Professional Development in an economic downturn

So, I started this conversation on LinkedIn, and would love to get some input from the people here as well, centered on customer success. We're in a tough time economy wise, but there are still jobs out there trying to bring in top talent. And for IC's looking to move up the ladder, we need to continue with our development, and this often incurs cost. Do we find ways to just pay for this ourselves and hope we can get an ROI down the line? Do we go to our employers to get them to either pay or help to defray those costs? If we DO go to our employer, what advice do you have for helping make that successful?