The Development Source
Is your job as a proposal professional meaningful or meaningless?
This is not a rhetorical or a trivial question. When people are surveyed around the world – from the United States to Eastern Europe to China – they said that the most satisfying part of their work was having a positive impact on others or contributing to society. Also, studies of people who view their work as a calling show that the core of this view is the belief that their work makes for a better world.
As Adam Grant, the author of Give and Take (2013), a book about the power of helping others, pointed out in a recent article on the Huffington Post, not all jobs are inherently enriching or meaningful. However, there are many jobs that do have an impact on others but their impact may be hidden from everyone because they are too distant from the end users of their services. The job of proposal professional may be one of those.
How many proposal professionals actually get to experience the impact of their work? Very few, I would suspect. But when we can learn about the positive impact of our jobs, our motivation and satisfaction may increase. Fortunately, there are promising examples of this approach occurring everywhere.
In one program, university fundraisers met a student whose scholarship was funded by their development activities. As a result, they increased the amount of time spent on the telephone asking for donor support. In another program, when radiologists had a picture of a patient included with an x-ray, they wrote longer reports and made more accurate diagnoses.
At John Deere, the company started a program to have employees who built tractors meet the farmers who purchased them. And at Facebook, the company invited software developers to hear from users of Facebook who found lost friends and family on the site.
And even when the connection between what we do and who we affect is tenuous, jobs can be crafted to create greater meaning. At the U.S. Department of Education, employees have opportunities to tutor on a regular basis at local elementary schools in Washington, DC.
Based on these inspiring and practical programs, I think there are two fairly simple but important ways that proposal professionals can find more meaning in their work:
• Better understand the impact of your work on the economic lives of others. Next time you work on a proposal, put up a very visible sign in the conference room where the team meets. It could say: “This proposal will preserve the jobs of 17 people in our company” or “This proposal will create 24 new jobs in our company.”
• Better understand the value of the services you help provide. If your winning proposal has led to the creation of a Program Management Office at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, visit and learn about how the PMO is directly benefiting farmers, 4-H students, or researchers in plant genetics.
The opportunity to help others is a key ingredient in making our work and our lives more meaningful. In your job as a proposal professional, find ways to create more meaning by directly experiencing the impact of your everyday tasks. You might feel happier and more fulfilled.