Winning the Business

Recognizing and Leveraging Transferable Skills

How contextual skills can help prepare you for a career in proposals

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The field of proposal management is diverse. Professionals from every walk of life can be found immersed in all steps of the proposal management process. The most interesting thing about the demographics in this industry—even within niche areas such as capture, business development, or the federal sector, for example—is that no two proposal professionals are the same.

Pro Tip: If we’re honest, there are really only a handful of ways to describe strategic analysis—no need to get too creative here. Read a proposal writing job description for ideas on how to properly word your experience.

Have you ever asked colleagues how they got started in this field? More often than not, their response is something like, “I sort of fell into it.” Many of us come from careers that had nothing to do with proposal writing—at least on the surface. When the onion is peeled back, however, it’s clear that the journey toward a career in proposals doesn’t occur by happenstance. In fact, you may be surprised to discover that many of the experiences from your previous jobs have the exact substance needed to make a stellar proposal management professional.

Pro Tip: Infuse your story with passion! Hiring managers are more likely to pick candidates who may not have direct experience but are eager to learn than candidates who fail to convey their excitement about their prospective new career.

Not Quite Sure How to Identify Those Skills?

Here are some tips on how to discover your hidden talents and utilize them to take your proposal management career to the next level:

  • Dust off your resumé. Take a look at your most recent resumé. Go through it line by line and highlight words like review, organize, edit, quality control, proofread, and compliance and even phrases like “verifies that complex solutions, strategies, and themes are easily understandable.” Now, here’s where you dig deep: Which experiences have you had that lend themselves to the aforementioned attributes? Are there tasks you’ve completed that match those requirements?
  • Make a wish list. Grab a piece of paper and pen and make a list of all of your most desired tasks in a career. Write down all the things in which you already excel. How many of those strengths are conceptual versus tangible? For any conceptual trait—like strategic planning or a collaborative approach to x, y, and z—formulate it into relevant proposal experience by comparing how a strategic approach in the industry you are currently in directly relates to strategic processes in proposal management.
  • Craft your story. Once you’ve identified some of your transferable skills, it’s time to create your story. The most important part of leveraging past experience when entering a new field is how you spin it. This doesn’t mean fake it until you make it. Instead, find the common thread within each skill and begin to build a narrative around how all those skills combined make you a powerful asset to the proposal management team. Acknowledge that you are aware of potential learning curves but that your wealth of business knowledge allows you to ramp up quickly.
  • Test your skills. If you have uncovered even a handful of skills to relate to proposal management, you’re in good shape. For the final tip, test your skills. Develop a fictitious scenario where the lead character (you) is in the role of proposal manager. Using the identified skill sets, describe how you would approach a new solicitation from start to end. This scenario comes in handy when explaining your credentials. Not only are you telling potential clients that you have what it takes to be a dynamite proposal professional who can win business, but you are also showing them that although new to the industry, you already possess the experience to deliver top-notch proposals.

Your transferable skills are a major selling point. Make sure you identify yours to propel you into a successful proposal management career.

Kirby Tello is proposal writer and marketing manager at Mammoth Consulting, a League City, Texas-based proposal management consultancy. She can be reached at