It hit me on a walk. Goddamned Good Proposals. Finally, a title for the book I'd been thinking about writing for years...
I began work in proposals back in 2006. Fresh off a stint as a curriculum designer for an academy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, I was back in Maryland and needed a job. A friend from high school called and asked if I knew anything about proposals. I said no. He said, what about telecommunications? No. Government work? No. Finance or pricing? Yes - if you count working as a buyer for a subsidiary of Home Depot. After college I spent a year buying power tools for 16 warehouses in North America.
My friend knew a woman who was looking for a mid-level pricing analyst. The person needed experience working in government proposals. He had recommended me and wanted my resume. So I put a little polish on one I had and sent it over to him.
[Note: Companies who do business with the federal government have to compete for the work. They do this by submitting proposals for certain jobs at the government's request. For example, if the government needs software to track payments, they go to the IT industry for help. The government draws up a list of requirements and many companies bid on the work. The company with the winning proposal gets the job. Proposals usually require a staffing plan, a written technical proposal, evidence of past performance, and a price. Different people help put the proposals together. These include proposal managers and writers, pricing analysts, subject matter experts, and recruiters.]
A few days after I submitted my resume I was sitting across the table from a hiring manager. She asked me the same questions as my friend. Did I have experience in proposals? Government work? Telecommunications? Finance? "Look," I said, "I don't have this experience, but if you give me a chance, I'll learn the job." She was wary, but offered me the job as a pricing analyst. She must have had great faith in my friend!
A year later, an opportunity came up to write proposals, rather than price them. I had helped win about $30M as a pricing analyst, but we were losing opportunities we shouldn't have lost. My boss handed me one of the written proposals and I marked it up for him. I majored in English in college and taught at the university level for a while, so had a background in writing. He liked my suggestions and offered me a job as a proposal writer. It wasn't a promotion, but the lateral move gave me even more insight into the proposal process.