One of the defining moments in helping me select a career in proposal management was participating in the collegiate mentorship program sponsored by APMP. During my senior year at George Mason University, I enrolled in a graduate rhetoric and proposal writing course within the English Department. The course focused on persuasive writing as it relates to grants and federal proposals. During the second part of semester, we were given an opportunity to participate in a mentorship program with the local APMP chapter (National Capital Region). I was excited to participate as I had heard the program be praised by my classmates who had participated in previous semesters.
I had three goals; network, learn about potential employment opportunities, and help ground truth concepts we were studying in class. Our professor encouraged students interested in partnering with a mentor to prepare a cover letter and resume, through which we would be matched with a participating APMP member. Customarily, participants would meet in-person, but due to the pandemic we were limited to virtual conference platforms. Our mentoring sessions were held virtually and on a self-imposed schedule that worked for both mentor and mentee. This arrangement proved very useful as most of the students, me included, had class and work schedules that were busy and non-traditional.
My mentor was instrumental in my decision to pursue proposals as a full-time career because she was very encouraging, helpful, and knowledgeable. She introduced me to current and innovative topics in the genre and how they were connected to my studies at school and my academic knowledge. This helped me gain confidence with my selection of proposal management as a profession. Throughout my meetings with my mentor I was also happy to gain specific insight into technical procedures, like storyboarding, creating pipelines, and different proposal preparation techniques. While we had covered these topics in class it was really interesting to see them played out in the professional sphere. Along with the technical elements, the mentorship program also helped guide my understanding of the federal proposal market and set realistic expectations on the daily workload, salary prospects, and schedules.
It is worth mentioning that most college students have little, if any, familiarity of the proposal world. I was lucky that my professor held a special course on grant and proposal writing. Our teacher also supported students to develop an understanding of the proposal management profession through hands-on experience, projects, and professional development. This is not typical for most college classes and we were fortunate to have her dedication and input. That being said, for universities which do not offer a similar course, mentorship is one of the few ways to create awareness of the proposal management field and all of its possibilities for college students. This exercise is especially important for students who are passionate about a certain subject (e.g. technology, writing, marketing) and want to translate this passion into a career but do not know where to start.
Mentorships also encourage graduates to confidently enter the workforce as they can provide real-world advice on resume building, editing a cover letter, and helping prepare for a first interview. I truly enjoyed the program and I hope that it continues at my alma mater and other universities as it helps create professional opportunities, builds confidence, and establishes key professional relationships.