Whether you’re happy with your job, want to explore options, or actively looking, networking is one of the best, if not the best, way of helping you achieve those goals. But is that easier said than done?
The proposal managers we work with are extraordinary. They are some of the hardest working and most knowledgeable people in their organizations, and like the rest of us, they have lives outside their careers. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for traditional networking opportunities, such as networking groups, cocktail parties, etc.
Time isn’t the only roadblock for proposal managers looking to expand their professional connections. Proposal management is rather niche, which is one of the things that makes it a great career path. Most companies need you, or at least someone like you, but how many people actually know what a proposal or response manager does?
Wouldn’t you rather network with people who know the difference between an RFP proposal manager and a proposal 💍 manager?
1. Join a social media group
With an average of about 17 minutes per month per person spent on LinkedIn, it’s fair to say that it’s far from the most popular social media platform. Still, more than 58 million companies are on LinkedIn, partly because of the wealth of talent looking to hear about new possibilities.
There are several groups for proposal industry experts, the largest of which is the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP). The best part is the group is even open to people who aren’t members of the association.
If you feel you might get lost in the crowd of 21,000-plus members, consider joining Bid Specialists – Bid and Proposal Professionals for Winning Private and Public Sector Contracts. Its roster of just over 700 members includes professionals from all aspects of the proposal industry, including salespeople, lead managers, capture and support people, and so on.
2. Reconnect with some of your favorite college professors
If your degree is in any way related to the proposal industry, your former college professors likely still have their thumbs on the pulse of the industry. They might even be aware of opportunities other alumni may have discussed with them.
Email them through their university email addresses, social media profiles, or blogs if they have them.
3. Join an online community for proposal professionals
Between those 11:59 p.m. work-from-home deadlines and frustration over SMEs who appear to be ghosting you, you might feel alone. You’re not. RFPIO’s customers and proposal managers have been asking us to organize an online community for a long time, and we finally did it!
For now, the online community is open to all RFPIO customers, although non-customers can browse and explore. It’s a place to find colleagues, establish mentorships, ask and answer questions, and even win badges! Best of all, you can make valuable connections who can provide tips for advancing in your current company or help you find a new job.
4. Show your thought leadership skills
Proposal manager and SME is a symbiotic relationship. You need them to help you craft the right answers, and they need you to help drive revenue. But have you ever thought that you are also an SME or thought leader?
You have skills and knowledge that are valuable to anyone who has, or wants to have, a career in proposal management. Demonstrate your expertise by writing an article or blog post in a trade journal, as a guest writer on a company blog (RFPIO occasionally features guest bloggers), LinkedIn, or Medium.
For the less introverted among us, offer your subject mastery on a panel, as a guest speaker, or if you have an especially compelling tale to tell, you could even offer to hold a Ted Talk.
Did I mention that potential employers could see your post or speaking engagement?
5. Ask your existing contacts
A now ancient shampoo commercial asked its users to each tell three friends about the restorative powers (or something) of the product. In turn, the commercial said, your three friends would tell three friends, and soon everyone will know about the shampoo.
You probably have one, two, or three people you used to work with. Ask them to introduce you to people, and then once you establish those relationships, ask your new contacts for introductions. Don’t just limit yourself to asking fellow proposal professionals. SMEs, salespeople, and so on also have connections to the proposal industry.
You may not get to know everyone in the proposal world, but you’d be amazed at how quickly the introductions can cascade.
6. Reach out to strangers
This one can be tough for many of us. Still, there’s no harm in connecting on LinkedIn, sending an email, or even calling proposal managers from other companies to introduce yourself.
If they’re receptive and live near you, you could suggest coffee or lunch.
7. Become a mentor
Rather than approach people with the idea that they can help you, offer yourself as a mentor.
It’s easy to forget the essential basics. Giving advice reminds you to stick to what works, builds your leadership and communication skills, and helps you get noticed. It’s also worth noting that mentor–mentee relationships aren’t always as clear-cut as they sound.
A younger mentee can help more seasoned mentors keep up with industry trends.
Of course, networking is about far more than job hunting. If you are looking for a place to make immediate connections who can help you in your current position, we invite you to check out the proposal manager online community.