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If you are a young professional in the proposal field, you may feel stagnant in your career as you wait for your years of experience to accumulate—building your credibility and qualifying you for new opportunities. Since speeding up time isn’t an option, consider using the following three pillars to help bolster your résumé and exposure to the industry while you trek through your practical proposal duties.
- Professional training and certification: It may not occur to you to pursue training or certifications if your company doesn’t require any, but formal training and certifications are very valuable assets to present for yearly evaluations and raises and to potential employers. In fact, they are often “preferred” qualifications and, when shown on your résumé, can boost your appeal. APMP offers the only industry-recognized professional certification program for professionals working in all stages of the bid and proposal environment. After you have one to three years of industry experience, you can complete the APMP-Foundation™ Level certification to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of best practices. If your employer has an education and training allowance for its employees, be sure to take advantage of it. Even if your employer doesn’t offer reimbursement, you should think seriously about making this investment—a tax-deductible one—in your career.
After you have one to three years of industry experience, you can complete the APMP-Foundation™ Level certification to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of best practices.
- Associations and affiliations: In a junior position, you may not be the one interacting with the companies that your business partners with or the one going to industry days and other events. So, connecting with your local chapter of APMP is one of the best ways to branch out. But more than just hopping on the chapter’s email list, try to become a real contributor. Consistently share ideas with board members, volunteer to help with events coordination, or ask about becoming a board member. Encourage your APMP leaders to connect with other groups that you are interested in learning more about, such as the National Contracts Management Association (NCMA) or other government, state, or small-business groups that might help you learn new things or gain a different perspective on your work. These groups also often have connections to great free or steeply discounted speaker events and training sessions. Focusing your career energy and enthusiasm on these associations improves your knowledge and your network, familiarizes people with your name and company, and allows you to show off your potential for leadership.
Keeping your résumé-like profile up to date allows you to be more searchable to those trying to make similar industry connections.
- Online professional networking: Social networking sites such as LinkedIn are focused on professional growth. Here, you can keep a digital Rolodex of other professionals you’ve met at conferences, association events, and training sessions. Once you become an active participant in your chapter, your network will grow quickly. Most APMP chapters have their own group pages established. You can also search and connect with several other proposal-related groups, participate in industry topic discussions, and read articles that you may not have come across otherwise. Another very important use for social networking sites is tracking and displaying your achievements. Keeping your résumé-like profile up to date allows you to be more searchable to those trying to make similar industry connections. Along with creating a strong profile, you are attracting recruiting interest. Even if you aren’t actively looking for a new position, getting noticed by recruiters now makes it easier when you are ready for a move.
Being proactive is the only way to prevent feeling as if you have been passed by. Work each of these pillars in unison to help strategically further your career path and become a tangible member of the industry.