Variety adds spice to a career in market research. Time and again I hear this from candidates. Mergers and acquisitions one day, maple syrup the next. Diversity in the work itself is also a big attraction. Qual gets you ‘into the field’ via focus groups, participant observation and one-to-one interviews; quant satisfies your curiosity for the big picture, through surveys, polls or web-profiling data.
But as our industry continues to respond to the digital revolution, quant seems to be getting the upper hand. The more we share our thoughts via social media, engage in web communities, consume entertainment, shop, learn and work online, the more qualitative insights savvy researchers are able to generate using analytics tools and automation. There is data, data, everywhere – and market research is becoming a techier world as a result.
This means researchers need to spend more time exploring these tools, particularly if they are pursuing a supply-side career in a research agency. While every candidate should be grateful for their next role, it will still pay to ensure that the job they are stepping into will support their continued development of these skills.
The world is changing fast and it may only take a couple of years stuck in a backwater for you to find yourself behind the curve.
There is, of course, action that candidates can take to mitigate this risk. Critically reviewing a prospective employer’s shop front is a good place to start. How are they positioned in the marketplace? Are their services forward-thinking and innovative? How prominent is their staff training and development?
Interview time is your opportunity to delve a little deeper. Preparing a few incisive questions about the evolution of digital research methods won’t just play well with the interviewers, it will also reveal the extent to which the agency has got its act together. Who knows, if the organisation isn’t as cutting-edge as it could be, perhaps that’s an opportunity in itself? Either way, knowledge is power and candidates shouldn’t shy away from showing some mettle; it will demonstrate that you are serious about career development and well prepared for what lies ahead.
Despite the technology creep, there is often no replacing traditional face-to-face, field-based research. Not everything in life is digital; in fact, many of the consumer goods and services that research professionals investigate never will be. If you are considering an employer, take all these factors into consideration – choosing the right firm at the beginning of your career can be the key to long-term success.
What is certain, however, is that – thanks to digitisation – junior researchers will have more to go on as each year ticks past. The best candidates know this already and are gaining skills accordingly. It will pay dividends to make sure you are among them