Mapping the Future

Embrace change to stabilize your career

by Teresa Whitacre

The gloomy economic news is on nearly everyone’s mind these days. Those who are employed are just happy to have a job of any kind and probably aren’t thinking too much about growing their careers. But the gloom and doom of the news reports should not stand in your way when you consider enhancing or stabilizing your career path.

As quality professionals, one technique we are all taught is change management. Managing change is applicable to any situation, organization and field.

But how we learn to embrace and manage change doesn’t just apply to our job tasks and duties. Career development also requires applying a change management process.

What have you done?

To begin a change management process for your career, evaluate your current career path. What do you like about your role and organization? What do you dislike?

Use brainstorming techniques to start a process map. Map your skills, education, experience, training and certifications—all of your professional accomplishments. List everything you have done to this point.

Remember that your list doesn’t need to be limited to work-related items. Think about all of your activities during the past 10 years—including professional development, volunteering and community development. Write it all down.

Most of the people I mentor are quite surprised by the accomplishments and skills on their list. Often, they have long since forgotten about many of the listed items.

What needs doing?

Now, research where you want to go with your career in the future. Think about this in terms of position, company and level within an organization. Figure out what you must do to achieve these goals. What, if anything, on your current process map do you need or want to change?

Keep in mind, the changes may not be easy. They could require obtaining additional training, learning specialized skills or taking short-term pay cuts. It’s possible you might even need to work on a contingency or temporary basis to test the change management theory.

But remember, where you are today does not necessarily mean that is where you will be tomorrow.

Ideal scenario

After you have an idea of what you want out of your career in the future, create a future state map to organize your goals.

What are your "ideals" for your career? What is the ideal organization, position, location, industry or type of manager you’re looking for? It is these types of criteria that should be considered part of the future state map. As one Pittsburgh-area HR manager I spoke with said, working a job that is a poor fit for you is just as bad, if not worse, than having no job at all.

Consider the young engineer with aspirations of becoming a manager. Surely, he will not wake up one day and suddenly become a manager. He must map out where he is in his career now and figure out how he will reach his ideal position.

This young engineer currently works at a large, global organization. Recently, the organization added a mentoring program in which employees volunteer to be mentors, and those seeking mentoring apply for the free service and are matched with a mentor.

The young engineer decides participating in the company’s mentoring program would be a change he could implement to get him closer to his goal of becoming a manager. He enrolls in the program and moves one step closer to meeting his target set on his future state map.

As quality engineers, we know a change management process is one solution to help reach goals in many situations, including your career. What are your goals for the future? And what have you done to reach them?

Teresa Whitacre is a quality assurance manager in Pittsburgh and a principal at Marketech Systems. She has a bachelor’s degree in organizational management from Ashford University in Clinton, IA, as well as ASQ certifications as a quality auditor, engineer, manager and Six Sigma Green Belt. Whitacre is the chair of ASQ’s Pittsburgh section, instructor for the section’s certified quality inspector refresher course and deputy regional director for ASQ Region 8. She is an ASQ fellow.

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