Rules Change, Careers Change

Be ready to ask for help and take risks

by Gerald R. Brong

Sept. 11, 2001, and the attack on the United States caused change. Change continues in the economy, affecting creativity, employment and the work of specialists responsible for quality. Quality specialists are finding changes in career opportunities as unemployment is the highest it's been in more than 20 years.

We try to understand deviations from what used to be normal. We hear quality is as important as ever in these difficult times. But rules change as times change. Career expectations change, career paths disappear, opportunities evolve, and new career paths appear.

Life changes

As some rules, values and priorities change in our society, assessments of quality of life, personal assets accumulated, career and even styles of working are changing. Events of recent months have resulted in new ways to measure personal successes, happiness and opportunities.

Changes and new rules have also affected salaries, working patterns, needs for continuing education, personal and family relationships, needs for peer group support and needs to build alternative futures.

Working for continuous improvement is working for change. In good times and bad, quality specialists drive the reality that nothing is or can be unchanging. So accept that change happens and the new rules require your attention.

As you consider moving up, moving out or staying put in your career, remind yourself of the three rules for career success:

1. Strategic planning and decision making. Most crises create opportunity. It is your responsibility to capture opportunities for yourself and your employer.

2. Reality checks. Scan the environment, look at current events, and study history and the forecasts for alternative futures. Remember your past and learn from experiences. Know and learn from your competition. Know yourself and be honest as you assess your assets, liabilities and opportunities. Use a teacher or coach to facilitate your learning, because a different mind and set of eyes may understand and see the reality of new rules and situations.

3. Investment in alternative futures. You must continuously enhance your value. You must learn and develop new skills, acquire new tools and accommodate new expectations. It is wise to forecast and take risks. Change careers, do new work, invent new ideas in a new field and build new opportunities for yourself by being different.

Getting help

As times and rules change, you may need to ask for help in understanding them, gaining new insights and complying with new professional expectations placed on you. In fact, it may be risky not to ask for help from local experts, respected leaders and others who can share insights about the quality field and the changing rules.

Here are a couple of the ideas I've presented at recent workshops for quality professionals about careers in other fields:

  • Marketing. Marketing is a core function of any business. Marketing defines customer needs and expectations, strength of the competition and buyer willingness to pay for quality. Who better to research and monitor these market functions than quality specialists?
    Could a quality specialist write advertising copy describing how products or services are what customers expect and require? Quality specialists know quality and the value quality processes deliver to customers and the bottom line.

  • Education. Continued improvement in facilitating learning by young people is a national priority. Manufacturers of tools and resources that support learning, curriculum, content designers, teachers and managers of schools (including home schoolers) are looking for people to establish quality systems, benchmark procedures, apply statistical process control, develop strategies for working with deviations and set up ways to teach others about assessment and auditing processes.
    Is there a role for you in this growth field? Are you ready to apply the theory of constraints to performance breakthroughs for teaching and learning programs?

Taking risks

Be ready for change. Return on your investment in your future may be directly related to the amount of risk taken. React by stepping forward as a leader, accommodating new rules.

Be proactive, when possible, and act before change happens. In fact, lead change and influence the future.

Rules change as times change. Quality professionals can be in the winning career corner because quality almost always wins.

GERALD R. BRONG is a teacher, speaker and writer in private practice in Ellensburg, WA. Following a career in the classroom, he started a business that ultimately failed when he was 51 years old. He turned that experience into a positive, using it in future positions and activities, which have included career counselor for dislocated workers, teacher, delegate to the White House Conference on Small Business and workshop presenter. He is a member of ASQ and has been an officer in the Education Division.

If you would like to comment on this article, please post your remarks on the Quality Progress Discussion Board, or e-mail them to editor@asq.org.

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