There is nothing more exciting or more inspiring than graduating and finally feeling like you can conquer the world, looking forward to starting your life in the field of your dreams and finally working. But, as a graduate, there are many questions you will have for yourself: “Where do I start?”; “What fields can I pursue”; “Do I have enough skills”; “How do I keep up with the market?”.
The stretch from a dependant scholar to an aspiring young professional can be quite daunting. However, if you are seeking to build your foundation in the world of economics and governance, project bidding and proposal writing could be a great start for you.
In this article, I unpack the opportunities which present themselves in project bidding and proposal writing, and what this means for the youth, all based on my personal experience as a projects and tender intern.
Writing this, I kept three important aspects in mind as a young person looking to grow within my specific career field – versatility, growth and craft.
Why project bidding and proposal writing?
As a fresh graduate, you’re most probably wondering how you will fit into something as intimidating as bidding for business opportunities.
Tendering is the process of making an offer, bid or proposal in response to an invitation or request for tender. Organisations seek other businesses to respond to a particular need, such as the supply of goods and services, and will select a supplier (bidder) that meets their criteria and provides the best value for money.
In South Africa, the business practice of tendering has become popular partly because it provides opportunities to thriving and aspiring entrepreneurs through competitive proposal writing and business propositions.
Tenders allow small businesses to take the first step to sustainability. A rewarding contract can assist a small or medium-sized enterprise with creating a path towards a sustainable business in the form of income that can be re-invested in expansion activities and possible job creation.
This could also be a valuable reference that may assist you in networking and acquiring contracts in the private sector, and can assist you in securing a job in the industry or company of your dreams. The experience gained is a strong selling point to other public authorities and provides a reliable source of business.
Another benefit is the early exposure to senior-level stakeholders, which represents a fantastic choice for graduates looking for a varied and exciting role with great career prospects.
This is one of the few sectors where new employees are given the opportunity to prove their worth, and where creativity and problem-solving qualities play a better role than experience at times.
An amazing aspect of this type of work is its applicability to any career field. From a theoretical and textbook perspective, project bidding aligns within supply chain and procurement, human resources, business consulting, marketing and project management – all related to commerce fields. However, the links to other fields are not unnavigable.
Because this type of work is so interchangeable between various fields, there are no parameters on what your business content should be. The keywords for versatility here are business, marketing and projects.
Whether you are in the field of medicine, retail, humanities, hospitality or governance, proposal writing and bidding teaches you a variety of competencies which are crucial within the work environment.
You can learn the importance of applying project management techniques in developing work and how to research markets and projects. For a graduate with not much insight or experience in corporate companies, bidding and proposal writing can teach you the essentials of understanding client needs and priorities.
It also offers you the opportunity of applying first-hand project experience in bid development, to acquire an attitude that looks into the mechanics of a project, to see challenges that might be prevalent and learn to address them, and to build measures into an effective partnership between client and business consultants.
The big question then becomes: “What do I do if find myself on the other side of employment?”
Unfortunately, unemployment is a reality that many graduates face at some stage of their careers. Bidding and proposal writing is luckily not something which can be done in the face of employment only. It is the perfect initiative to promote self-employment and entrepreneurship among the youth.
Preferential procurement regulations have specific guidelines which dictate that companies and state-owned enterprises (SOEs) can apply, to the advantage of designated groups through subcontracting 30% of a tender to small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs).
This means companies or SOEs that are submitting a large tender might allocate part of the tender to SMMEs. Companies or SOEs can also make this a part of their evaluation criteria, meaning that an SMME might just be lucky enough to be offered that portion of the tender as a subcontractor.
The South African tendering system is also transparent in the sense that it encourages individual suppliers to bid for government services or any other services required by companies. The National Treasury e-tender website offers prescriptions on how to bid correctly, with instructions on how to complete the documentation needed to bid. So the opportunity for self-growth remains ripe, even in the midst of unemployment.
The thrust of this article is to highlight a working field for graduates which can accommodate a fair amount of career paths and possibly equip them with basic skills to use throughout the course of their careers.
During my internship, I have come to understand the high-pressure environment that comes with tendering and just how competitive and demanding my future job may be because of the deadlines set for projects.
Owing to the competitive environment, my team may not always win the projects we bid for, but it is good to understand why a company is not satisfied with your offer and use that as an opportunity to perfect future submissions.
As part of your craft, there are certain traits you have to develop when you wish to mature in any field.
- Risk and professional accountability
- Flexibility and responsiveness
- Pace and agility
- Confidence and self-belief
I hope the three aspects I have emphasised play just as much of a crucial role in the steps to becoming employed in the field of your dreams as they have in mine. I hope this article will motivate young graduates to look into the world of proposal writing and bidding, and motivate professionals who wish to develop themselves in their careers and businesses.
A field like this is one that improves with experience, tenure and time, and will always be useful to professionals from all walks of life. It is, more importantly, the confluence between unemployed individuals and job creation.
With the world constantly changing, bidding and proposal writing could be the opportunity for us, young people, to show optimistic individuality, skill and innovation...
To all the aspiring professionals (myself included), stay motivated and remember that you can always build yourselves professionally with the right tools, enthusiasm and knowledge.
Masole is from 21st Century, a specialist remuneration, organisation development and change consultancy