It's tough to break into business these days, even when you've finally received your college diploma. You may have great grades, but you also have great competition, even when you're just trying to land an internship. Hiring managers are looking for the ability to think like a pro, no matter what field you're entering. But how can you get a chance to prove you have that ability when your resume is stuck in a pile with hundreds of other applications?
Maybe you need to write more than a resume. No, I'm not talking about including pages of personal references, although those are nice, too. I'm talking about writing a business proposal.
Yeah, right—I can hear you saying it now. You've never written a business proposal; you probably don't even have much in the way of business experience to offer. But like I said, hiring managers are looking for the ability to think like a pro, and you have ideas, don't you? Prove it with a proposal.
Here's the basic structure of any proposal: introduction; description of the needs or problems, description of the solution, the benefits, and what the solution will cost; and finally, an explanation of why you're the best person for the job. And here's the most important thing to remember: this proposal is about what the organization needs, not about your need for a job.
A company usually has a job to fill and many possible candidates to choose from. All else being equal between candidates do you think they would choose the candidates who just supplied resumes or the one who showed even more potential by proposing something that could further improve the company or their products or services.
It would be best if you already know something about the organization and what they do and what they're looking for. You could even target a particular project or product. Then your proposal can be more specific, like “Proposal for New Label Designs for the XYG Product Line” or “Proposal to Efficiently Landscape Creek Banks.” So, do some research if you need to. But even if you can't be specific to a product or a process, you can still describe the need for the position you're applying for, and how you can fill it better than anyone else. We didn't say this was going to be easy, you may have to put some serious thought and research into this strategy.
Let's drill down a little further in the structure of the proposal. The first introduction page should be just a letter explaining who you are and why you're writing this proposal, and including a request for an interview or a contract—whatever you want to happen next. Next, you'll want a title page for your proposal. For heaven's sake, don't use “Why You Should Hire Me” or anything lame like that. If you can't come up with a specific project, at least refer to the job position and name your proposal something like “Recommended Candidate for the Telecommunications Sales Manager.”
Now for the first section. Put yourself in the hiring manager's shoes and describe what he or she is looking for. You probably have all that information in a job advertisement, and perhaps you even have more information after talking to the potential employer. Describe why the company needs those skills and experience; this may not be written in an ad, but you can usually guess the reason behind a requirement. This section is not about you; it's about showing that you understand what the company wants and needs.
The next section should be all about how you can provide the solutions to those needs. Be as specific as possible about how you can meet the needs of a specific project or job position, and what the benefits to the company would be.
Then, finally, it's your chance to explain why you are the best pick for the position. Here's where you can put your transcript, your references, and your experience. If you've won awards or worked on any similar projects in the past, put them in here, too. Keep in mind that volunteer work and even hobbies might count toward management and team building and aspects like that. And remember that anyone can sing their own praises; it's always more credible to list a recommendation from a third party.
Finally, make sure your presentation looks and sounds professional. Of course you'll use spell-check, but you need to proofread, too. Or best of all, get someone who has excellent language skills to do it for you. You may not think the placement of a comma or using the correct plural form is particularly important, but the hiring manager just might, and using correct grammar might make the difference between landing the position and staying unemployed. Be sure the pages of your proposal look attractive, too—consider using headings in different colors or adding unusual bullet points or page borders. Just keep the overall tone professional.
Proposals impress managers because they prove you are ambitious and have the ability to think like a pro who sees a broader picture and not just another employee. Even if you don't get the specific job you have targeted with your proposal, the hiring manager will remember you and she may recommend you to another manager, or hire you for the next position that comes up.