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issue: November 2007 APPLIANCE Magazine

The Open Door
How Secure Is Your Job?

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by Steven Kerno, parts cross-reference analyst, Deere & Co.

Appliances continue to be an outward sign of status, success, and prestige to many. But have the successes of appliances in the marketplace translated into success for those who engineer, design, and manufacture these devices?

Today’s appliance industry engineers face daunting challenges: cost-reduction pressures for mass-market or higher-volume products, the need to innovate to remain a step ahead of rivals, government regulations capable of creating prohibitive barriers through legislative fiat, and more-savvy, knowledgeable consumers expecting exceptional performance, reliability, ease of use, and lower prices. To better cope with these competitive pressures and accompanying economic uncertainties, appliance manufacturers are abandoning the perks enjoyed by their employees for decades—lifetime (or, at least, long-term) employment, traditional pensions, fully paid healthcare, and generous vacations. As a result, appliance engineers are left with little job security. This requires them to not only market their skills, but forces them to be versatile in adapting those skills to current and future jobs and project assignments.

Appliance engineers can give themselves the best opportunity for success by developing a viewpoint that incorporates two timelines into their daily work activities, and by developing a higher level of self-awareness and responsibility regarding their careers. Below are some questions intended to facilitate additional conversation on the topic of how to move forward and succeed both personally and professionally, even as the measuring sticks of the past are rapidly disappearing.

Immediate Concerns

  • Do you have an up-to-date résumé? This is frequently the only opportunity you have to communicate your qualifications and potential value to others, particularly hiring managers. If you haven’t updated yours recently, figure out why, and take the necessary actions to improve this all-important document.

  • Does a clear “line of sight” exist between your efforts or actions, performance (or lack thereof), and likely career outcomes? Does successful performance translate into superior career opportunities? If irrelevant, unclear, inconsistent, or nonexistent metrics are used to gauge or quantify your performance, you may be stuck in a demoralizing position, vulnerable to a corporate downsizing or offshoring.

  • Do you have a good working relationship with your immediate supervisor? You don’t have to be fishing buddies, but whether you like it or not, your relationship with this person can have a greater influence on your attitude and outlook regarding career prospects than just about anything else.

Longer-Term Concerns

  • Does your position track or map to a certain career path? Appliance engineers have traditionally benefited from close proximity to their employer’s core competencies. However, this path can change very quickly, especially in companies that have product portfolios and corresponding technologies that are marginally differentiated from competitors, or where necessary capital investment has lagged for an extended period of time.
  • How easily can your employer replace your position? There’s no such thing as a lifetime position anymore. The competitive pressures within the appliance industry have forced nearly every aspect of operations to face ever-greater scrutiny regarding its necessity. The sooner  engineers realize they are not irreplaceable, the better they will be able to prepare for a project or assignment not directly connected to their current position.
  • How well connected are you to other professionals, engineering and otherwise, both inside and outside your company? Marketing, finance, accounting, supply management, and IT professionals should not be regarded as combatants for organizational resources, but colleagues whose guidance and insights may prove invaluable. Their career prospects are just as threatened, but in different ways. You can even network on the golf course, softball diamond, or bowling alley.

A career no longer is synonymous with a single position. By honestly and conscientiously addressing the aforementioned concerns, appliance engineers will be better equipped to handle the vagaries and uncertainties inherent within the industry. After all, it’s your career—make the most of it. 

About the Author

Steven Kerno works at John Deere PDC in Milan, IL, U.S., as a parts cross-reference analyst. He is a doctoral candidate at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, IA, U.S. If you wish to contact Kerno, e-mail lisa.bonnema@cancom.com.


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