Plenty of Opportunities

Don't let today's economy sour your job search

by Teresa Whitacre

The media bombard us daily with stories about the poor state of our economy. They tell us unemployment is rising, companies are shrinking payrolls and jobs are not available.

If you are seeking a job because you are unemployed or simply want new challenge or advancement, don't let the bad economic news get you down. There are positions open in the quality profession, and many may be right in your own area.

Just this week, my regional newspaper had listings for five quality positions. These jobs may not have been the most lucrative or on a particular career path, but they could start you on the road to prosperity (and put some money in your pocket), not to mention greatly improve your self-esteem.

A quality professional acquaintance I'll call "Lily" proved this to me. Lily is a quality systems manager for a medium-sized manufacturer. Her position left her mentally and emotionally drained at the end of the day. She felt stalled in her career, not able to use many of her talents and skills because she played more of an administrative role rather than the hands-on role she preferred. Her frustrations were causing her health to slowly deteriorate.

I advised her to test the waters--not necessarily change jobs but rather see what credentials other companies wanted and how her abilities fit in. Then she could make a plan to improve her current situation. Her initial response was, "What? In this economy? What if my boss finds out? Plus, I can't move. My husband has a great career here."

"A stagnant economy does not mean you have to be miserable," my advice continued. "You may be surprised by what you find if you try."

So Lily set out on her quest, if nothing else to prove me wrong. What did she find out? There were companies seeking her skills and offering the growth challenges she craved--in fact, companies wanted her because she had the desire to grow. One such company on the other side of the state, sensing Lily's hesitation (or shock) when it presented an offer, actually sweetened the deal because it really admired her work ethics and philosophy. In the end, Lily ended up with two job offers and three short-term consulting opportunities.

More importantly, Lily ended up with something she did not expect--a renewed interest in her career. She no longer felt trapped or down on herself. She had renewed energy and vitality and a new approach to her job responsibilities.

What to do

Has this happened to you? Are you experiencing it right now? Chances are, if you are unemployed or just worn out with your current position, you feel like Lily. What can you do? In addition to starting out as Lily did, have you tried any of the following?

  • Take a temporary assignment. ISO 9000 implementation, project management and process engineering, to name a few, allow you to try on other companies or industries to see how they fit your needs. Doing such assignments also helps introduce you to a company, which may like and hire you.

  • Volunteer. ASQ has many opportunities in its sections and divisions. Volunteering gives you a chance to apply your knowledge and skills to new projects, meet new people and vent your frustrations to others who may be in the same situation. (Or they may have it even worse.)

  • Put it in writing. Unemployment or current organizational culture does not have to dissuade you from putting what you know to use. Write articles for technical journals or newsletters. Collaborate on a publication with a co-worker or associate. Put together a presentation for a conference, trade organization or even career day at an educational institution. Writing your thoughts and ideas for others to read is rewarding--and lets others in the profession know your areas of expertise and knowledge.

  • Teach it to others. The old saying that "those who know do, those who don't teach" cannot be further from the truth. Quality professionals have broad experiences in many aspects of manufacturing and business. Who better to teach organizations what not to do?

Keep in mind these suggestions may not lead to immediate steady employment--or any paid activities for that matter. But they can lead to your next true calling. If you need to find something in less than two months, a temporary assignment or consulting lead may provide a stopgap solution. If you seek reorganization of your life, try any of my recommendations. They worked for Lily.

Speaking of Lily, do you wonder what choice she made? She turned down the great offers, stayed here with her family, took a challenging position in another division of her company and now assists in advising other companies and quality professionals.

If Lily can make this work, you can, too.

TERESA 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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