Are you frustrated by your lack of career growth opportunities? Well I have a secret strategy that has been the key to my own professional success. And no! I am not going to give you five steps to a great resume!
But first, let me ask you a question – What comes to mind when you think of a career in quality management? Do you picture someone in a white collared shirt and clipboard standing on an assembly line, robotically inspecting toasters, as they make their way through some nondescript manufacturing facility?
Maybe you think of that pesky auditor that comes around once a year lecturing about industry code, regulation and procedure – with seemingly, no regard for the work that needs to be completed on a timely schedule.
Sounds fascinating doesn’t it? Where do I sign up you ask?
While some types of quality management roles might adhere to the above scenarios, there’s much more to this field for your career than meets the eye. Here are a few reasons you might consider a career in this field and how you can use your transferable skills and professional experiences to get your foot in the door.
Despite its stigma, quality auditing can be a very beneficial and productive activity, if performed with an open mind and an approach based on learning and improvement. The first-hand experience you might gain while performing a procedural audit — or assessment if you prefer the term — would rival any classroom curriculum on the general mechanics of business management.
When I first began my career in quality as an auditor in the technical operations department of a major airline in Canada , I had very little knowledge or experience. I had plenty of technical knowledge in my field, and could perform inspections procedures as part of my role as an avionics technician, but as far as quality management or performing procedural audits was concerned, I was pretty much in the dark.
Luckily, I had some great teachers in my new team that encouraged me and helped in developing my skills. I quickly began to realize that my new found career path could open up doors that would have otherwise been inaccessible. Before long, a whole new world of possibilities started to emerge. The insights and knowledge I picked up while performing quality audit activities were invaluable to my career advancement.
Is there a demand for quality management expertise?
Long-term demand for quality management professionals is growing across all industry sectors. Aviation and oil and gas, for example, have some of the most stringent regulatory mandates. This demand is not limited only to the transportation and energy sectors, but also industries such as food, health and retail.
These quality systems are not isolated to product sampling or technical inspection. Quality management processes are now intertwined within the whole corporate organizational structure. Demonstrated quality processes and procedures are recommended for executive and project management, finance and human resources, just to name a few.
In fact ISO 9001:2008, one of the most widely used quality management standards in the world today, is implemented by over one million companies and organizations in over 170 countries.
This translates into growing career opportunities for professionals like you. There has never been a more opportune to take advantage of this trend and transition into a quality management role or to add these valuable skills to your existing expertise.
How you can building on your current experience and skill set.
As an experienced professional, you likely have most of the transferable skills required for a successful career in quality management. It’s just a matter of building on that foundation. And because the necessity for quality representation spans all industries, your skill set is not only relevant and transferable, but also essential to your success.
If you are currently a technician, technologist or engineer, for example, you have the knowledge and experience base to identify flaws in a process or ways in which the process could be improved or refined.
How many times have you followed a procedure at work, mentally noting how redundant or impractical the process was? Or perhaps you have disregarded the procedure altogether because you developed a more efficient way to complete the task?
Your knowledge and experience provide you the ability to recognize and identify these costly inefficiencies and help you improve or refine processes instead of brushing them aside. This would make for a valuable member of any management team.
How to make the transition
If you want to transition into a quality management role, here are a few tips that could get you started on the road to success:
- Enroll in quality related coursework or training. Take it on personal time or make a case to your employer of the benefits this training will bring and have it reimbursed. Again, the ISO 9000 Standard would be a great starting point.
- Network with other people in the quality field both local and online. The American Society for Quality – ASQ has a local branch in most major cities in North America. LinkedIn is a great source for connecting with people internationally and can be a powerful career tool.
- Take targeted management courses through your local university or college. Online or continuing education programs are a great option
- Volunteer to observe on audits both with your employer or with people you meet through your local networks. This is a strategy most people don’t do but should.
These few strategies, when combined with your existing knowledge and expertise, could open up doors that might have otherwise been inaccessible. Quality management may not have been on your career radar in the past, but it’s a hidden gem that should not be overlooked.
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