At the Women in Bids and Proposals (WIBAP) launch event last month, we decided to dive straight in and begin focusing on some of the key career challenges faced by many individuals within the bid profession. We focused on what both individuals and organisations can do to improve the following challenges:
Unclear career progression
Lack of confidence in own abilities and having the ability to push back when needed
Managing your work-life balance
Lack of technical knowledge.
The group discussed great initiatives that organisations can implement to help reduce and tackle these problems, and these will be explained in an upcoming article.
The group also had some brilliant advice on what we can do ourselves to overcome these challenges and further succeed within our careers; and these ideas can be found below!
1. Unclear career progression
A common problem for many of us within the bidding industry is the difficultly of understanding where our career can go. Often, bid teams report into managers from other departments such as business development and this can leave us feeling stuck and unsure of our career path.
What WIBAP says:
Firstly, understand if you have a role or department in which you would like to progress. Create your own SMART personal development plan suited to your own career needs.
Seek a mentor to help you to understand your skills and learning gaps. A mentor can help and challenge you to achieve your goals.
Network with other bid professionals and other industries to gain a wider understanding of the possibilities within and outside of a bid department.
Can you think outside the box and create your own opportunity? Find a business challenge and fix it! This will expand your understanding of the business as a whole and may open new doors for you within your role.
Provide your organisation with examples of how other companies structure their career paths. This can provide a guideline for both you and your employer, and help you to create clear goals that are in line with the business’ needs.
2. Lack of confidence in own abilities and having the ability to push back when needed
Within bid and proposals teams, there are many highly skilled, experienced professionals who are experts in what they do; such as designers, project managers and business development managers. Bid teams’ can sometimes feel that they are one of the ‘less-skilled’ members of the overall team (which they are not!), and can feel unable to push back. This can sometimes also lead them to taking on too much work.
What WIBAP says:
Remember that bid teams are experts at managing the bid process and often, other members of the team could not pull the bid together without your help!
Have the confidence to speak out! Remember the value that you add to the process and gather feedback from others in the bid team to understand areas to improve and develop.
Articulate to the team the impact of a high workload on the quality of the proposals being produced. This will help them to understand the reasons for pushing back at maximum capacity.
Utilise assertive language to articulate the bid team’s authority.
Explain to your managers what the benefits of empowered bid professionals are to the bid process and the company as a whole. With senior management buy-in to the work that the bid team do, others within the business will gain a better understanding of the bid team's value.
Expand your knowledge of best practice processes by researching, attending training courses and networking with other bid and proposal professionals.
3. Managing your work-life balance
Just as you submit your proposal, a new tender arrives and you know that you won’t be prepared for the kick off meeting if you don’t work this evening and over the weekend. Or maybe you can’t resist checking your emails at the weekend, and before you know it you’ve spent three hours replying to the team!
What WIBAP says:
If you’re spending too much of your personal time working, it is a good idea to be open and honest with your manager. They may not realise the scale of your workload, or even the time that certain stages of the bid process can take.
Engage and network with other bid and proposals professionals – there’s often a faster and simpler way of doing things and one valuable piece of advice may make a huge difference to your time!
Ensure your time and skills are being utilised appropriately: if you’re spending your time carrying out activities that you do not feel are part of your job role, speak to your manager as they may not realise or may have other members in the team who could share the workload with you.
Turn off your laptop and phone in the evenings and at weekends. The team will understand you need some time away from the daily bidding life to bring fresh ideas to the table at your next meeting.
4. Lack of technical knowledge
Finally, it's common for bid and proposal professionals to be expected to write technical content for proposals, or to be criticised for their lack of understanding of the solution being proposed.
What WIBAP says:
Network with the technical team members and ask them to share their knowledge with you whenever they can – over time you will pick up a basic technical understanding that you can apply at high level.
Try to find someone within your organisation who can mentor you and teach you some high level technical knowledge.
Seek training if possible and carry out simple research on the solutions that your company offer.
Remind everyone at the kick off of the specific team roles and the value that each bring. As the bid and proposal professional, your role is to utilise and manage the necessary subject matter experts within the team to develop the best solution and proposal for your client.
Network with others in the bidding industry to understand how you can actually benefit from lacking in technical knowledge – you can focus the team on the proposal rather than being drawn into solution design!
Lastly, be confident in your own technical knowledge of bid and proposal management!
These great ideas have been highlighted by a mixture of bid professionals, from a variety of industries and roles including: bid and proposal managers, coordinators, writers, consultants and directors, all within the WIBAP community.
Thank you to everyone who attended, to our brilliant speakers Lorraine Baird (Head of Proposals at Strategic Proposals) and Chloe Dillon (Senior Pursuit Coach at PwC), and to NG Bailey for sponsoring the event.
To get involved with Women in Bids and Proposals and hear about our upcoming events, please become sign up on our members page and join our LinkedIn group: bit.ly/wibap