…and why you should even volunteer to help with the proposal!
Have you ever read an ad for a job opening that sounded really interesting, only to see a caveat down near the bottom that said “this position is contingent on contract award”? If that made you grind your teeth in annoyance and go on to the next ad, think again!
First of all, it takes a company a lot of time, effort, and money to prepare a bid on a contract, so companies don’t bid unless they think there’s a very good chance they’ll win. Secondly, companies only place job ads for proposed positions when they don’t have anyone on staff to fill the position. This creates a great opportunity for you. How? Well, companies are very picky about the resumes they include in proposals. They only choose candidates whose backgrounds and experience will enhance their proposal’s quality and appeal. Consequently, if you’re the one selected for inclusion in the proposal, you’ll have high visibility right from the get-go. That’s a win-win situation for you. If the company wins the contract, you become an important addition to the staff because you’ve become a part of a highly sought-after contract. Even if the company loses their bid, you still win because they’ll remember you. Although they may not have another opening for you at the moment, they’ll automatically think of you when they have a similar position available.
Now, let’s say you were smart enough to see the advantages of a contingent position without me telling you. You’ve applied for it, you’ve had your interview, and you’ve come away thinking, “Wow! I love what I heard about the job and the company. I really, REALLY hope they win the contract”. You don’t have to cross your fingers and wish for the best, you can actually help make it happen by volunteering to help write or edit the proposal!
“Huh? Volunteer? You mean … like … unpaid,” you ask? Perhaps. Some companies hire advisors for their knowledge or expertise in a discipline with which the company has had little or no experience. You might be hired as a subject matter expert for the proposal. But even if you don’t have any esoteric job skills or specialized knowledge, there’s often room on a proposal team for someone who can help with writing, editing, scoping, sizing, estimating, and sundry other tasks. Although you may not make money, you can gain a wealth of information that could prove useful to you in the very near future.
What kind of wealth? Well, first, working on the proposal will allow you to learn a LOT more about the company, the way it does business, its people (who may be your future co-workers), its management, and its culture. You’ll also acquire a much deeper understanding of the project you might soon be working on and of the particular position you might occupy. On top of that, you’ll become a known (and appreciated) team player at the organization, not just another semi-anonymous job candidate. And, finally, by taking part in the proposal development process, you’ll have an additional credential you can add to your resume that will increase your marketability.
So the next time you see the words “contingent on contract award” in a job ad, don’t snort in derision. Apply for the position. If you’re called for an interview, talk to the recruiter. And if you really like the vibe you’re getting, ask if there’s any way you can help with the proposal. By making this small investment in your prospective employer’s future, you’ll be making a far greater investment in yourself.