As the youngest research staff member at DJS Research, I like to think I have a bit of a different view on working within the market research industry.
I joined the company through the graduate scheme last year, shortly after I graduated from the University of Aberdeen. Throughout my time here I have received so many titbits of good advice, and they have really helped me to settle in and progress. Therefore, I thought I would share my four biggest lessons from the last six months in the hope that they might be of some use to you, particularly if you too are considering a career in market research!
Lesson 1: Say yes!
The most significant, yet simple, piece of advice I have received was to take opportunities for as many things as possible. By following this mantra, my experience has absolutely rocketed. Amongst some of the weird and wonderful things I have been involved in, I have: been thoroughly lost on the way to a remote sawmill, interviewed students alone in Glasgow for a week, managed a hall test in Hull, presented at the headquarters of a leading energy supplier and watched a member of the Royal Family fly a helicopter ambulance. All of these experiences materialised because I challenged myself to step outside my comfort zone. Funnily enough, these are the instances that have provided me with the best opportunities to develop.
It has also helped me to create a lot of time and space for myself to grow within the role. By taking as many opportunities as possible you develop along a steep learning curve. I have found it helpful to fully consolidate new skills by seeking feedback from colleagues. At DJS Research, there is a real sense of team spirit so I find that this is an easy step to make. Taking the time to digest the experience makes it much more valuable in the long run.
Lesson 2: Variety is the spice of life
Now I have covered what you might need to put in to your career to reap the greatest rewards, let me tell you why I think my job is absolutely fantastic…
I couldn’t tell you what an average day in market research looks like. This week, I will be in London scribing for a public-sector workshop, managing projects in the office and meeting with a client on an airbase for a project in the charity sector. As a curious person, these experiences refresh my sense of engagement and energy. Day-to-day variations mean there is constant opportunity for growth.
Somebody once told me that part of being a market researcher is the ability to become an expert on incredibly specific and sometimes rather obscure topics. For me, that is all part of the fun.
Lesson 3: Build on what you do well
I chose market research as a career primarily as it offered me the opportunity to build on things I not only enjoy doing, but I feel that I am good at too. I have found that there are lots of opportunities to identify areas where your personal interests can add value.
My anthropological background means that my interest is grounded in the sociocultural aspect of research. I was inspired by a presentation given at the recent MRS conference in Manchester last year, where ethnographical research methods were discussed in terms of what they can offer in the market research industry. The presentation hammered home the strong link between the skills I had acquired during my studies and the research methods I use day-to-day. On returning to the office, I found that there were even more opportunities to build on these interests than I had previously thought. For example, volunteering to write a desk research report on the factors influencing recruitment in the construction industry. I really enjoy giving that bit extra and sharing what makes me tick.
Within the company, different people have naturally gravitated towards different industry focuses. These people have become well versed in the areas that interest them and, while they work on other projects too, their expertise in these areas adds colour and inspiration to their approach. While I think it is important to experience as many different things as possible in these early stages of my career, I look forward to the possibility becoming known for my work in a particular area.
Lesson 4: Be a people person
To be a researcher means a lot of time working with, writing about and speaking to, people. It is important that you are interested in and enjoy these interactions, as it really shows.
You have to be adaptable. Think: swinging from speaking to a student about the difficulties of drinking on a night out while managing their diabetes, to discussing the intricate details of energy usage monitoring with a Power Operations Manager. As DJS Research is a full-service market research agency we have complete teams in the computer-assisted telephone unit, field and data, data support and recruitment. Part of doing the job well is building relationships with your colleagues, understanding the pressures of their role and working out how to support each other in the best possible way.
Finally, consider the most important relationship on the project, the one between yourself and your client. I have found it helpful to keep in mind that projects cannot be dealt with using a cookie-cutter approach, that personal connection is important in your interactions with clients and that a successful project relies on collaboration.
On a grander scale, market research is at its core attempting to tap into the lives of people, real people, and seeking to understand what drives and motivates them.
So, there you have it. My four biggest take-away points after half a year of working in the industry. I’m counting on having much more to say in the years to come…