Column Goes Monthly With New Contributors

This month six advise on a typical career dilemma

by Philip Stein

In July 1998, Quality Progress magazine began publishing "Career Corner," an every other month look at challenges being faced by today's quality practitioners. Greg Hutchins, consultant and author, did yeoman's service, authoring every column.

The challenges faced by quality professionals have become even greater as quality has become more institutionalized and new tools, such as Six Sigma, have emerged.

As a result of this, QP has decided that career issues deserve even more attention. We will begin publishing "Career Corner" every month, and the column will feature a roundtable of six authors, including Hutchins, Gerald Brong, Joseph D. Conklin, Henry J. Lindborg, Russell T. Westcott and Teresa Whitacre.

To kick off the new column format, we asked the six contributors to briefly answer a question that typifies what ASQ is hearing from some of its members. Following each of the six responses, we introduce each new columnist.

In addition to providing monthly career advice to QP readers on a rotating basis, the six columnists will also serve as moderators for the ASQ Career Forum found at at www.asq.org, where you can discuss career challenges with your colleagues.

I need some advice on getting my career back on track. I'm a quality manager, and my job disappeared as the result of downsizing.

I have a bachelor's degree plus ASQ's quality auditor and quality engineer certifications. I have more than 15 years of experience in auditing, consulting, ISO 9000, QS-9000, statistical process control, total quality management and training.

I'm thinking that while I've spent most of my career in a smokestack industry, I'd really like to get into a part of the economy that's booming, such as high-tech or biotech. Or maybe there's a way I could pitch my skills to an e-commerce company. I've mailed out about 100 resumes, posted my resume on Web sites and contacted local companies--although I'm willing to relocate. It's only been a couple of weeks, but I'm getting concerned because absolutely nothing has happened yet. What else should I be doing? I need help.

Jerry Brong
Your employer cut your job when downsizing? A company cutting quality programs to save money is on the wrong track.

Look at yourself. Step back from degrees, certificates and employment experiences. Identify likes, dislikes and abilities. Look at those booming dot-coms experiencing downsizing. Now select your track. Control your career as the field changes.

You may be applying for the wrong job the wrong way. Tell employers what you do. Drop the jargon. Knowledge of quality is needed in banking, publishing, medicine, music and other fields. Determine your destination. Use your knowledge in new ways, in new fields. Envision successes.

Gerald Brong is principal of GMB Partnership in Ellensburg, WA. He teaches classes and conducts training of trainers on quality as process. Previously he was a university professor. Brong holds a doctorate in education from Washington State University in Pullman.

Joe Conklin
If you are a member of ASQ, take advantage of some of its services if you haven't already done so. Subscribe to the professional listing service (PLS). Find out if your local section has a contact person through which companies advertise open positions. If so, stay in regular touch with that person.

The book Executive Career Guide for MBAs has excellent job search advice any professional can use. You haven't mentioned making recruiters part of your job search. This book offers useful approaches. The recruiters listed in the PLS are a great place to start.


Richard H. Beaty and Nicholas C. Burkholder, Executive Career Guide for MBAs (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1995).

Joseph D. Conklin is a statistician with the U.S. Census Bureau, designing sampling plans for assessing the quality of Census 2000 operations. He coordinated development of the information system to track the quality of printed census forms. He earned a master's degree in statistics from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and holds the following ASQ certifications: quality engineer, reliability engineer, quality auditor, quality manager and software quality engineer.

Greg Hutchins
Your value is to add structure to dot-coms by establishing business processes, accountability controls and management by projects. These skills are in great demand as dot-coms move from an entrepreneurial to a more traditional management style where being on time and on budget, happy stakeholders and profitability are critical elements for success. (Biotech might be another new field to consider.)

But, let's look at the more crucial issue--the root cause. Did you get any inkling of what was to occur? The solution is to anticipate and prevent surprises by being prepared. There must have been some data points, a system spike or a trend when you could have done causal analysis and corrective action at an earlier point.

Greg Hutchins is principal with Working It, LLC, a work development company, and Quality Plus Engineering, a process, project and supply chain management company. Both are in Portland, OR. He wrote Standard Manual of Quality Auditing, published by Prentice Hall, and ISO 9000, published by John Wiley & Sons, and is completing a book on value-added auditing.


Hank Lindborg
Focus on your career rather than your present insecurity, or you could find yourself in a location or a job that's a poor fit. Be selective and strategic. Set a vision guided by what you love to do and how you serve.

Avoid scattershot, generic resumes. Research the company, and use your cover letter and resume to show why you're the best candidate. Network. Let others know that you're looking, and enlist their aid.

Get professional advice: ASQ, headhunters and your university's placement office can help. Be patient. All good strategies take time. Map out yours carefully, including honing your interview skills--for the next stage of your search.

Henry J. Lindborg is executive director and CEO of the National Institute for Quality Improvement, which provides consulting in strategic planning, organizational development and assessment. Formerly a college instructor, he holds a doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is past chair of ASQ's Education Division and currently serves on the Education and Training Board.

Russ Westcott
Ask the following:

  • Have I researched/focused on the type of organization where I have a plausible competency match?
  • Will my "sales" documents (resumes, letters, postings) target the right reader?

The best job often results from being approached by the potential employer, based on knowledge of your talents or from a referral. Next is the one you ferret out through your research and targeted selling. Third is when you are invited to compete, based on broadcasting your competencies (for example, on the Web). Last are advertised positions in the news media and employment agencies.

Do you have a well-researched and planned job campaign?

Russell T. Westcott consults on organizational performance improvement, quality management systems and Baldrige criteria application and coaches individuals seeking a career change. He co-edited The Certified Quality Manager Handbook, Second Edition, which was produced by the Quality Management Division and published by ASQ Quality Press. Westcott is an ASQ Fellow, certified quality auditor and certified quality manager.

Teresa Whitacre
The first thing to do is to network. Research professional organizations geared toward high-tech companies and get involved. Often, involvement in professional organizations can lead to career advancement.

Sign up with a temporary/contract placement firm, preferably one that specializes in high-tech and e-commerce, and use your consulting/training and auditing experience to break into the industry. Many companies have short-term needs in this area, and you can get your foot in the door.

Research geographic areas where high-tech and e-commerce companies are prevalent, for relocation purposes. Above all, be patient! It does take time to find the right opportunity.

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 engineer, quality manager, quality technician and quality auditor certifications.

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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