By Preeti Ginde
The workplace is defined by conflicting emotions and realities. It can be exciting, but exacting; offering growth, yet grueling; fulfilling, as well as frustrating; offering opportunities, along with obstacles. It is like a wrestling arena. We can all do with a coach in the corner, who stands by and gives guidance.
Enter the mentor: an individual who helps navigate the bends and turns of one’s career, through good times and bad times.
Coming to the market research industry, how does one develop such a relationship?
Finding a mentor in a market research organization could either be a natural process, or one can look for a mentor – an immediate manager who inspires you or a trusted senior colleague. A person whose work ethic, values and knowledge one admires.
And why should a mentor invest their time and energy in a researcher? This would be in response to an individual’s enthusiasm, authenticity and an eagerness to learn.
In some cases, a market research organization itself fosters an atmosphere of learning and training which then makes the organization, a guiding force. The organization by way of a mentoring system, assigns a mentor or a buddy to each employee, to help them make sense of the workplace.
Here’s how a mentor makes a meaningful difference to an individual in market research:
Mentor as a Source of Knowledge
After stepping out of a client meeting for the first time, the research process can seem mysterious, leaving a researcher clueless. For a young researcher, the mentor lends clarity by outlining the steps in a project. The mentor has clear project goals in mind and this helps the researcher understand their role
Mentor as an Expert
The findings that are presented to a client depend on how well one understands the brief. The mentor’s experience, acumen and strategic thinking, aids in defining the marketing and research objectives.
The key to answering a client’s objectives is in developing the research design and methodology. A mentor steers the project in the right direction with his/her experience, understanding of the industry and technical knowledge. If this is not achieved, the whole project is in jeopardy.
And this is only the start of a market research project.
Mentor as a Facilitator
When the project is launched, it requires superior project management, inter-departmental and multitasking skills. The researcher learns from people management and time management skills of the mentor.
Understanding the equation the mentor shares with colleagues, supervisors and other staff helps an individual develop his people skills.
A mentor also introduces a researcher to an influential network of people in the market research industry.
Mentor as a Problem Solver
Along the way, one has to check that the right target audience is being recruited for the project, continuously maintain data checks and see that the project is moving at the agreed speed. A mentor steps in to resolve any roadblocks at this point.
Mentor as a Role Model
By example the mentor would show a researcher how to present the findings to the client, how to have a professional presence and how to enhance one’s organization in the eyes of any client
Mentor as a Leader
Choices, career decisions…a lot depends on the choices we make. Having a voice and perspective other than one’s own can help a career move in the right direction.
A mentor could help a researcher understand what training inside the organization or outside can be beneficial. This could help hone one’s skills as a researcher.
Mentor as a Motivator
A friendly voice, someone who motivates us to do better and push harder, only because they believe in us, is all the support one needs to excel.
The mentor helps an individual realize their potential, shapes an individual’s destiny and makes work fun.
Given today’s changing dynamics at the workplace, the definition of a mentor could be undergoing a change. Many may no longer have a mentor, but perhaps have many valuable advisors and colleagues at different stages in one’s career and these advisors would motivate, inspire and offer wisdom that contributes to an individuals’ progress.
With the advent of technology, a lot has changed in the way we work. On one hand, the research process has become more automated and on the other, we turn to technology for answers to our career questions. Google has some answers, so does LinkedIn and perhaps one can ask Siri one’s career questions. However, can anything replace the enthusiasm and vibrancy of a human connection?
Nothing can replace the contribution a mentor makes in transforming the workplace into a more human, friendly atmosphere which fosters growth.
Long live the mentor!
By Preeti Ginde, Quantitative Researcher, Brand Planning Consultant