Transfer Your Skills

Service industries need auditors, project managers and improvement associates

by Teresa A. Whitacre

Have you ever thought about how the skills, knowledge and techniques you have learned and applied in the quality profession would be transferable to another profession or industry?

A friend and former co-worker recently did just that. He was in his late 50s and found himself downsized from a director of quality position. He looked back at his career and past positions for guidance on where to go next. He had a degree in chemistry and plenty of experience in manufacturing and service industries, but employment opportunities in the quality profession in our area were limited at the time. So he looked outside the typical employment scenarios for trained quality professionals.

My friend is now the manager of the municipal authority in our town. His quality background, skills and experience are helping make a real difference in our community of more than 5,000 residents.

Whether the opportunity is paid or volunteer, quality professionals' skills are transferable. Why consider volunteer options? Networking potential abounds, competent and willing volunteers are hard to come by, and you are giving something back.

Volunteering your skills frequently leads to paid employment through contacts made or from opportunities to show off your talents. A man I know acquired his current position as quality assurance manager for a chemical company by volunteering his time to perform mock pre-assessment audits to gauge the company's readiness for ISO 9000 certification. The company was so impressed it offered him a job.

Other quality skills that are easily transferable include auditing, project management and facilitation, and organizational improvement.


Many organizations are in dire need of individuals familiar with correct auditing techniques and reporting styles. Auditing has recently come under fire, but it is not just for reviewing procedures and processes in manufacturing environments for ISO 9000 certifications.

Auditing is useful for service businesses: How well do they perform? Do they practice good customer satisfaction principles? Do the employees follow the guidelines of owners or corporate offices? Questions such as these are what keep mystery shopping companies in business.

Mystery shoppers (sometimes called secret shoppers) visit retail stores, movie theaters, restaurants and other establishments. Test callers check on call centers. If you have auditing skills and know auditing techniques, they can be put to good use in these fields.

Project management and facilitation

Project management and facilitation skills are useful in many volunteer settings--ASQ related and beyond. Scouting groups, church councils, fire departments and parent-teacher organizations all need individuals with these skills.

Getting involved with such groups helps keep your management, organizational, communication and facilitation skills fresh--and what employer wants stale skills? Even better, you are giving something back to your community.

Project management and facilitation skills can also help you follow a new career path. Give meeting planning or convention planning companies a try. Putting together large events involves many of the skills of quality professionals: process planning and management, meeting facilitation, customer satisfaction and business planning, to name just a few.

Every organization needs improvement. Find out if any organizations in your area want to improve their processes. If you investigate shops, restaurants, banks and other service oriented businesses, I'm sure some will make you think you could do better. They would probably welcome your help if you only asked. Offer to assist them--even with a pro bono or barter arrangement.

I speak from personal experience in this area. I offered my help to a small, family owned shop I visit frequently. The owners were very pleased, and I am now their favorite customer.

Make a difference

Plan your transformation. Take your skills and determine the best transfer for them. Think as my friend, the former director of quality, did. He put aside the high salary and now makes an amount he considers acceptable. He put aside organizational politics and career ladders to follow another form of growth potential--meeting personal goals. He helps others, makes a decent living and is happy. What else is there?

TERESA A. WHITACRE is a quality systems manager for CTP Carrera in Latrobe, PA, and principal of Marketech Systems. She authored a quality technology text used by the ASQ Pittsburgh Section for instructing certified Quality Inspector and certified quality technician courses and has instructed both courses herself. Whitacre holds a bachelor's degree in quality engineering from Pacific Western University and holds ASQ quality engineering, quality manager, quality technician and quality auditor certifications. She is a Senior Member of ASQ.

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