Prepare for the Worst

by Teresa Whitacre

Quality professionals face the same problems as those in IT, software development, programming, automaking and numerous other fields—loss of jobs to overseas outsourcing. Right or wrong—it’s a reality we all must face.

BusinessWeek recently reported research by economists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University concluding the key factor on whether a job is likely to be outsourced is whether it can be “routinized” or broken down into repeatable steps.1

“Attractive jobs for the future—from factory floor management to sales to teaching to the professions—require flexibility, creativity and lifelong learning. They generally also require subtle and frequent interactions with other people, often face to face,” according to BusinessWeek.

The old cliché that “the best defense is a good offense” has never been truer in the case of career planning. Just like planning for quality, offensive career planning involves quality principles such as prevention, appraisal and the calculation of the cost of failure.


You cannot prevent the loss of your job to someone overseas, but you can plan ahead to prevent or minimize your personal losses—whether financial, physical or emotional.

Start by performing a prevention cost assessment of your situation. You may have to change your profession and leave the traditional quality sector—manufacturing—for sectors in which the use of quality tools is a relatively new and rapidly growing phenomenon—healthcare and education.

You may conclude as a last resort that you need to prepare for a field other than quality. If that’s the case, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I have the skills to go to another field that interests me?
  • What are my true salary needs (not wants)?
  • What other fields interest me?
  • Can any of my hobbies lead to a different job?

By answering these questions now, while you are still employed, you are taking a giant leap toward protecting your future. To answer the questions, do some research in your area. Learn what fields seem to be growing—or at least maintaining themselves. What fields seem to have personnel needs?

Some jobs I found in my area that are available and not currently prone to globalization are realtor, financial planner, small business owner, restaurant manager, physical therapist and nurse.

Benchmark your current knowledge, skills and interests against these fields. Is there a fit? Remember, the skills acquired as a quality
professional (such as auditing, documentation, mathematical and statistical analysis, customer satisfaction, root cause analysis, technical writing, training and preventive action) are transferable anywhere.


Quality professionals are taught to audit, inspect and perform plan-do-check-act before a problem arises. The same tools can be used for your career. “OK,” you say, “I did prevention analysis and found a potential fit. Now what?”

Assess your employability in the suitable field or fields. Determine whether you need special training, a license or another certification. If you do, then now is the time to work on it—before you need it.

For this article, I hypothetically picked real estate agent as my model career offense. My self-assessment showed I like to help others meet their dreams and goals, and I always have had an interest in the local real estate market. I decided I would like to learn how to be a good salesperson and marketer.

My appraisal further showed I needed specialized training for that field, a license and confidence in my sales ability. Based on my assessment, I can now decide if this is right for me and take the steps necessary to insulate myself from unemployment.

Consider this example. The 30-year career of a close friend of mine as a tool and die maker/machinist ended when he lost his job. When he started his prevention analysis, he realized one asset he had forgotten about: He had spent two years as a lead technician in the quality department of one organization.

During those two years, he used his skills and experience as a tool and die maker to teach other inspectors how to read drawings, troubleshoot potential causes for rejected or suspect parts and help determine valid corrective actions. This appraisal of his experience and interest helped increase his employability by showing qualifications beyond tool and die making.

Failure Really Costs

To prepare and protect yourself, you may have to spend time and money learning a new skill or obtaining a license. On the other hand, the costs might be much more if
you fail to plan for globalization of jobs.

Unemployment insurance and savings last only for a finite period of time. They’re short-term prevention, and failure to plan for the long haul can lead to catastrophic failure—financial, emotional and physical.

Being prepared can provide the opportunity for many rewards. On the other hand, lack of preparedness can put you at risk for financial loss, emotional and mental stress and career stagnation.

By applying quality cost analysis to your career, you can protect yourself from globalization.

Look out for yourself. In today’s profit driven, global economy, no one else will.


  1. “The Future of Work,” BusinessWeek, March 22, 2004, p. 50.

TERESA A. WHITACRE is a contract quality assurance coordinator on assignment at Wabtec Rubber Products Divisions, Greensburg, PA, and principal of Marketech Systems. She authored a quality technology text used by the ASQ Pittsburgh Section for certified mechanical inspector and certified quality technician courses and has instructed both. Whitacre holds a bachelor’s degree in quality engineering from Pacific Western University. She is a Senior Member of ASQ and holds the Society’s quality engineering, quality manager, quality technician and quality auditor certifications.

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