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The Career Clinic - UK


How do I get a start in a market research career...
- on leaving university / with no experience of business?

 
Email your questions about getting into, and getting on in, Market Research to careers@mrweb.com along with your name and we'll pass them to the appropriate expert. Questions and answers will be shown on the site but will be anonymised as carefully as if we were writing up a qual b2b interview. Please note that questions pertaining to careers in unrelated fields - engineering, sales etc.. - will not be answered. All rights reserved.



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Q94.   I graduated last year with a 2:1 in Communications Studies and Politics, and really want to get into qualitative research . I have sent my CV off to a few agencies, but am worried that I don't have enough experience to get a foot on the ladder. As part of my current job, I conduct exit surveys to gather visitor opinions but that is my only real experience...I don't really want to go into badly paid field work just to get a start as a JRE.
Answer


PREVIOUS QUESTIONS

Q93a.   I am a graduate, slightly pessimistic about my chances as my previous work has been in totally unrelated areas. I am doing some telephone interviewing, and I was contemplating going for a supervisor position in the belief that it might improve my chances in applying for graduate research exec jobs. Is this a good idea? Or would I quickly become pigeonholed?
Answer

Q91a.   I am keen on qual research but am uncomfortable with the kind of extensive travelling that it requires. Are there any jobs in qual that are office based?
Answer

Q81.   I have recently graduated with a good Masters degree and am very interested to get into market research. My interest in this area stems from my previous employment experience, where I worked as a Market Researcher for an agency, and from the research project I have recently completed. I was awarded a distinction and have since sent direct applications to qualitative market agencies as well as applying directly for current jobs.

I have a dual nationality, have lived, worked and studied in 3 different countries and my background pre-MSc is in the legal field. I am aware that my work experience in this field is not very recent and the option to take unpaid work for an agency is not really an option efor me, as I have a family and unfortunately we cannot financially afford that (currently I am temping whilst job-hunting). To sum my situation, I have some work experience in this field, a very good degree, am prepared to start from the bottom with a minimum salary, am motivated and will do everything it takes.

Answer

Q81.   I have recently graduated with a good Masters degree and am very interested to get into market research. My interest in this area stems from my previous employment experience, where I worked as a Market Researcher for an agency, and from the research project I have recently completed. I was awarded a distinction and have since sent direct applications to qualitative market agencies as well as applying directly for current jobs.

I have a dual nationality, have lived, worked and studied in 3 different countries and my background pre-MSc is in the legal field. I am aware that my work experience in this field is not very recent and the option to take unpaid work for an agency is not really an option efor me, as I have a family and unfortunately we cannot financially afford that (currently I am temping whilst job-hunting). To sum my situation, I have some work experience in this field, a very good degree, am prepared to start from the bottom with a minimum salary, am motivated and will do everything it takes.

Answer

Q77.   Have you got any advice on getting into advertising, brand and youth research - especially qualitative? I graduated last summer with a 2:1 in Sociology....I am currently coming to the end of three months unpaid experience at a market research company, and I am applying to various graduate schemes in MR. I have also applied to study for a part-time MRS-approved research methods masters. Is there anything else I should be doing? If I don't get a job offer is the masters course a good idea?
Answer

Q76.   Having completed an art-related Masters degree I am actively pursuing a career in qualitative research....I am currently working in a media agency as a telephonist on a temporary contract. Having obtained a copy of the AQR's directory I have sent a number of speculative CVs off and as a result have had some interviews, unfortunately I have only been offered work experience or the job has gone to a candidate with more experience.....are there any other jobs I could pursue in the meantime that would be more relevant to a job in qual research? Also I am concerned that at 27 I am rather old to be applying for grad schemes and companies might favour younger grads.
Answer

Q72.   I have been trying to launch my career in MR for 10 months now and am having no luck....I have been limiting my job search to companies with offices in OZ. I have also only applied to those with grad programmes. I have had 2 assesments and interviewed well but failed to get through.....Am i aiming too high? Shall I reapply? Who else can i apply to? Could you advise me on where else the grad jobs are - with or without a training programme. I would prefer to work for an international company.
Answer

Q71.   Can you give me some advice on getting experience for Market Research? I'm a 1st yr student at Exeter University doing an English degree and would like to use my summer as a chance to get experience in the industry.....
Answer

Q65.   I am a third year student at the University of London and am very keen to get into Market Research when I finish my degree in June 2003. However, since I plan to live in Oxford when I finish my degree I am worried there are fewer opportunities there than if I were to work in London. What do you think are my chances of getting a place in a market research company if I stay in Oxford?
Answer

Q56.   I graduated last July and have been stuck in my part time job since then. Some graduate recruiters are interested in me, but obviously not until they start recruiting later in the summer. Could you suggest anything else I could do maximise my chances of gaining employment as soon as possible as opposed to waiting until September? What work experience could I do now to maximise my chances even further?
Answer

Q54.   I have so far followed the advice on this website and written to over 110 agencies and companies but without real success. Can you tell me the state of the recruitment market? Are there just too many people applying for too
few roles?

Answer

Q52.   I'm nearly 23 with a psychology degree and have spent the last year travelling so therefore have no experience but would really like to get into research. What are my chances?
Answer

Q53.   I am originally from France and been living in London for 3 years....I am now looking to start my career in Market or Social Research. I am very motivated but don't really know where to start...
Answer

Q45.   I graduated in chemistry with French two years ago and would like to get into Market Research ....Is my background less desirable than say a social science?
Answer

Q44.   I'm hoping you'll be able to give me some advice about beginning a career in market research. I'm really interested in qualitative research...is it possible to work only in qualitative research, or would I have to be involved in quantitative as well?
Answer

Q32.   I am a 28 year old BSc Psychology graduate with a PG Cert Management & I am about to complete a PG Dip in Research Methodology. I have not really had any previous vocational experience in this area ... How [should I] structure my attempts at getting that first research position
Answer

Q24.   I am currently in my final year at the University of Nottingham ... [I aim] to get a job for a year in field or as a telephone interviewer to gain experience and apply for a graduate training programme with a market research company when I move to London after my year in Nottingham. Do you think this is a good plan?
Answer

Q26.   I am looking to join the market research industry with a Ph.D in a research based subject... if I apply to a graduate training scheme... would my Ph.D be disregarded and not put to use?
Answer



Questions in full and answers



Q94.   I am wondering if you can give me any advice. I graduated last year with a 2:1 in Communications Studies and Politics, and really want to get into qualitative research . I have sent my CV off to a few agencies, but am worried that I don't have enough experience to get a foot on the ladder. As part of my current job, I conduct exit surveys to gather visitor opinions but that is my only real experience. I work in a job where I am required to interact eith the public all day long, and think I have a lot of relevant skills, however I don't really want to go into badly paid field work just to get a start as a JRE. What would you advise?

A.   Jenny Bastin says: It is just a case of keep trying and making sure you are targeting companies/agencies that lean to the qualitative side. Make sure on your CV you show any work you have done that has been qualitative in nature, laying it out clearly and succinctly, for example have you had exposure into questionnaire design or input into such. Any projects at University that highlights these skills should also be covered on your CV i.e. final dissertation that probably involved research, giving a an outline proposal to project supervisors, desk research ........

If you haven't already done so contact the Association of Qualitative Research for any advice they might be able to give.

Do searches for qualitative agencies and set yourself a target of contacting and sending out so many CV's a week.

If you are earning an exceptionally high salary to get a role as a Trainee might mean you need to be a little bit flexible on earnings but possibly not.

Q93a.   I am a graduate, slightly pessimistic about my chances as my previous work has been in totally unrelated areas. I am doing some telephone interviewing, and I was contemplating going for a supervisor position in the belief that it might improve my chances in applying for graduate research exec jobs. Is this a good idea? Or would I quickly become pigeonholed?

A.   Jenny says: Good question, hope the following is useful.

When starting out in your career you should always have a goal and then look at the ways you are going to reach this goal, i.e. some people want a career in marketing and use market research as the springboard to this. Whilst it is true you can stay too long in one role at least by working as an interviewer/supervisor you will be working in the market research arena and in the field where you see your career path. This has got to be more relevant than working in a completely different function. It shows you are committed to a career in market research.

Regarding the supervisory role, you should check out what the next career move with that company would be, check what you can learn from taking the job and if you do take the job make sure you keep a log of all the different types of field studies you get involved with, the business sectors etc. Demonstrate on your CV what you have learned / got from the role.

It is always difficult to take a permanent job when you heart is not in it, and it doesn't look good if you leave too soon but you must also think about yourself and your career - it is all too easy to get pigeonholed. If the supervisory role is with the company you already work for as an interview perhaps you should be honest with them and explain what your ultimate goal is.

Q91a.   I am writing to you from India. I have completed my post grad diploma in business management from India and am pursuing a Master's program in English. I worked briefly in Account Planning and I really liked the work. I am keen on qual research but am uncomfortable with the kind of extensive travelling that it requires. Are there any jobs in qual that are office based? I did read something about an 'Information officer' but to be very honest, it sounded like a glorified secretary and I don't want to be that.

A.   Jenny Bastin says: In reply to your question, I am sure there are roles in qualitative research that are office based but I too wonder how involved these actually are, for example such could mean doing constant depth telephone interviews and having little face to face contact, whereas much of the popularity of qual is based around face-to-face with the better assessments it provides.

Any role in market research involves an element of travel and also commitment because of course when working agency side one must meet client expectations. As a result researchers often work unsociable hours. Qualitative is possibly worst as focus groups often are held in the evening. I am afraid travel and long hours come with the territory in this field.

I don't know if you were thinking of applying for roles in the UK or if your question relates to working in India, and of course there could be differences for example there are greater distances to travel in India - but in essence in my experience roles are pretty similar.

Please note if you are keen to secure work in the UK many companies look for candidates to hold a work permit, which can only be obtained if you have a job as the company must make the application. Of course you might have British Ancestry which can make it easier. If you do find a company prepared to obtain a work permit that is great although for positions at graduate entry level this can be very difficult.

Q87.   I have a clientside interview for a place on a graduate training scheme. I have been trying to break into market research since graduating and I was wondering if there are any special considerations that I should take when dealing with clientside work and food retailers customers research.

A.   Carole Fletcher, Buckingham Personnel says: Client-side work will be different from research agency or consultancy because the client is generally the marketing/brands teams trying to find the answers to the market, product, services, competition, opportunities, threats, resources and business development. The researcher knows the people as well as having good insight into the products. They often have the data to back up recommendations but the marketing personnel work much more on 'gut feel' than believing what is presented. Working in a client-side environment means you can rely on the research agencies for identifying the most appropriate techniques and interpreting the findings. You can play a more strategic role in the company by using different specialist resources, e.g. continuous data sources versus adhoc research projects.

The food retailers use their own EPOS data to track the products being sold across their stores. This data capture is fundamental to the role of the researcher. They usually require very numerate individuals to do data analysis and possibly use different statistical techniques on the data. There are numerous studies on pricing, promotions and perception of the value. There are factors that affect sales, such as price, choice, distribution, display of the products and competition. The candidate should be aware of the retail industry. Who are the main players, what has been happening to the industry over the last five years? They could look at M&S and say Asda.

Q81.   I have recently graduated with a good Masters degree and am very interested to get into market research. My interest in this area stems from my previous employment experience, where I worked as a Market Researcher for an agency, and from the research project I have recently completed. I was awarded a distinction and have since sent direct applications to qualitative market agencies as well as applying directly for current jobs.

I have a dual nationality, have lived, worked and studied in 3 different countries and my background pre-MSc is in the legal field. I am aware that my work experience in this field is not very recent and the option to take unpaid work for an agency is not really an option for me, as I have a family and unfortunately we cannot financially afford that (currently I am temping whilst job-hunting). To sum my situation, I have some work experience in this field, a very good degree, am prepared to start from the bottom with a minimum salary, am motivated and will do everything it takes to perform a job beyond expectations. I have also investigated the option of commencing Masters in Research (P/T). I just need someone to give me a chance to start.

So, my question is what else should I do to gain an entry into this field?

A.   Caroline says: You sound as if you are doing all the right things so my advice is keep trying!

When you have made direct applications, are you making you are sending your CV to the right person and following it up with a phone call? The more you stand out, the more likely you are to be seen. You should also make the most of your dual nationality and therefore I assume your foreign language skills. You should therefore target your CV to companies that do a lot of international research.

The other possibility is to try and get a temp job in the field or admin side for a company you would like to work for and see in you can move across to the research team internally. I know a few people who have got in to research in this way.

Q77.   Have you got any advice on getting into advertising, brand and youth research - especially qualitative?

I graduated last summer with a 2:1 in Sociology and spent several months doing admin jobs to sort myself out financially. I did the usual post-graduation soul-searching, and decided that I wanted a career that combined analytical thinking and problem solving with my interests in cultural studies, politics, design, music and social trends. I am currently coming to the end of three months unpaid experience at a market research company, and I am applying to various graduate schemes in MR. I have also applied to study for a part-time MRS-approved research methods masters. Is there anything else I should be doing? If I don't get a job offer is the masters course a good idea?

A.   Liz says: I see no reason why you shouldn't find a job in this area but to maximise your chances you need to contact as many companies as possible. The agency you are with now might be able to help you with this. Mr Web has a web site listing companies www.mrweb.com/agencies as does the Market Research Society (buyers guide) and AQR (Association of Qualitative Research). Don't just apply to companies that are large enough to run formal graduate trainee schemes. Many of the smaller organisations will offer equally good training (that is particularly true in the qualitative area), all be it on the job.

Doing the 3 months unpaid experience is a really good idea, work experience usually counts for more than academic qualifications. Doing a Masters shows a certain level of academic achievement which is good, and an enthusiasm for the subject, which is also useful. Quite how useful it will be depends a little bit on the content of the course and what you plan to do long term. If it revolves around qualitative methods and gives you an opportunity to moderate and apply your findings to real marketing problems it is obviously very useful. Even if it revolves around quantitative methods it could still be useful eventually, if one day you would like a role buying research and need to have a good understanding of all methodologies.

Q76.   Having completed an art-related Masters degree I am actively pursuing a career in qualitative research. This interest has primarily been fostered by my MA dissertation... A large part of my research relied on personal interviewing in order to gather data, this I thoroughly enjoyed.

I worked for a design house and became interested in many of the briefs the creative departments worked on. This experience provided me with a basic understanding of brand strategy and development in relation to packaging and retail design. My recent work experience at the media agency provided a fantastic opportunity to apply my research skills in a commercial environment - for example I worked on a brief dealing with the brand re-positioning of a major drinks client.

II am currently working in a media agency as a telephonist on a temporary contract, which ends in the summer. Having obtained a copy of the AQR's directory I have sent a number of speculative CV's off and as a result have had some interviews, unfortunately I have only been offered work experience (which I can't afford to do) or the job has gone to a candidate with more experience. Despite this, all the companies I have visited have given me very positive feedback, which makes me feel I am heading in the right direction career wise. I am extremely concerned that remaining on switchboard will not be beneficial to my CV, are there any other jobs I could pursue in the meantime that would be more relevant to a job in qual research? Also I am concerned that at 27 I am rather old to be applying for grad schemes and companies might favour younger grads. Any career advice would be fantastic.

A.   Liz says:27 isn't old to be thinking of becoming a qualitative researcher. A number of people go into this area of research relatively late and in many ways it's an advantage. Mature assessment of people's underlying needs is much easier once you have some reasonable experience of adult life.

I sympathise with you trying to get into this area. The problem as I am sure you can see going through the AQR directory is most of the companies are too small to accommodate a trainee so the options are few and far between. In addition at the beginning of this year a number of the companies were finding the market quite tough so were doing very little recruitment, but the qualitative market does seem to have picked up.

If you feel you have exhausted the AQR possibles, look at the companies listed on the MrWeb website www.mrweb.com/f6 or in the MRS buyers guide, there will be a few here that aren't listed by AQR, which have qualitative expertise. With your Masters in Design it might also be worth trying some of the largest design consultancies as they are increasingly building up their own planning/qual divisions.

You are right to think that remaining on the switchboard at your present company isn't helping. Have you asked the qualitative companies you have applied to whether there are any temporary (or even permanent) administrative roles you could do there? Even working in a non research role, you would learn quite a lot generally about the area by working for a qualitative company and you can be sure next time they recruit a junior they will be considering you.


Q72.   I have been trying to launch my career in MR for 10 months now and am having no luck. I graduated in 2000 with a BSc(hons) Psychology 2.1 and worked in customer services for 8 months before going travelling for 14 months. My aim is go go back to Australia in a few years as a research exec hence the reason i have been limiting my job search to companies with offices in OZ ( i need 2 years experience to apply for residency). I have also only applied to those with grad programmes - Taylor Nelson, BMRB, NOP, Isis, Ipsos and Research International. I have had 2 assesments and interviewed well but failed to get through - 1st on numeracy, 2nd on group discussion. MR is definitely what i want to do but i am getting frustrated and exhausted especially being stuck living at home in Stockport, doing a temp job... I firstly wanted to move to London and that seems to be where the grad mr jobs are but i am prepared to move elsewhere.

Am i aiming too high? Shall I reapply? Who else can i apply to? Could you advise me on where else the grad jobs are - with or without a training programme. I would prefer to work for an international company with lots of young people, even if they dont have offices in OZ. I am interested in doing mainly qualitative and have an interest in the healthcare sector. Am i running out of time - is there a point at which my degree will be redundent? Would a different job be beneficial for me ? I work in Customer service but have worked for a few weeks on a research project in OZ.

A.   Liz says: As you are discovering getting onto a trainee scheme in the UK isn't easy. It's even harder in Australia and so inevitably they are very short of good researchers with a few years experience (they would probably prefer you to have 3 rather than 2). So don't worry about joining an organisation with Australian connections as long as you have some decent experience, you'll be very employable over there. Secondly UK organisations which don't advertise established graduate trainee schemes often offer very good training, it's simply they aren't big enough to establish a set up which takes on graduates every year.

So the first thing you should do is widen your search immediately and talk to a lot more companies. All the agencies listed in the Research Buyers Guide employ at least one person who is a member of the MRS and should therefore be adhering to professional standards [or search via www.mrweb.com/agencies]. As long as you think they are going to give you the opportunity to learn and progress, you should consider them. A lot of them aren't that large but don't dismiss them out of hand, at this stagewhat is crucial is getting that first bit of experience.

Secondly one of the biggest regional research agencies is in Stockport. Rather than doing a customer service job which you don't enjoy, why don't you see if they have any positions?

Ideally of course this would be as a trainee but assuming they don't have any trainee roles, working here in field or admin would at least give you relevant experience, which would help with any future applications.

Q71.   Can you give me some advice on getting experience for Market Research? I'm a 1st yr student at Exeter University doing an English degree and would like to use my summer as a chance to get experience in the industry.

After my A Levels (English, History, Psychology and General Studies) I took a year out and worked in a large bank's call centre for 8 months and temped as an assistant for credit controllers as well as doing an extra A Level in Law at night school before going travelling for 3 months to Thailand, Australia and New Zealand. So I don't really have any appropriate experience.

At present I'm wondering where my degree is taking me and have started looking into areas of work for the future, all of which I need experience for. I would be happy to commute to London, and I would also be able to work in Exeter, Nottingham or Liverpool regions as have family etc where I can stay for the summer.

So any advice you can give me on getting work experience so to speak would be gratefully received. As for pay, I'm not sure what would be suitable for pure work experience / shadowing and so suggestions there as well would be good as know I would be asked what I wanted.

A.   Liz says: I've never been involved in recruiting students for summer jobs so I don't know much about this area I'm afraid.

As you don't have any experience and the summer holidays will be too short a period to train you in, there is only a limited amount you can offer a research agency as an employee. If you want to work for a research agency be prepared to do anything: it is quite likely this will be as a telephone interviewer. Any experience is useful.

As far as I'm aware there aren't any research agencies in Exeter and there are only a couple in Nottingham and Liverpool, so you are more likely to end up in the London area than anywhere else. However it is worth trying as many companies as possible to increase your chances of getting work. I can't advise you on salary I'm afraid, as it isn't an area I'm involved with. Does the University careers service have an idea of rates paid to students working in the summer? Interviewers are in any case paid fairly standard rates so if this is what you end up doing there won't be any room for negotiation.

Q65.   I am a third year student at the University of London and am very keen to get into Market Research when I finish my degree in June 2003. I think I am well prepared for applying for graduate schemes. I am expecting to gain a First for my course, undertook a summer placement this year conducting a market research project for a small company and I have already completed the MRS's Advanced Certificate in Market and Social Research Practice. However, since I plan to live in Oxford when I finish my degree I am worried there are fewer opportunities there than if I were to work in London. I plan to apply to A C Nielsen but am worried about placing too much hope on this. I am willing to travel to surrounding areas within about 30 miles of home but there only seem to be much smaller companies in the area I am considering. What do you think are my chances of getting a place in a market research company if I stay in Oxford?

A.   Liz says: As well as location you should also be considering the type of market research and therefore the type of training you will get. After all if this is a career you want to be in for many years to come you want to get as good a start as possible. AC Nielsen is undoubtedly a good agency which offers good training, but it's Oxford office tends to concentrate on quantitative panel research, is this the area of research that interests you? You may be more interested in ad hoc research studies in which case there are there are some good medium sized agencies nearby. If it is qualitative research that interests you then it is highly likely you would end up working for a smaller organisation. You shouldn't think that because a company is smaller the training will not be as good and more importantly if the company is doing the sort of research you want to be trained in, it will be far more useful! If you can't find an organisation offering the experience you require in the Oxford area, then I would suggest you try further a field. But try the local agencies first. You might be surprised; most graduates want to work in London so a lot of the out of town agencies are only too pleased to find graduates locally.

Q56.   Hi. I am a recent psychology graduate and I am extremely keen to get into market reserach. I have tried numerous strategies, such as approaching agencies, sending speculative emails and contacting larger companies. I am getting replies, but mostly to say they have nothing suitable. Some graduate recruiters have been quite promising and are interested in me, but obviously not until they start recruiting later in the summer.
The problem is I graduated last July and have been stuck in my part time job since then (pretty embarassing!). My plans have changed, as I originally wanted to emigrate to Canada after my degree, but it fell through, so consequently I missed out on last years graduate recruitment schemes.
I am living in Newcastle upon Tyne, but wish to relocate to London. Could you suggest anything else I could do maximise my chances of gaining employment as soon as possible as opposed to waiting until September? What work experience could I do now to maximise my chances even further? I am really keen to start my career now. Thankyou!

A.   Debby says: Now is a problematic time to get into an agencies as many companies are now getting some use out of the grad trainees who started last September and are already thinking about the next lot. So unless someone drops out there are few vacancies for Junior Research Execs. My advice would be to proceed with trying to get on to a grad scheme, but to obtain useful research experience in the meantime -interviewing (telephone or face to face) or perhaps temping in a field department. The Market Research Society can provide lists of companies who specialise in fieldwork or run telephone centres.

Q54.   I am an ex student with a degree and postgrad certificate in research with some research experience commercially.

I have just finished travelling and am desperate to get into market research.
I have so far followed the advice on this website and written to over 110 agencies and companies but without real success. Can you tell me the state of the recruitment market? Are there just too many people applying for too
few roles? And why won't agencies or companies at least drop me an e-mail back!

Thanks

A.   Deborah says: I am surprised that you hadn't had an answer from anyone at all and certainly feel you have been unlucky. You have a PG certificate in research - I would have thought this would have helped, especially if MRS accredited. However, 99% of companies say they want people with 2:1s - so if his degree is less than this, it will not have helped his cause.

I presume that some of your applications will have been speculative rather than for a specific job or training scheme. Right now [NB early 2003] speculative CVs are falling on deaf ears, especially if there is little experience. Regarding specifics, unfortunately there are very few junior vacancies at present - what there were have either been filled by the grad in-take from last Autumn, or put on hold.

If you were thinking of grad trainee schemes, you may have fallen 'between the stools' applying when last year's trainees are just getting started and thoughts have not yet turned to this year. In fact companies should be starting to prepare for next Sept/Oct in-take in the next couple of months. I am not 100% sure how each operates. Most tend to make their 'apply by'dates in July or August (to include this year's grads - which will just make it harder!). However, if you apply now it might be hoped that you could be at the top of the pile when resourcers' minds are fresh. I always feel it is best to get in early - some companies do have a start date as well so best to check the websites.

Regarding numbers of applicants - the plum grad trainee schemes are highly oversubscribed - for example, last August Martin Hamblin received 200 applications less than one day after posting details on their website; none of the big companies uses recruitment consultancies to find grads because they can attract so many through the milk-rounds and via their websites - we are talking several hundreds applying to each of Research International, MORI, TNSofres etc etc. So you are up against huge competition, hence the importance of the degree.

The market - it is still very quiet, with a lot of companies still operating a total freeze on recruitment. Others are putting tentative toes in the water - but often retracting them as quickly. The most buoyant sectors are healthcare/pharma and social. Within these we have quite a lot of vacancies for people with 2-5+ years relevant experience - even a couple for those with only one year. IT/Tcoms are still slow with only essential replacement - mostly 4+ years experience.

There is no easy solution other than to keep at them - definitely target the big companies as they are the ones most likely to recruit grads - the grad trainee schemes will start in the Autumn so he could use the time in between to work as an interviewer - telephone, street, or temping in field departments, learning/brushing up IT skills such as Power Point, Excel, SPSS. Also don't take silence for an answer - identify the companies you are really keen on and get on the phone. In addition, identify sectors of interest, build up 'your case' and target smaller companies that focus on these sectors.

Good luck!

Q52.   I'm nearly 23 with a psychology degree and have spent the last year travelling so therefore have no experience but would really like to get into research. What are my chances?

A.   Kate says: The best way to get into research is to apply directly to market research agencies and see if you can get a place on their graduate training programmes. You can find out about all the different research agencies but looking at the Agenices section on MrWeb. Good Luck.

Q53.   I am originally from France and been living in London for 3 years, working in the catering industry in order to gain a good level of English and I am now looking to start my career in Market or Social Research.
I study for 2 years in a French University, gaining a "DEUG", not knowing the British equivalence. I studied Psychology, Social Sciences, Statistics and Biology, but I am not sure if it can be considerate as a Degree.
I guess the first move for me would be to start as an interviewer, what do you think? Is there a great chance to train on the job or should I enroll on a course, if yes which one? I went to the Westminster University but the course I'm interested in costs 2.000, price I cannot afford to pay.
I am very motivated but don't really know where to start...

A.   Kate says: Yes trying to find a job as an interviewer would be a good way into the research industry. A lot of research agencies have international telephone units and are always keen to find people with foreign language skills. Alternatively, you could try applying to research agencies for junior positions in Field Management or Research Assistant roles which would get you closer to the executive side of things. For a list of agencies to apply to have a look at the Agencies section on MrWeb. I wish you the best of luck in your job search.

Q45.   I graduated in chemistry with French two years ago from the university of Bristol and am now keen to get into Market Research (having returned form a period of travel).

Is my background less desirable than say a social science?

Do you have any advice on where I could possibly get some temporary experience in the Market Research industry? I am particularly interested in the Healthcare sector.

A.   Sinead Hasson says: Thanks for your question. Your background is fine for a career in market research, although degrees such as geography are often considered ideal for a career in research it really isnt that specific.

I recommend that you apply to market research agencies for their graduate trainee programs, ideally apply to larger agencies or agencies with structured training programmes as this will give you a good grounding in all aspects of research. If you go to Mr Webs agency home page you can often apply via the agencies site.

Q44.   I'm hoping you'll be able to give me some advice about beginning a career in market research. I graduated in 1998 with a BA (Hons) 2:2 in Marketing and Psychology. Since then I've been employed in admin jobs, the past year having been involved in international direct marketing.

Ideally, I want to get away from admin and become more part of a team rather than supporting one. I'm really interested in qualitative research, as I love finding out what makes people tick. If I could do this in relation to an international/cultural aspect, then all the better.

As for relevant skills, I'm not too sure... I've been told I'd be good working with people; I'm a good listener, inquisitive, friendly and approachable. What other skills would I need though?

Also, is it possible to work only in qualitative research, or would I have to be involved in quantitative as well? I'd much prefer a creative job than analysing lots of data. I don't think I'd be very happy undertaking telephone research all day either! Am I being too picky?!

I would really appreciate your advice on these points and what you think the best starting point would be for me.

A.   Sinead Hasson says: Your academic background is certainly suitable for research. You can specialise in qual but it is usually a good idea to have an understanding of both.

You should take a look at the Survey Exchange directory of research agencies on this site . Identify companies you are interested in and send them your cv specifying that you are particularly interested in qual.
I hope this is helpful - please get in touch if you have any more questions.

Q32.   I am a 28 year old BSc Psychology graduate with a PG Cert Management & I am about to complete a PG Dip in Research Methodology. The latter course has covered all areas of social research. My main aim is to break into the market research industry, particularly in the qualitative field.

I have not really had any previous vocational experience in this area, with my employment mainly specialising in univeristy administration, and more recently, providing administrative and MIS information for research projects.

I am based in the Midlands.

What I really want to know is how to structure my attempts at getting that first research position. Should it be through graduate schemes or more by personal contact and sepculative CVs to smaller companies. Any advice would be great.

A.   Nick says: Before I answer the question, just a general point that readers may find useful. It doesn't apply to you directly but your letter does give me the opportunity to address something that comes up from time to time.

It's very easy to collect qualifications thinking that the more you have the better the job you eventually go for will be. Unfortunately this is not the case. After your first degree employers want you to have relevant work experience. If you're going to go for a masters or postgrad qualification, make sure it is very relevant to your chosen career area. In the end, no matter how qualified you are, you must start at the bottom and a 22 year old with one degree is a more attractive proposition than a 30 year old with five qualifications but hasn't been to work. Of course, this doesn't apply to you, [name], because you have been working and, I assume, you didn't know you wanted to get into research until some time during your postgrad studies.

So, to your question. First you need to know whether you should be looking at qual, quant or a mixture of the two.

Your suitability as a qualitative researcher is very much to do with your personality and it's not something I can assess using the wonders of the internet. Very broadly, good qualitative researchers are intuitive, creative, good communicators and listeners, assertive but not aggressive, able to think on their feet and process information as they receive it. They are also able to empathise with a wide range of different people. If you match that profile to a reasonable degree I'm sure you'll make it as a qualitative researcher.

So what's the best way of getting in? The answer is to use whatever means you can. Try moving for a start! The opportunities in London far exceed the rest of the country. Apply to graduate programmes by all means, but that is putting yourself into competitive situations where your age may count against you. I think you should also identify companies that focus on the research areas that interest you and write directly. If company size is important to you then of course exclude those that do not fit the bill, but if it's not a major issue don't allow anything to limit your opportunities - it's a competitive enough world to get into as it is.

Without doubt you should use whatever personal contacts you have. If you know someone who knows someone who knows someone in MR then get an introduction. People are usually more than willing to help someone out if they can. With speculative approaches, make sure you know something about the company so that you can give a plausible explanation for your approach in your covering letter, and identify a senior person in the company, i.e director level, that is responsible for that area. In other words write personally to the person you think is likely to be your boss. If you can interest them in your letter you stand a good chance of being invited in for interview. Be brief and direct, try to keep your letter to one side and make it punchy and compelling. Show them why you'd make a good researcher. You should also include your CV which will preferably be no more than two pages long.

Good luck, I hope to see your name in MRS publications before long!

Q24.   I am currently in my final year at the University of Nottingham studying Social & Cultural Studies. After graduating I intend to stay in Nottingham for at least a year, however I do not want to tie myself down to staying longer.

I am enthusiastic to pursue a career in market research. There is a graduate training programme with JRA Research in Nottingham, however I am reluctant to apply, as after a year I hope to move down to London more permanently.

My intial view is to maybe get a job for a year as field or telephone interviewer to gain experience and apply for a graduate training programme with a market research company when I move to London after my year in Nottingham. Do you think this good plan? If not, what would you suggest?

A.   Peter says: That is one way to enter the industry. If you have a solid academic background then applying to the large research agencies' graduate schemes would be the best route. All the major agencies run graduate schemes.

NB See MrGrad for details of some of these, appearing from July 2001 onwards - also a lot of other info for graduates looking for MR careers.

Q26.   I am currently doing a Ph.D in social psychology ... at the university of Bristol, and am thinking of going into market reseach after I finish (2003). I have had work experience at a qualitative market research agency in London (summer 2000), but feel more inclined towards the quantitative side of research.

Specifically, I would like to know what recommended courses of action there are for people wanting to join the market research industry who have a Ph.D in a research based subject that is directly applicable to quantitative market research. By the time I finish at Bristol, my ability to manage research projects and my understanding of multivariate statistical techniques applicable to social research should be well developed, but my understanding and experience of the industry as a business most likely will not be.

So is it advisable to apply to a graduate training scheme as I may have done had I not opted to do a Ph.D, and would my Ph.D be disregarded and not put to use if I was to pursue this course of action?

Thank you in advance for your reply.

A.   Peter says: If you apply for a graduate scheme your salary expectations may be out of kilter with what could be on offer. Best advice would be to get some quant experience during the summer to see whether this is a career you would be keen to pursue.

 

Key to previous and current Agony Aunts / Uncles

Sinead Hasson, Hasson Associates
Kate Langford, Hasson Associates
Peter McGrath, PSD
Nick Gendler, then of KD Consulting
Debby Robson, then of SLS Services
Liz Norman, ENI
Caroline Steane / Clive Warren, CSA Recruitment
Jenny Bastin, then of Buckingham Personnel
Helen Pegnall, then of ENI







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