We hear a lot about market research but that doesn’t necessarily translate into an understanding of what a career in the field could be like. What does it entail? What might you be doing and what skills are you likely to need? I thought I could do with finding out a bit more about it, so I went along to the Research Club Networking event in Manchester on 26th March, here’s what I discovered!
What kind of person does market research?
I think you can get a clue from the fact that The Research Club exists. It brings together professionals in the area, facilitating networking and allowing members to catch up with one another and exchange ideas on best practice. I’m not a natural networker and didn’t know anyone going, so I took my own networking advice advice and decided to arrive punctually, when it is often easier to strike up conversations. I was glad I did, but at the designated start time the gathering was already well underway. These people enjoy a party and my entrance ticket entitled me to three free drinks!
I managed to speak to a range of different professionals engaged in the field. They were friendly and welcoming and everyone told me that it’s a big help to be outgoing and to like talking to people. As a group they like to network: there are relatively few big players in the industry and everyone seems to know everyone else. It’s not really a surprise that people engaged in this sort of work tend to be natural communicators and good with people. It’s what the job’s about. You need to talk to people if you are going to be effective at researching a market. You’ll have to be able to build one-to-one relationships with interviewees, successfully facilitate focus groups and make presentations both to pitch for business and to report findings.
Of course there is space for the “back room” quantitive researcher too. Most market research companies need people able to “crunch numbers”, come up with erudite conclusions and present them in the form of coherent written reports. So, if the socialising isn’t for you but you’re really keen on the research don’t rule this out as career option.
How do you get started?
Everyone I spoke to told me that you need to be prepared to gain experience in the field by collecting data to stand a good chance of forging a career in market research. This is a competitive and reasonably small market and being a high flying graduate is not necessarily going to be enough to get your foot through the door. You’ll need to show that you have experience of asking the questions. The good news is that there are opportunities available both to get the experience and to earn some money. The even better news is that you may even be able to do research from the comfort of your own home. Some companies have all the technology in place to allow this (although there may be some constraints on operating in this way, as a result of the need to comply with Health and Safety legislation). If you think that market research might be for you then start trying to gain some experience. Look for relevant companies operating where you live or study and make a speculative application. The chances are that your approach will be well received and you could find you land yourself a job which is really going to enhance your career aspirations.
It’s a great idea to go along to one of the regular networking events like the recent one in Manchester too. Make sure that you book in advance and I am sure that you will find, (as I did) that people look out for you when you arrive and make some introductions to get you started. I spoke to quite a few people who expect to have vacancies for researchers at some time over the next few months. Get your LinkedIn account up to speed before you go, this will help you to capitalise on the opportunity and follow up people you met once you get home. Keep in touch with them afterwards. Remember that most people are happy for you to ask for advice and perhaps less keen if you approach them cold to ask for jobs. Make some notes to debrief yourself too, these will stand you in good stead when you come to apply for jobs, they should help you show both an insight into the industry and your enthusiasm to enter it.