The Q Factor

The Q Factor

An extraordinary event occurred between February and April of 2010. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more Americans resigned from their jobs (2 million) than were laid off (1.7 million).

What was the deciding factor in their decision to quit? I can’t say. But, I can tell you what their decision should have turned on. I call it the Q Factor.

What’s the Q factor? It’s the level of support an employer provides for you to manage your own career. In other words, in addition to all of the resources – training, technology, policies and more – a company puts in place to support its success, what does it commit to yours?

I’m not talking about 1950’s style GE “we’ll do everything for you” support. That was what propped up the career ladder. And, while the career ladder may have provided some sense of certainty, it also limited your advancement to a single path – the one dictated by the company.

Happily, that kind of “our way or the highway” support came to an end in the 1990’s. Today, companies have neither the resources nor the will to take care of your career. However, they can and should provide you with the training and resources you need to take care of it on your own.

Aren’t other factors important? Shouldn’t you also consider benefits, compensation, the length of your commute? Sure. But those things are typically the result of how well you manage your career. They are not the cause, but the effect of your success.

You see, there is a body of knowledge and set of skills for effective career self-management. Those who acquire and then exercise that expertise will become the master of their career. Those that don’t are fated to become its victim.

What does a curriculum in career self-management look like? As I explain in Work Strong: Your Personal Career Fitness System, it’s a program for continuous self-improvement that encompasses five key areas of learning:
• The guiding principles of effective career management in the post-recession, 21st Century world of work;
• The identification of your unique talent (which is not your occupational skill, career field or industry);
• The development of near and longer term goals and a bridging mechanism for accomplishing them;
• The effective use of the best practices for taking care of all seven aspects of a healthy career;
• The tools and techniques for measuring your progress and making midcourse adjustments as necessary to ensure your continuous advancement.

So, what should you do? Use two criteria to evaluate your employer. First, ask yourself if it’s helping you acquire the skills and knowledge you need to advance your career. Then, ask yourself if it’s providing the resources, policies and other support necessary for you to actually care for your career while still employed.

Those evaluations determine your Q factor. If your answers to both questions are yes, don’t quit. You’re working for a supportive employer. If your answer is yes to one and no to the other, start looking for a new opportunity now and quit within the next twelve months. You’re not getting the support you deserve. And, if your answers to both questions are no, quit as soon as you can. You’re working for a toxic employer.

Work Strong,

Note: To read more about Career Fitness and Career Activism, get my books, Work Strong: Your Personal Career Fitness System and The Career Activist Republic. Both are available at, in many bookstores and on

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