day off, so I reached out to Ashley Basile Oeken, president of Engage! Cleveland, for some of her tips and suggestions.

Ashley made a lot of good points in her initial conversation with me that helped pump me up to actually present this idea to my employer. I figured I’d share a few with you to help you out as well!

  • Companies who do not offer professional development opportunities to their employees are going to lose those employees. Professional development is something that young professionals want and honestly need. If a company isn’t thinking proactively, they are losing out on a better educated workforce internally and likely that talent will choose to leave and work elsewhere.

  • Engage! Cleveland did a session on this exact topic last year at Next Generation of Women because it’s reflective of a huge need for women young professionals. These are critical conversations that we as young women find hard because:

    • We often have a hard time sharing our thoughts/ideas because we are scared

    • If our supervisor is a male, it brings a different dynamic/lack of understanding and often further intimidates us

    • Even if a supervisor is a female, some seasoned females come from the school of “tough love” and rather than embrace and help us, they think we need to “earn our stripes”, etc. (although Ashley noted this is a minority)

  • How do we, as young women, think we can be able to ask for maternity leave, a promotion, etc, if we can’t have this lower level conversation?

Ashley also mentioned that she believes companies should create a professional development plan with employees that shows what the benefits are for both the company and the employee. Collectively, expectations should be laid out. For example, employees may attend 1 professional development opportunity per quarter.

Armed with this knowledge from Ashley’s experiences, I asked for some tips on how to actually move forward and ask my employer if I could attend Next Generation of Women.

Ashley gave me the following tips:

  • Ask your supervisor to attend the opportunity in whatever format they like to be communicated to and you feel you will get the response you are seeking.

  • Bring collateral with you (or email) so that your supervisor gets a good understanding of the event/program.

  • Come in strong and enthusiastic (not apologetic for wanting the time away).

  • Share why you want to attend, what you are hoping to learn and what you can bring back to your role.

  • Inform them that if necessary, you’d be happy to check in/check emails, etc. during the break you are provided or later that evening when the event concludes to ensure that nothing slips through the cracks while you are gone.

  • Thank them for reviewing and let them know that you are happy to answer any questions and bring back your learnings.

I thought on this and decided to ask a coworker how our office handles educational opportunities (I’ve only been in my position for seven months), which was the best thing I could have done. With her help, and Ashley's suggestions, I sent an email to my boss (his preferred method of communication), identifying how I felt Next Generation of Women could benefit my current position and my growth at the company. I also linked the event in the email so he could read the details of the event on his own.

In order for me to attend, it was asked that I create a presentation after the event to share what I learn with our team. To me, that’s an easy trade off because I’m ready to learn! If you’re interested in joining me, read more about the event below.

Next Generation of Women will run from 11:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on March 28th holding five, 50-minute presentations by female leaders covering the following topics:

  • Caring for Your Whole Self with Jan Murphy, Senior Vice-President of Mission and Ministry, Sisters of Charity Health System

  • Charting a Course: A Financial Guide for Women with Emily Drake, Partner, Fairport Asset Management

  • Being Authentic – Leading with Your Own Personality Style with Jennifer Cohen, Senior Vice President, Leadership Development, Ratliff & Taylor

  • What Happens Outside of the Work Place with Margaret Bernstein, Director of Advocacy and Community Initiatives, WKYC Channel 3

  • How to REALLY Network with Cathy Belk, President, JumpStart Inc.

Those who are interested in participating can register here. Last year this event drew 275 women from across NEO! Registration costs $75 for general admittance and includes lunch.

To learn more about Engage! Cleveland or new programs, jobs and civic opportunities for young professionals in Cleveland, click here.