This is the second of new RWC blog series on employability of young people. With these pieces and as a young researcher, I will try to pass on my insights and experience aiming to give a guideline to all young professionals who are seeking information on how to start their career in the field of market research.
Market research is a field offering unlimited potential for organisations or companies that wish to deliver value for its members or clients. Research reveals the state of an organisation, its industry and competitors positioning, what the members or customers expect from it, what the general public is looking for. However, it seems society is not aware of the true value and contributions market research brings. The same problem applies to the general youth, with the next generation of professionals not being exposed enough to the industry thus failing to understand its importance.
While some young people are aware of the existence of the industry, they are not aware of the actual possible applications, the industry sub-areas, innovation opportunities and value of research. I believe the source of this awareness problem lies within the education system and the penetration of market research representatives in the academic world. Young professionals are not made aware properly by their academic institutions about the industry. Market research is rarely taught as a core module in universities and usually only in some marketing degrees. I personally studied a management degree in a prestigious university but I was never taught any core market research module. I was never exposed to the field by the time I had my first trainee position in the marketing industry.
Due to its wide range of relevancy, I do think that market research should be taught in various modules, ranging from psychology to business and information systems, where students from different disciplines can find a pathway in this multidisciplinary industry that provides opportunities for various career directions. Furthermore, the number of Master’s programmes available in the field globally is only 37, from which 6 are online programs and only 3 are in Europe (Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium)1. Thus, it is pretty straightforward that greater effort to incorporate and boost market research exposure to universities needs to be put. Ideally, this should be made not only from the side of industry organisations but also from the side of research companies aiming to attract the best talents from different disciplines at an early stage.
In my opinion, industry organisations and research companies should make an effort and go talk to university students as frequently as they can. As a young professional now but also as a student I was often attending corporate talks and events held within the university to inform myself. I was curious to find out about new areas, new activities and professions, getting to know people from the industry. I was often approaching speakers after the presentation, asking for more information about a topic that grasped my attention or for professional advice. I highly valued these conversations because I knew that they represented direct insights from the industry. I still remember talking to a writer and industry expert in a university event, about the potential of the topic he addressed while presenting and ended up having a wonderful conversation about new social behaviours and the role of companies in the new landscape. I highly valued this conversation that inspired me to drive my career towards an understanding of behavioural actions.
It is essential to approach more students and raise awareness of the industry within the academic institutions through career events, internship programmes and scholarships at an early stage of the students’ academic career. Moreover, it is important to find the appropriate touch-points of content exposure and communicate the industry’s insights and innovation through library and other study materials. I intuitively believe that research companies can play an important role in promoting the industry by, for example, giving classes with their practices in the academic programs. Whenever I was taught a university module by a professional, I learnt about the actual applications, going beyond theoretical models that reflected real work practices that I was able to use in my professional career.
From a young professional’s point of view, being taught about real-work practices by business professionals is an invaluable experience. This approach of bringing businesses to school should be adopted not only in marketing degrees but generally in all related disciplines, such as psychology, statistics, information systems, neuroscience, economics, media and journalism.
Another way to boost awareness of the industry would be to launch a certification programme affiliating with some academic institutions. Thus, graduates can finish their studies with some extra skills in the resume (market research skills) that would be appealing for every potential employer in the wider research related community. Despite raising awareness and providing industry training to young potential MR professionals, such programs would facilitate the hiring process for both sides: students are certified with knowledge even if they have studied something completely different, e.g. information systems, and companies are ensured they are taking on board the right talents that are already properly exposed to industry standards.
As it stands today, I am convinced that the market research industry is not correctly communicated to the next generation of young researchers. Young people are not exposed enough to the industry through their academic institutions. It is absolutely critical for industry organisations and research companies to identify all the effective touch-points to approach new talents in various fields ensuring they can capture the future research innovators and business leaders.
- Degree Programs in Marketing Research and Market Research. Quirk’s marketing research media. (http://www.quirks.com/directory/Marketing_Research_Degrees.aspx)
Helene Protopapas is IE Business School graduate student in Market Research & Consumer Behaviour. Connect with her via @elenaprot