The following is a blog by Tom McGrath, a recently joined graduate bid writer:
Starting a graduate job is a serious challenge. It often means moving to an unfamiliar town; adapting to a new working schedule; and starting again in a new field of work, complete with specialist vocabulary, processes, and routines.
When I joined Kittle Group earlier this year, after four years at University, I went through this transition from being a graduate without a clear idea of what I would be doing, to being a graduate Bid Writer, and getting stuck into this exciting role. In this post I describe how I’ve found this change, and why Kittle’s training programme and mentoring has helped me make the best possible start in my new career.
We spent our first day at Kittle getting set up with new equipment and meeting fellow new-starters (in my case, meeting the amazing Ben and Faye). Training in a group of three meant we could discuss problems together and compare notes, but ensured there weren’t so many of us that we were lost in a crowd.
We soon began our training with Dr. Joel Found. Joel masterminds Kittle’s training programme, drawing from his experience of teaching undergraduates as a PhD student in Literature and training up past cohorts of Kittle bid writers.
Joel emphasized that the next couple of months was our time to find out as much as possible about the job, and that there were no silly questions (which I repeatedly put to the test!). Joel would remain an invaluable source of advice and guidance throughout training and during our initial bid projects. The three of us, with Joel, worked in a relaxed but efficient way, following a similar daily schedule to those working on live bids.
Meeting the Team:
We officially met the rest of the Kittle team on our second day. Everyone in the office had a time slot to come in to see us. They introduced themselves, and asked us rather challenging questions (such as, ‘what breed of dog would you be and why?’, and ‘if you were a ghost, where would you want to haunt?’). These meetings meant we had a good idea of who our new colleagues were, and it was great to discover what fun and interesting people they were too.
From Day 1 we had lunch with the rest of the Kittle team, and worked alongside them in the office while completing training tasks, soaking up their valuable advice on the company, bid writing, and life in Reading. A Games Night after work gave further opportunity for getting to know everyone; a closely contested game of Catan stretched into the evening.
Joel’s training programme took us systematically through the many aspects of the role. We practised writing bid briefs, ‘reading in’ for bids, reviewing bids, answer-planning, and various kinds of writing, from emails to practice bids. We also learned about topics that often come up, such as RAMS documents and procurement regulations. There was a lot to take in, but Joel gave us regular feedback on our performance; I knew exactly what I was good at and what I could work on.
A highlight of training was delivering a presentation to the company. The three newbies were each assigned a topic to present; Ben and Faye did theirs on CDM regulations and TUPE, and I did mine on Agile project management. This was not only a great opportunity to learn about topics directly relevant to bidding, but also gave us our first chance, through refreshing bid writers’ knowledge of these topics, to add value for the company. As you can imagine, delivering a presentation to the whole firm at once was daunting, but there was a real sense of achievement – and confidence boost – in having done it.
Joel also supplied us with a book on style which transformed my approach to writing clearly and concisely. This proved invaluable on our first bid, which had especially tight word limits. Joel also gave us old bids to compare, contrast and evaluate. Putting us in the shoes of a bid examiner helped me understand the importance of clear, organised, thoughtful bid writing.
Some old bid responses we looked at (not, I hasten to add, written by Kittle writers!) were organised and written very confusingly. It was sometimes nearly impossible to see how they answered the relevant ITT (Invitation to Tender) question, even if they contained considerable detail. There could be no better illustration of how a bid writer can add value by translating detail into narrative, and disorganised thoughts into precise answers.
Our First Bid:
After several weeks of tuition, we were ready, under Joel’s guidance, to get stuck into our first live bid. Our first client was a charity bidding into the Ministry of Justice, which was seeking to provide funding to support women’s rehabilitation services. This was an amazing first bid because we were advocating for a project that would help transform people’s lives for the better.
We were each allocated questions from the ITT. I was grateful for having spent time in training analysing ITT documents, and how to assess and use collateral. This meant there weren’t too many surprises. This bid was also our first experience of conducting client interviews to gather information for our responses, a key part of Kittle’s bid writing process. We carefully prepared our questions, but remembered Joel’s advice not to follow our plan too rigidly, but to respond flexibly to the natural contours of the interview.
It was a big moment to be interviewing senior client Subject Matter Experts, but it went well, and we left the interviews with compelling narratives to answer the ITT. In my own response, I helped the client explain details of their solution; its risks; their contingency plans; and their provision for people with protected characteristics.
With Joel’s support, we had gained experience of the whole bid process, from initial client calls through to putting the finishing touches on responses. Mere writers no longer, we were now bid writers.
Aims for the future:
I’m really pleased with the start I’ve made in bid writing, and am looking forward to contributing to many more bids in the future, especially in sectors like defence, charities and consulting. I was delighted to find out recently that my first couple of bids were successful, and to hear of the difference this made for my clients.
There’s still lots to learn, and much of bid writing can only be learnt through doing and practising, steadily refining one’s skills over time. But thanks to Joel and the team’s efforts, I feel a world away from where I started, and am excited to see what the future holds.