The best piece of advice I could give you if you want to become a Capture Manager is as follows.

Capture Managers come from all different backgrounds. There is not one path to getting into capture. You cannot study it in school. The number 1 most important skill for success in capture is listening. 

This advice did not come to me neatly packaged the way I present it to you today. I heard tidbits of advice about getting into capture and being a capture manager every now and then.

It sounds so simple –listening… Really? Not all capture managers want you to know that. They won’t all readily share what it takes to get into the coveted role of capture. (By the way, these are not the good ones. If you are secure in what you do, sharing your knowledge to empower others is just the way it is).

Before capture, when I was new to GovCon with only a few years of work experience under my belt, I supported proposals, business development and marketing, Back then, I was in complete awe of capture managers. I thought capture was the coolest profession…

  1. Capture managers were very seasoned professionals. They seemed to know everything about government contracting, competing, and technology, regardless of the topic.
  2. They were so knowledgeable about their customers. Capture managers spoke full sentences in agency acronyms without ever asking the definition. They referred to their customers on a first name basis and seemed to know all about their lives in and outside the office.
  3. When they came into the room, they spoke with authority. Everyone, including the CEO listened to what they had to say and did what they asked.
  4. The details of their opportunities dominated every conversation in the organization. Everyone seemed to be working on the big captures. Despite the long hours and weekends, they were even excited about it.

When it sunk in that I too could become a capture manager, at first it was hard to convince myself it was possible. I thought – how can I ever reach their level?

I had to shed that limiting belief to move forward.

Once I did that, I realized that all I needed to start was the desire to become a capture manager and a disciplined work ethic.

Possessing the internal clarity to know what you want to do is the first important step to reaching your career goals.

Next, I told my manager what I wanted to do and he was supportive. Then, I went about acquiring the knowledge and skills I needed to become a capture manager. I had to strengthen knowledge of my industry, technology knowledge and jargon. Also, I had to refine my skills in leadership, management, communication and strategic thinking. For me personally, that meant I needed to go back to school while I worked full-time, no easy task… I got my M.S. in Technology Management from George Mason University. This program shared many of the same courses as the MBA program, but it included courses that focused on technologists and Federal CIOs, which was the perfect educational blend for my career goals.

Another piece of advice I would offer is to new or aspiring capture managers is: Do not expect to know everything on Day One. Even if you experience some early successes, do not assume you have now arrived as a capture manager and should be assigned your company’s largest, “must-win” bid.

When you start as a capture manager, they expect you to ask for help. You also get assigned the smaller, simpler opportunities, so you cannot mess up too badly. (By the way, if this is not the case, sound the alarm bells).

As you acquire experience and build credibility, your reward is working on larger and more strategic opportunities. Since the heart of capture is all about competition, you never stop learning and you must continually strive to get better at capture. When you are a senior capture manager or executive, they expect you to be knowledgeable, but you still need to ask questions and consult with other people.

Call to Action

Please do not mistake my advice as “anyone can do capture.” Absolutely not! Capture management is not for everyone. It is a demanding, high-pressure career and most people do not have the fortitude do it well. However, it is also highly rewarding, mentally stimulating and fun.

Absolutely take a look at capture managemenIF you can YES to ALL of the following: 

  1. You are a good listener.
  2. You are a patriot with a strong desire to make a positive impact on the US and our allies.
  3. You have the desire to learn everything about competing in government contracting.
  4. You can handle the pressure of leading your company’s most critical pursuits.
  5. You are willing to working mornings, days, nights, weekends and occasional holidays.

While this journey may sound totally unappealing to you, I cannot imagine making a better career choice then when I chose to pursue capture. In the end, all of the hard work, discipline, successes and hard-earned lessons have been completely worth it.

If this resonates with you, please like, share, or comment. I would love to hear more about your questions or advice as it pertains to capture management.