Career Pathways in Market Research 1

By Tingting Zhang

Last week, I attended the ESOMAR career event held at Cranfield School of Management, and it was quite an exciting experience! Speakers presented illuminating client case studies and their personal experiences in a Q&A session and introduced possible career paths that we had not necessarily previously considered. These included careers at research firms, in client-side organizations, and at advertising agencies or consulting firms. The presentations gave us a clear understanding of the sheer range of jobs in the market research sector.

One of the presentations surprised me somewhat, and left me realizing that market researchers can do their job – helping businesses realize and react to customer insight – in various ways. But it also left me with a realization that to really do their job properly, it is important not just to develop customer insight but also to demonstrate those insights to the clients in a vivid way, to ensure clients act on those insights. This presentation was entitled ‘How to Make Your Insights Go Viral’ discussing research undertaken for Shell, from Jim Mott at BAMM Ltd., and it definitely triggered my interest.

Before that, I thought market researchers were just a bunch of maths whizz-kids, doing statistical work and analyzing results all day! To be honest, that image was less inspirational to me and frankly for many other marketing students. But the insightful speeches given by all the speakers turned this prejudice around. They don’t look like maths whizz-kids at all, but vibrant, confident people with excellent communication skills.

This ability to communicate was especially evident with the presentation on Diageo’s research on “Understanding Women: How Diageo learned to speak unisex”, which was really impressive. The speakers – one client-side, Christene McCauley from Diageo, the other agency-side, Hazel Barkworth from Added Value, explained that their work was not simply to ask consumers questions, but to understand their life and truly understand how and why women make certain choices. For me, this approach makes so much sense because, in this way, we can find out consumers’ real needs. Without truly understanding customers, a company could not really design and provide useful and valuable products for them and meet the needs of those markets.

Listening to all this, and hearing about how Darja Germane from Costa and Jane Christian from Mediacom had ‘fallen’ into the industry but now occupied interesting managerial positions, I started to discuss with myself whether or not this was exactly the kind of job that I had always dreamt of having. I realized the industry is not just for people highly capable in statistics, but also for those who are passionate about understanding people, their cultures and reading future trends. ‘Curiosity is key!’ That was one insight from Liz Norman, a specialist in market research executive recruitment at Elizabeth Norman International. That’s also the reason why the market research industry is so attractive to me now.

When I study marketing courses, the most interesting part of them is to think about what consumers really want and how they are likely to behave when made an offer. If I develop my career in the market research industry, I will have the chance to come up with such answers for clients’ dilemmas and to influence their business strategies. That sounds really appealing.

In my opinion, a market research job will be a rewarding choice for young people. We will have the ability to work with outstanding companies and get to know the people and processes in these companies. Also, we will learn about so many different markets and brands and have a sense of fulfillment when seeing the results of our work in the marketplace.

Market research is a vibrant industry and is continually evolving as the technological and social environment changes dramatically. The opportunities for young people appear limitless! These ultra-fast moving evolutions also give us the chance to bring our own, often new, ideas to the table.

The most fascinating aspect of market research is that we can explore motivations and actively seek the truth. Working in this field goes way beyond just statistics and numbers, it is also about creative insight, inspiration and passion.

Tingting Zhang