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10 things that give working on proposals meaning

They are what has kept me going for more than 30 years

For most folks, a job is a job. It can’t be like that with proposals. You’ll burn out in just a few years. I’ve been doing them for more than 30. These are the things that help me find meaning in proposals and that have kept me going during the worst, most high stress proposals I’ve had to suffer through: 

See also:
Great Proposals
  1. Creating opportunity. When you win proposals, you win jobs. Sometimes you even get to define those jobs. Sometimes you get to define what people will do and how, and you might even get to define how people will interact. You get to set people up for growth and promotion. If you are lucky, you might be able to set someone up with their dream job. With a career in proposals, you will potentially create opportunities for (tens of) thousands of people. When I’m working extra hard against a deadline, I try to keep this in mind. It helps make it feel worthwhile. Growth is the source of all opportunity and you get to be in the middle of nurturing it.
  2. Helping people to realize the significance of what they do. When I interview people about what they do or how to do a job, they often do not realize how significant it is. They might routinely be impacting the health, safety, income, or wellness of millions of people. But to them, their job is just their daily grind. Sometimes when I draw it out of them and they see what they do described in a way that makes the benefits clear, it’s a big eye opener for them.
  3. Working at all levels of the chain of command. On my very first job in proposals, I was regularly working with everyone from the CEO down. That has been true at every proposal job I’ve ever had, even for gigs I’ve taken with billion-dollar companies. What matters about this isn’t the glory, it’s the insight and perspective you gain.
  4. Being able to cut through the bureaucracy. If something is needed to complete a high value proposal and you’re up against the deadline, it’s a lot easier to get cooperation. And it’s a lot easier to go over people’s heads if you don’t get it. Procedures can be expedited when the need is important enough. Proposals can be that important.
  5. Clear, unambiguous goals. What do I need to do? Win. That’s not easy and there are a lot of challenges between here and there, but the goal is clear.
  6. Success matters. Your daily routine working in proposals has huge ups and downs. It’s not the same every day. For most jobs, if you are a little better or a little worse, it won’t matter. You can be better or worse again tomorrow and it probably won’t matter either. This is not true for proposals. You’ll spend your career trying to get better so you can win more instead of punching a clock. After some time, getting better at winning proposals will take you to places beyond the proposal. You’ll never stop learning and growing.
  7. Solving unsolvable problems against a deadline. You must submit a winnable proposal by the deadline. Every time. No matter what problems come up. In many ways, proposal management is nothing but problem solving. When you have a big, fat, ugly problem and the deadline clock is ticking, you can find great satisfaction in finding a solution. And if you can’t find a solution, you will find a workaround. Because that’s just who we are.
  8. The adrenaline rush. I once heard a theory that proposal specialists are simply adrenaline junkies. I believe it more now than when I first heard it. I find when I’m high on a proposal, it’s because the adrenaline is pumping. How many office jobs are like that?
  9. Collaborating with people who have strategic vision. Give me solid win strategies that demonstrate customer insight and I can create a great proposal. Give me someone with strategic vision and insight, and we can have great conversations on what would make the greatest imaginable proposal and go from there into how to change the world. And then make it happen for real.
  10. They end. Whether it’s a good proposal or a bad proposal, it has a due date. No matter how many times they extend it, there will be a due date that’s final. All proposals end. On a bad day, that’s the best thing about them. But it can be enough to keep you going. The next one will be another chance to make it better. So long as you have confidence that you can make future proposals better, you have hope. And hope is a good thing to have.

The next article I write will be 10 things I hate about working on proposals…

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More information about "Carl Dickson"

Carl Dickson

Carl is the Founder and President of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY

Carl is an expert at winning in writing, with more than 30 year's experience. He's written multiple books and published over a thousand articles that have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is also a frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant and can be reached at carl.dickson@captureplanning.com. To find out more about him, you can also connect with Carl on LinkedIn.

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