I was asked the question “How do you get a career in market insight” recently at a careers panel. The panel was arranged by the University of Southampton for social scientists keen to use their research skills in their career. This followed on from the Careers Fair our company attended.
To bring me up to date with more recent experience than my own, I researched my younger millennial colleagues to understand how they got into research and what lessons might be learnt for prospective applicants. How illuminating it was!
UNDERSTANDING THE ROLE OF MARKET RESEARCH
It seems that market research or insight is still little-known to prospective employees, despite all of us being bombarded these days with requests for feedback wherever we go. It seems that the face of research is still the ‘lady with a clipboard’, despite the reality of a graduate researcher typically being office-based using a whole range of interviewing methods.
Market research doesn’t generally have the presence of other professions at Careers Fairs – and is perhaps not high profile in careers services generally. Even so, some of the journeys taken by my younger colleagues were still surprising. Sure, there are those who did it ‘properly’ – deciding on market research as a career, then conducting research on possible employers. However, others fell into it through chance, or came from a more mainstream marketing entry-point. One even found us by looking for employers in the local area on Google Street View!
Encouragingly, having discovered market insight, my colleagues say it provides a rewarding career. Job satisfaction comes from solving problems, understanding human behaviour, working with great people, juggling priorities, meeting deadlines, keeping clients happy – and just getting things done.
The good news for prospective candidates is that professional training or work experience is not essential to get into our industry!
ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE CANDIDATES
Understand the key skills involved. Key skills needed are good communication, numeracy (not necessarily complex statistical training) and organisation skills – combined with a logical but inquisitive (even nosy!) mind, an interest in people, some creativity and commercial awareness.
Decide if it’s for you. Analyse what skills you have and want to use and see if you match what’s required, by meeting market researchers and perhaps using the Prospects website. Consider market research even if you haven’t previously thought of it, as lots of degrees have transferrable skills that are relevant to market research; so reflect a little on what you like doing and on what you can offer an employer.
Research the industry. Read up on the basics of market research (e.g. the difference between qual and quant). Talk to your Careers Service. Look around websites, blogs & Twitter feeds of leading market research agencies to get a feel for the sort of things we do. Learn the difference between Market Research and Marketing! Look at the MRS (Market Research Society) website. Learn how the industry is changing fast, such as: increasing emphasis on delivering insight not data; use of technology in data collection; new ways of delivering insight (story-telling, animations, infographics); new observational techniques (neuroscience, passive measurement of online behaviour); and a move to the researcher acting more as a consultant/partner.
Get relevant work experience. It helps to get interviews and it will help you to decide if it’s the industry for you. If you can’t get experience at an agency or client, create your own experience e.g. think who could benefit from some small scale research? Any job where you can practice the key skills of project management, dealing with people and communication will be relevant.
Build your skills and knowledge. Anything which builds confidence and communication skills can only help. Getting a foundation in marketing principles helps you to understand the environment in which clients work. There are a lot of transferable skills that you will have gained from your degree – use them wherever you can.
Show a desire to work in this field. Don’t just apply for jobs for the sake of it. Use your CV & covering letter to show this and make it relevant to the job you’re applying for. If you haven’t done a degree directly in market research then think carefully about how your degree applies to the job before applying. A thoughtful, mistake-free and well-researched cover letter is more important than the ‘best’ CV.
Apply directly. Many smaller companies don’t have the budget to advertise nationally or pay recruiter fees. Nor do they have the resource to handle all the applications which might arrive. So all are open to considering speculative applications and we at Marketing Sciences are no exception!
Believe there is a job for you out there. There are over 200 research agencies in the UK and many more companies which employ researchers as users and buyers.
Assuming (having read this far) that you are interested in looking to a career in insight, we have an active graduate recruitment plan and accept CVs from talented graduates or undergraduates who are nearing the end of their studies. We have recently employed graduates from many universities from a variety of disciplines.
To express interest in a graduate role at Marketing Sciences Unlimited, please email your CV and (really importantly) a covering letter to firstname.lastname@example.org
Nigel Hufton is a Research Director at Marketing Sciences Unlimited