Who Can Help You Figure Out Your Career Path?
The answer might be a career coach or your ASQ section
by Greg Hutchins
I've talked with hundreds of quality professionals in the last year about their jobs and work. It's been both a confirmation and a revelation. What do I mean?
It's a confirmation in that the quality professional is becoming an endangered person and will eventually become an anachronism. I've heard too many stories of how long it took to get a new quality job (in this blistering marketplace), how little the existing jobs paid and how many people moved out of quality into project management and other fields.
The revelation was how quickly this trend is accelerating.
Here are some of the things I heard this year:
- "I don't know what's happening to quality in my company. Senior management pays lip service but isn't actively engaged."
- "I'm at a crossroads in my career. Which way do I go?"
- "I need help to understand what is happening in the future."
So, what can you do about this? First, figure out your career trajectory. When Eunice Azzani, vice president of the international human resources firm Korn/Ferry International, was profiled in a Fast Company article, one statement she made described the urgency for all quality professionals:
"Too often, we think of our jobs and our careers as being the same thing. They're not. Jobs are given and jobs are taken away--often by forces you can't control. But your career belongs to you. You get to decide everything about it; where you go, what you do, whom you work with. Don't hesitate to spend real time--six months, a year--figuring out your career trajectory. It's the best investment you'll ever make."1
Do a career and work gap analysis. Figure out where you've been, where you're at and where you're going with your quality career. Hank Lindborg, a career coach who's worked with quality professionals, suggests that you ask the following questions:
- What's the top quality position in your company?
- Does your company vocally and vigorously pursue quality?
- What are your career or job opportunities in quality?
Ask your boss and your peers these questions. Be brutally honest. It'll be the best investment you've ever made.
Get a career coach to give you honest advice. "Corporate coaching is one of the stranger wrinkles in management these days--one of the hottest things in human resources, except that it doesn't usually come out of human resources," says Fortune.2
Who makes a great career coach for you? In general, someone who has "been there and done that." This person has either made the right decisions or seen others make the right decisions under different work circumstances and can add a sense of reality and wisdom to your particular quality situation.
"Being responsible for your career means finding a good coach, one who helps you connect your life/work purpose with your skills and who provides honest feedback," says Lindborg.
Take charge of your quality career now. Coaching isn't a one-time shot of advice. "Workers at all levels of the corporate ladder, fed up with a lack of advice from inside the company, are taking matters into their own hands and enlisting coaches for guidance on how to improve their performance, boost their profits and make better decisions about everything from personnel to strategy," continues Fortune.
Ask your ASQ section leaders what they can do to help you advance your career. Specifically, ask what ASQ membership services and benefits can a section offer that will support your needs and help you figure out your career trajectory. Be prepared to think outside the box. This career path may very well be outside of quality or may integrate other elements such as information technology or project management in the pursuit of quality.
If you don't want to spend money on a coach, then get one to speak at your ASQ section monthly meeting. It will open your eyes to what's happening in in the crazy world of work today.
1. Katherine Mieszkowski, "Careers," Fast Company, December 1998, p. 128.
2. "So You're a Player. Do You Need a Coach?" Fortune, February 21, 2000, p. 145.
GREG HUTCHINS is a principal with Quality Plus Engineering, a process, project and supply chain management company in Portland, OR. He wrote Working It: The Rules Have Changed. Hutchins can be reached at email@example.com or 800-266-7383 or on ASQ's members-only career forum at www.asq.org.