Volunteering Provides Life-Long Learning Opportunities and Boosts Career Development 

By Christine Sowinski, MBA, CP APMP 

Whether it is raising your hand to lead a challenging effort at your company or donating your time to a non-profit organization in your community, volunteering can enhance your career by providing many benefits… no matter where you are in your career progression. If you are new to the proposal profession or changing industries, you can gain new skills. If you are looking to advance mid-career or planning to retire soon, you can share your knowledge and develop the next generation of proposal professionals. 

Gain Industry knowledge  

Proposal professionals often find themselves working in an industry with limited or no background experience or education. Early in my proposal career, I joined a professional organization focused on transportation to learn more about the industry and clients. When a position opened on my local chapter’s board, I initially volunteered to serve as secretary and eventually served on the board for eight years (plus a regional committee.) Involvement in the organization provided me the opportunity to gain technical knowledge about the engineering and construction industry, which has proved beneficial on hundreds of pursuits over the years. The association provided unique opportunities to attend webinars hosted by industry experts; tour airports, transit lines, and even a crash test facility; and serve in leadership positions early in my career. 

Broaden Your Network Within and Beyond Your Organization 
Seeking out a variety of opportunities at your company can introduce you to people in other departments who you don’t work with on a regular basis. Raise your hand to lead a challenging proposal effort, serve as a super user for implementation of a new content management system, or join a mentorship program. Meeting people in other departments enhances collaboration and productivity. Take part in company-sponsored volunteer opportunities. In the past, my companies have helped maintain trails at a nature preserve, organized STEM events for students, and donated to staff who climbed a 47-story skyscraper. These volunteer opportunities provided an opportunity to broaden my network across departments in a non-work setting and create fun memories. 

Share You Expertise and Develop New Skills 

The proposal industry continues to change and developing new skills is key to the evolving workplace. Depending on your current role and company, look for internal and external opportunities to develop and share skills. Are you looking to flex your creative muscle in a low-risk environment compared to the multi-million dollar contracts your company bids on? Share your knowledge through a GMC blog post, webinar, podcast, or present at the Symposium. Perhaps your child’s school, a neighborhood association, or friend who owns a small business could use your help in building a website, writing, design, or photography. Volunteering can help you build a skillset related to your profession, or serve as a creative outlet. 

Some items to consider before volunteering: 

  • What is important to you and what do you want to gain from volunteering? 
  • What is the time commitment? Are there meetings/events you need to attend? Is it a one-time event or an ongoing basis? 
  • Can you volunteer remotely or do you need to be onsite? 

About Christine: 

Christine has 15 years of proposal and marketing management experience in the architecture/engineering/construction industries. She has served on the GMC board and committees in 2019, 2020, and 2022 (taking a hiatus in 2021 while getting settled in a new job and city). Originally from Milwaukee, WI, she is now based in Orlando, FL as a Proposal Manager at Kiewit. She recently volunteered at the Florida Film Festival and will cheer on athletes at the upcoming 2022 Special Olympics USA Games.