The Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker--and You

Everyone, including quality professionals, needs to be prepared for change

by Jerry Brong

Everyone, including quality professionals, needs to be prepared for change.

It happens. Career transition happens to butchers, bakers, candle-stick makers--and specialists in the field of quality. It happens by choice. It happens by chance.

At a recent workshop called "Moving Up, Moving Out--A Quality Specialist's Career in Transition," participants asked, "Is there a future for me in the quality field?" The answer was, "Yes, there may be. But what is your career field?"

Crises of adult life brought participants to the workshop. These people were between 30 and 50 years old. They were experienced, accomplished and successful, but some had discovered they lacked job readiness for their positions.

Their positions had changed. Their financial requirements had changed, and their jobs no longer provided sufficient financial returns. The unpredictable economy affected their jobs. In some cases, jobs were gone. Mergers, acquisitions, technology, age discrimination and more had caused career crises.

Change happens

Change is inescapable in the field of quality. Our status at work and in our daily lives changes as quality either becomes more important or is identified as a "pain in the quick profits."

Places of work change. Offices become cubicles. Factories become unionized. Government regulations increase. Investor priorities change. The new CEO has different ideas about quality procedures. Commitment to employees seems low or is gone.

At lunch, you ask John, "Have you ever considered leaving?" John answers that he has. He is thinking about many things, including quitting. He's 43 and has spent 12 years with his company. He may change careers completely and become a teacher.

"I really enjoy design and construction work," John says. "I can get my teaching certification and work at the technical high school. You know, I might do more for the quality field there than I do here."

Who you are

What you do at work has a lot to do with who you are. Work influences your thinking, friends, lifestyle, political philosophies, access to recreation and, in many cases, your standards of behavior.

About 80% to 90% of life problems are really career problems. Family life, social life, physical and mental health, self-esteem and your security are influenced by your career. But you can get trapped in a comfort zone by avoiding any consideration of change.

Career crises are inevitable and reach all aspects of life. To be successful in life, you must be successful at work and, when necessary, make career transitions.

Today, you are a quality auditor. Tomorrow something happens and your job, your career, falls apart. Next week you are in a changed career, not just a changed job. Friends change, pace of life changes, financial rewards and obligations change, and your satisfaction with life changes.

Careers for quality specialists can be everywhere. Here are some examples:

  • Quality experts, engineers, metrologists and compliance officers might be successful in advertising careers--carrying the message of why quality counts.
  • Statistical process control specialists might be happier in public service doing sociological research exploring alternative futures for small towns in rural areas.
  • Code compliance officers for government agencies might appreciate becoming self-employed mentors for entrepreneurs establishing new businesses.

Accept all chances to explore career opportunities. Participate in professional conferences beyond your primary sphere of responsibilities. Meet new people outside your work circle.

Visit new places of work in new industries as the stretching of your imagination about career options continues. Read news from other career fields. Try something new.

Resources to use

Make sure your career decisions are based on information. What are the job prospects? Are employment opportunities increasing? Decreasing? What are the salary projections? The Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the U.S. Department of Labor is a resource for researching careers. The latest version is available at many libraries and is online at http://stats.bls.gov/ocohome.html

Bob Rosner offers "Working Wounded" columns that have appeared in the Wall Street Journal and other newspapers. He explores job problems, career transitions, trends and topics important to quality specialists, and his most recent column can be read at http://workingwounded.com

Careers can be influenced by planning, preparation, continuous evaluation and prompt attention to problems. CareerLab.com has a site (www.careerlab.com) that provides tools for managing your career.

Career transitions happen. It is best to make them on your terms, not terms imposed by others. Career transitions start with analysis of options. Is moving up to a new job where you now work an option? Is moving out an option? Is it time to move?

Career transitions made under stress, out of anger and without exploration of possible results frequently lead to dissatisfaction.

The jobs of butcher, baker or candlestick maker are career options. If you make quality happen, you are important, but you need to do the right things for yourself, keep smiling and continue to be successful.

GERALD R. BRONG is a teacher, speaker and writer in private practice in Ellensburg, WA. Following a career in the classroom, he started a business that ultimately failed when he was 51 years old. He turned that experience into an asset, using it in future positions and activities, which have included career counselor for dislocated workers, teacher, delegate to the White House Conference on Small Business and workshop presenter. He is a member of ASQ and has been an officer in the Education Division.

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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