The Development Source
In today’s cold, cruel employment world, employers may decide to hire young people because they can be paid less and can be expected to work long hours. Therefore, their hourly rate will be very low and employers think they are getting a great bargain. In the proposal field, we talk a great deal about pricing to win. For better or worse, employers often have the same perspective. low salary wins if skills and experience seem adequate.
Many proposal professionals have been through several decades of expansion and contraction in the proposal profession. These last couple of years has been tough on many proposal professionals because of the weak economy and great uncertainty in the federal sector. Just as in your proposals, you need to find ways to leverage your strengths as a proposal professional.
Here is my first and most important piece of advice. Unless you have to put food on the table tomorrow and are worried about your next mortgage payment, do not accept a position that underpays you.
That is demeaning to you and simply encourages your employer to behave the same way toward others. If you can, use your free time to search for other positions, spend more time with your kids or grandkids (when was the last time you picked them up from school and took a walk?), and get plenty of exercise. Want to start jogging? Now would be a good time to make good on that perennial New Year’s resolution about getting into better shape.
Below are some other pieces of advice that may help you.
Focus on your skills, experience, and the dollar amount of your winning proposals.
Older proposal professionals should talk to potential employers about their specific proposal skills, their deep experience working on proposal development teams, and the dollar amount their winning proposals. What young person can say: I’m written 33 management volumes, served on over one hundred proposal teams, and worked on over 25 winning proposals collectively worth over $5 billion?
Tout your flexibility
Older proposal professionals may want more flexibility. If you fall into this category, talk about two things: (1) your willingness to work evening and weekends on proposals; and (2) your willingness to work on a part-time or consultancy basis. Employers often are cutting back on hours when they can; use that to your professional advantage.
Tout your ability to “hit the ground running”
Older proposal professionals do not need to be trained, mentored, or given lengthy orientations. They have a short, steep learning curve. Emphasize this about yourself: on day one, you are ready to make a significant contribution to the proposal effort.
Emphasize that you like challenges
Numerous studies have indicated that older workers enjoy being challenged. I hope you are one of them. If so, make it clear to prospective employers that you are not just interested in filling a seat. You enjoy new challenges and can help improve the company’s proposal development effort.
There are plenty of other things you might emphasize as an older proposal professional, but for me these are the four most important ones. Now get out there and sell yourself!