Career Change from a Quality Engineer in 7 Actionable Steps

As a quality engineer, there are many wonderful career options available to you if you are considering a career change. However, you may be wondering what action you need to take to transition from your current profession as a quality engineer. This article is about the actionable steps you can take to switch careers.

Let’s begin!

Step 1. Research Alternate Careers for A Quality Control Engineer

When considering a career change, start with taking a step back to understand what you want out of a career. Examining your current career and getting an understanding of what you do not like about it.

Think about what’s driving you. What’s frustrating you? what’s boring you? what’s dissatisfactory?

Answering this question will put in perspective the reasons you no longer want to work as a quality control engineer.

Once you’ve highlighted the things you do not like about working as a quality engineer, you can start creating a list of what you’re looking for in a new career.

Try asking yourself;

  • Do I want to leave the engineering industry completely?
  • Why do I want to leave my job?
  • Will a new engineering role satisfy me?

Now that you’ve asked yourself these personal questions, it’s time to ask some more career-based questions.

  • What type of work-life balance are you looking for?
  • Are you interested in career advancement opportunities?
  • What income range are you hoping for?

Now that you know your wants and needs the next step is researching what careers are out there to choose from. 

If you already have a specific career in mind then the best thing to do is see how your skills and experience working in quality control match up to this new career you’re hoping for.

If you don’t have a specific new career in mind, here is a list of common jobs that former quality engineers have successfully transitioned to:

  • Design Engineering: Design engineers use computer-aided software to develop, test and improve product designs and manufacturing processes. They basically transform ideas into real products through cost-effective and efficient means. Quality engineers have familiarity with not only software but also machinery and products which makes a transition into design engineer very feasible.

  • Product Management: Product managers are professionals responsible for identifying customer needs and how a product will fulfill these needs. They rally teams to turn the idea of a product into a reality. As a quality engineer, you have knowledge about the products you test as well as having insight into what the users want. You’ve also probably worked in teams with designers and product managers, meaning product management will neither be new nor impossible.

  • Automation and Programming: Automators typically use programs and technology to achieve tasks with as little human interaction as is possible. If coding is something that interests you and you would like to start making software instead of only testing them then this is another great career alternative.

  • Manufacturing Engineering: Manufacturing engineers are typically responsible for developing, managing, and maintaining new and existing production lines. A lot of quality engineers already have backgrounds in mechanical engineering or industrial engineering among others which makes a transition into a manufacturing role relatively easy.

  • Consulting: Consultants draw on their expertise to provide expert opinions and recommendations to companies and even individuals. Quality engineers are experienced in production, design, customer satisfaction, software testing, and a lot of other things that consulting companies will find very useful.

  • Customer Support: Customer support reps typically assist customers that have trouble using a company’s product or services. This is another great alternative career for former quality engineers who are already experienced in handling customer needs as well as having the technical expertise to know how to resolve their customer’s problems.

  • Technical Writing: Technical writers typically create how-to journals and instruction articles that help communicate across complex information in a simple and easy manner. As an engineer, you already have the technical skills and if you enjoy writing can transition into a technical writing role.

Step 2. Connect with other Professionals With Similar Backgrounds

Now that you’ve possibly decided on a new career to transition to, the next helpful tip we have for you is to reach out to and speak with other professionals who have a similar background to yours.

There is truth to the common advice of “talking it out” A career change is not an easy decision to make and having someone you can be open with and who can possibly mentor you around any challenges you may face really makes all the difference.

Think about it, a former quality engineer will have a more personal experience about the hardships you might face compared to a random google search. Additionally, someone who has successfully attempted what it is you’re trying to do will have much more knowledge on the best options to choose and the best way to go about things.

Communicating with both your personal and professional networks is a great way to get in touch with professionals who have a similar background. You can discuss your career interests with them, enabling them to connect you with possible opportunities.

Another way to find professionals in any field is by reaching out to them through professional networking websites like Linkedln, or if possible you can try volunteering and participating in events related to the new industry you hope to transition to.

Step 3. Build your Fundamental Knowledge and Get Qualified

Building fundamental knowledge of your newly chosen career is the next step. For example, being a customer service representative involves a lot of problem-solving and effective communication.

A person that’s interested in pursuing a customer service career should ask themselves if they are any good at either of those things, and if they’re not they need to learn these skills fast.

How does this apply to you and a career change?

When changing careers, the odds that you’ll find a new career with requirements and experience that exactly match those that you’re bringing from quality engineering is not very high. This is where building your foundational knowledge and getting qualified comes in.

Let’s picture it. Imagine a quality engineer trying to transition into a product design role. The role will require soft skills sure, but it will also require some technical certifications or qualifications.

The quality engineer can build on their foundational knowledge by researching what the requirements to be a successful design engineer are (this can be done by looking through the candidate requirements for design engineer job listings) and then set out to achieve them. 

This may be through acquiring more work experience in that particular field or by taking professional courses that will award them engineering management or computer aided design (CAD) qualifications once completed.

Getting additional degrees or qualifications requires time, energy, and most likely some monetary investment. But, it may really be required to bridge your knowledge and experience gap depending on the career you want. Degrees, qualifications, and certifications will show that you’re serious about what you want and are willing to put in the work to get it. 

Building your foundational knowledge in the field you hope to get into and aligning your skills, experience, and qualification with what is required will bring you up to date for your new career.

Step 4. Identify and Package your Transferrable Skills

Before moving forward with your career change, the next helpful tip we have for you is to stop and take a moment to look back on the skills you have that allowed you to excel as a hospitality worker or even the skills you picked up while working as one.

Ask yourself what skills come easily and naturally to you. For example, working in hospitality probably means you’re good at interacting with customers of different backgrounds, multi-tasking, and great at working with a team.

You may also have performed other minor job responsibilities like following up with clients and customers, entering and organizing data into spreadsheets, performing inventory checks, or even working with specific software and programs to keep records.

These talents and skills of yours can easily act as selling points for other careers that may require them.

Let’s look at easily transferrable skills that quality engineers can use in other professions.

  • Communication skills: Quality engineers are in constant communication with suppliers, managers, team members and customers. Their excellent written and verbal communication skills help them in disseminating information and processing requests. Whether it’s written or verbal, communication is a skill that’s needed in every field. Being able to correspond with clients, superiors, and colleagues are always important.

  • Creativity and Critical Thinking Skills: As part of their job description, quality engineers identify and think of ways to fix flaws in a company’s organization process. Fixing these flaws requires great critical thinking skills. Employers appreciate employees that can take initiative and handle difficult situations properly.

  • Teamwork: Quality engineers work as part of a team, mostly with designers, supervisors and other engineers. This means they develop team-oriented mindsets. When transitioning to a similar career, teamwork is a great skill to have.

  • Customer Service: Part of being a quality engineer is interacting with customers to help them identify their needs and make them happy. Customer service sills will definitely help in a role where you also have to communicate and interact with customers.

  • Computer skills: Quality engineers are required to create results based on their analysis. This means that basic computer skills are a must. Having a good working knowledge of word processing software is a must for a lot of professions today.

  • Time management, mathematical skills, attention to detail, and adaptability are some other skills that quality engineers often develop from their work environments.

Highlighting any of the transferrable skills you have in a cover letter or resume when applying for a job will help to emphasize your suitability for the job and help hiring managers to see you as a strong candidate.

Step 5. Evaluate and Reframe Your Work Experience

Another helpful tip for making a career change from quality engineering is evaluating and reframing your work experience. This is important because you will definitely have learned a lot from your experience working in engineering.

You need to evaluate your work experience by asking yourself how your performance at work aligns with the new career you’re pursuing after.

Some questions to ask are what tasks did you perform strongly at work? Are these tasks relevant to the new position you’re looking into?

A good way to carry out your evaluation is by identifying all the relevant tasks and activities you carried out while working in engineering and analyzing them to see which ones can count as experience in your new field.

Why should you evaluate your work experience?

Evaluating your work experience helps to put in perspective what you learned on the job and how these may fit into your new career. But more importantly it makes it easier to reframe your experience to present yourself as the perfect candidate for a job.

There’s a good chance you will not have all the qualifications and requirements listed on job postings. But even if you’re only a “partial” match for the listing that doesn’t mean you should give up.

Reframing your work experience even when you do not have some of the desired requirements can help justify and amplify your skills to make you look like a good fit for the position.

For example, if an employer is looking for a customer service representative, you may never have worked as one but as a quality engineer, you may have had experience interacting with customers and tailoring solutions to their needs. You can point out how your experience handling customers is similar to what customer service representatives do and show how valuable this experience will be for the role.

Justifying the lack of skill or qualification may not be easy, but reframing your work experience to make up for the skill you do not directly have can easily sway an employer in your favor.

Step 6. Acquire New Work Experience.

Just like gaining new qualifications or certifications can help when transitioning to a new career, gaining actual work experience is also very important.

Even entry-level positions for a lot of jobs will require you to have some form of experience or technical qualification.

Once you know what career path you want, working in that field is a good way to get your feet in the door. This doesn’t mean making an immediate career change into that field; think of it more as interning or just getting practical experience in your new field.

Some ways to acquire new work experience include;

  • Volunteering with an organization: One way to get more work experience is by volunteering for professionals in the new field you hope to work in. You can connect with professionals using professional networking sites like Linkedln. Not only will this help you build your resume but it will help you develop your skills while building new networks.
  • Working on other company projects: Another way to gain more work experience is by volunteering to work and help out on related projects going on at your current company.

For example, depending on what field you decide to transition to you can volunteer to work with other professionals on your team, they may be software designers, product designers, or even project managers.

  • Work on side projects: In the evenings after work or on days off, you can spend your time working on side projects that can help you pad up your work portfolio. You can even offer your services to small non-profits or local community centers in line with your new career.

Remember experience can come in so many different forms and acquiring new work experience will not only look good on your resume but will also give you an inner look into the industry you may be working in in the future.

Step 7. Update Your Professional Brand Assets.

Changing your line of work will most likely require you to change and fine-tune the way you present yourself professionally. Reviewing your CV, personal websites, and Linkedln profile can go a long way in making your career change experience smoother.

Personal branding is all about marketing yourself and attracting recruiters and more job opportunities for you. Some good places to start are;

  • Your CV: Highlighting your skills and experience on your resume in a way that fits the new career options you’re looking into is important. Make sure your CV is up to date and includes your most recent and relevant professional experience.

If you’ve gotten more work experience, qualifications or training make sure to add them to your CV.

  • Your LinkedIn Profile: Your LinkedIn profile is one of the first places that a hiring manager will check; this means it’s important to match the information on your CV to that on your LinkedIn profile. As someone moving into a new career it’s also important to let recruiters know that you’re open to hiring and looking for new opportunities.

Optimize the headline section of your profile by listing major skills that will be required in your new profession. Also optimize the summary section of your profile by highlighting your work experience, certifications, technical skills, and expertise.

  • Your Personal Websites: Your personal websites include all your social media accounts. A good tip is to make sure all your social media accounts show you in a professional light; if possible let your social media activity reflect your interests and activities you may have carried out in relation to your new field of work. Make posts on topics that you’re passionate about and connect with professionals working in your field of interest.

Bonus Tip: Take Action.

Now that you have an action plan, the only thing left is for you to actually get up and start using it. Prioritize yourself and your future by investing your time and energy into making this career change work for you.

Don’t treat your career change as an afterthought once you’ve decided on it, be committed and dedicated to turning it into a reality. Motivate yourself, and surround yourself with people who will also push you to achieve your dreams.

Even though it may be a big and scary decision to make for most people, if you’re intentional about what it is you want and you’ve drafted out your action plan on how to achieve what you want, the only thing left to do is believe in yourself and finally put your plan into motion.

Do not hesitate, do not procrastinate, and the best time you have to make this career change is now. No other time will be as good as now. Commit to putting into the work, and your efforts will definitely yield results for you.

Just think about it. What do you have to lose? In the best-case scenario, you make a successful pivot into a new career that you love and is perfect for you.

In conclusion

Changing careers can be a difficult thing to do, but with the right tools and attitude, you can make it happen! The eight tips in this article are tested and proven when making the action plan that’ll you’ll need to make this career change a successful one for you.

Do some research into what careers best fit your experience, skills, personal needs, and wants. Network with professionals who have a similar background as you, and build on your foundational knowledge by acquiring more work experience, skills, and qualifications you’ll need for your new role.

Update your professional brand assets to align with the new career you’ve decided to pursue and market yourself as a perfect candidate for roles in your new career path.

 Finally, take action and treat your career change as a job in itself. Make sure to invest your time, energy, and any other resources you require into turning this dream of yours into a whole reality.

There are many opportunities out there open to people with backgrounds in engineering, the key is finding these opportunities and equipping yourself with all the experience, skills, and qualifications that are sure to make you a perfect “match” for the role.

Patrick is passionate about supporting other professionals to find success in their chosen career paths. So far, he has successfully navigated four career transitions and is currently a Product Manager Consultant helping businesses build products their customers love.