Starting my market research journey fresh out of university, my experience in academia had left me disillusioned and frustrated. It seemed that months of painstaking research was more likely to end up forgotten on a bookshelf than driving decisions in Boardrooms around the world.

I was therefore excited to start a job where the purpose of each market research project is to make a difference, illuminating the best way forward in real-world business situations. Although, when people asked exactly what that entailed on a day-to-day basis, I wasn’t sure how to respond!

Over the past year, I have dipped my toe into more industries, research methods and customer journeys than I knew existed. Although I have happily realised that within market research one never stops learning.  What follows are some insights that I have learnt so far and that I hope will benefit anyone else early in their research career:

 

  • Take every opportunity available – whether it is data checking, listening to a conference call with a client or sitting in an analysis brainstorm, everything will help you understand another part of a project lifespan and how they all relate to each other
  • Ask lots of questions – as a junior researcher the biggest mistake you can make is not to be inquisitive. No one expects you to know everything already, and by approaching each project and meeting with curiosity, you might find a fresh angle that is valuable to the team. At the very least you will leave armed with knowledge and understanding that you can apply next time.
  • Find your style – it is easy to arrive with preconceptions of which research methods and working style suits you. However, observing with an open mind the wide range of ways individuals within your project team approach everything, from planning their day to interacting with suppliers, will be invaluable. Test out as many different tactics as you can and you will soon find which ones click – improving your efficiency and widening the tools at your disposal
  • It’s ok to sometimes say “no” – understand that at this stage, you will begin to be expected to manage your own time successfully. The key is to be practical. Enthusiasm to take on the world can be a great thing, but you must also learn to say no when necessary and always give your manager a realistic expectation of what you can deliver and by when. As a junior member this can take guts, but it is critical to developing a relationship of trust in which your project team feel confident that you will deliver
  • Seek support – being involved across multiple projects and ensuring that clients walk out of each presentation experiencing ‘eureka’ moments can be difficult. Remember that (assuming you’ve found a good home) your team and manager want what is best for you, so take support where it’s offered. A good employer will also be able to connect you with someone you trust (a ‘buddy’) to discuss any challenges you’re grappling with, on or off projects. This will build your confidence, preventing small challenges from snowballing and giving you the confidence to thrive

 

A year in, I am still in awe of the breadth of dilemmas that clients come to us for support with. I am equally intrigued to learn about the detailed workings of a niche industry sector, as I am to explore a world-famous brand from a whole new angle.

The real difference now is that I feel confident and comfortable enough to ask questions, test out new techniques, seek support and better manage my time. Even more excitingly, when people ask what I do for a living, I now know how to respond!

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