You have to work in overdrive every day just to take care of what's on your plate. Extra training? Who has time for that?

Well, you should. If you don't have the time, figure out a way to make it.

If your company offers in-house training, take advantage of it, even if it has nothing to do with what you do. If you're in bookkeeping, you never know when a class in, say, graphic design may come in handy as a career advancer. Never stop learning. Make the time to continue to grow, even if it means cutting into your lunch hour, happy hour or even (gasp!) weekend.

"Always keep development of your career uppermost in your mind," advised Jennifer Selapek, associate editor of Training & Development, a magazine put out by the American Society for Training & Development.

A few hours a week at the community college for that graphics certification can mean more than a few more bucks at the next job. It could mean a much happier work environment, with better projects.

"There's an unknown business world of tomorrow. You need to broaden your horizons. It might not give you a payoff next week, but it may two years from now," said Peter Topping, director of executive education at Emory University's Goizueta Business School.

Opportunities to Find

Hiding in your cubicle isn't going to get you anywhere. You need to expand your mind beyond those dull, blue-corkboard walls. Most larger companies constantly offer training classes in-house. And there are many, many more outside of the workplace.

"Don't wait for training opportunities to come to you," said Selapek. "Seek them out. In particular, community colleges are now offering a wealth of professional education."

Recently, a friend of mine who produces a District real estate company's newsletter realized the importance of additional training when she received a bill from the firm that does the layout. She figured she could do it herself and save her employer some money.

So she approached her boss to see if the company would pay for classes in PageMaker, desktop publishing and advanced desktop design.

Her boss agreed, and the results have been gratifying. "I think they definitely respect me more, and more people are starting to notice a difference" in the newsletter, she said.

This is far from uncommon. Many companies today encourage their employees to take extra training, even offering tuition reimbursement for classes outside of work.

"Make sure to approach your boss" in order to find what sort of training you can receive, said Bradley Richardson, founder of Job Smarts, based in Dallas. "Don't be shy. The key, especially earlier in your career, is to take advantage of this. Be the squeaky wheel."

Also, your boss will more than likely think of you as a stellar student/worker bee.

"Many would be impressed with a younger employee who says, `Here's a program that I would like to take. I feel this would not only help me do my job, but may help you down the road,'" said Topping.

Selling the Plan

So how do you frame your appeal so the company will let you spend your afternoon in a public speaking seminar?

First of all, remember that if you're taking a class, you're showing initiative.

Also, you can easily minimize the lost time at work by making up for it.

"There are so many ways today to perform your job without sitting at your desk," said Topping. "Spend two hours at home telecommuting, if that's what you need to do to develop a new set of skills."

Taking classes, whether outside of work or during work hours, can mean sacrificing immediate gratification. "You may have other things to do during lunch," said Richardson. "But it's a matter of where you want to be in your career."

My friend took one of her classes once a week for eight weeks from 4 to 7 p.m. She thought leaving work early once a week might be a problem, but made up for that by staying late two other days each week.

When classes last only eight weeks, she said, "you're done before people even notice you've been gone."

Long-Term Advantages

I know, I know. Taking classes is probably the last thing you want to do right now.

After working all day, you're psyched to go home and ride your bike, grab a beer, lie on the couch.

"Whether you feel trapped or you love your job, you certainly should take advantage of any training opportunities your company provides you with," said Richardson. "Look at the training that will help you outside the job, whether that's outside of the company or within."

PowerPoint training, public speaking, leadership, computer training, they all can help you even if you don't stay at the company, Richardson points out. "It's the smart companies that offer those, and the smarter employee that takes advantage of them."

Think of how the training is going to help you two or three years down the road, he said. Ask yourself: "Where is it going to put me if I stay with this company, where is it going to put me if I don't?"

Once you start receiving that training, or after you have taken a class that might be helpful with an upcoming project, make it known to your supervisors that you took part in the class.

"Constantly be on the lookout for ways to apply your learning back on the job," said Selapek. "And keep your boss informed as you do this."

She suggests that employees who have taken a course or two, or even attended just an afternoon seminar, start volunteering for odd jobs around the office to show off their new knowledge -- and make it known, she said, by commenting, "The other day, I went to this class and I learned X, Y and Z."

Then when it comes down to you and the guy on the other side of the dull blue corkboard for the next cool project, guess who gets picked?

If you have questions about getting ahead, you can e-mail Amy Joyce at joycea@washpost.com