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The Career Clinic - UK


I need a change from / within my MR job!

 
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.



List of previous Agony Aunts / Uncles


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Q92A.   I am looking to move into a client side insight role in a kid-focused company. My tours around several recruitment agencies shows that they believe I have good potential, yet there are no positions (or at least not positions they know of!). How can I make sure I at least get to know about these positions when they turn up? I am registered now with several recruiters, but never hear anything despite my trying to stay in touch with them...

Also, my experience is more qualitative than quant, although I do do quant research. How much quant do I need to have done before I am considered a good candidate for an insight job? I am currently an AD and do not want to take a pay cut in a move...

I look forward to hearing your thoughts. I have been looking for about 4 months - scanning [magazines] and just don't see any roles that suit my needs... I want to be sure that when they arrive, I am ready!

Answer


PREVIOUS QUESTIONS

Q86.   I am a 23 year old Research Executive working in a London based research agency. I have worked for the company for a year. My issue is that that my job role here does not provide a lot of scope for interpreting results, forming conclusions and making solid recommendations to the client. Do you think that it would be wise for me to stay in this role for the time being or start to look for a new agency now?
Answer

Q82.   I am ten years into a varied marketing career in financial services. My experience is split between research and information and product management, and I am now at marketing manager level on the product side. I am keen to change direction and progress my career in research and information because this is the sort of work I enjoy most. On the flipside, I haven't developed in-depth specialist skills in any particular area of research/information. Am I likely to be successful, would you suggest an alternative route, and what steps would you recommend I take to move forward?
Answer

Q74.   I have been working in market research for around twelve years. All of my experience is in business to business...I am comfortable but no longer challenged in this role, but can see no clear career path beyond another b2b agency. What other career alternatives do I have?
Answer

Q66.   I am a Statistics graduate and have worked as a statistician and finally in strategy on the client side for the last 18 months - I'm now the end user of research data.....I would like to get back in to the "front end" of MR (pref in quant). My current salary is in the late 20s but I might take a year out to travel. What kind of opportunities will exist for me when I come back? I'm guessing I would have to take a reduction in salary as well. How much would you say?
Answer

Q63.   I have been in the Operations side of MR since 6 yrs now. I wish to switch over to the Research side. What would your advice be on that? What is the best way to do that?
Answer

Q59.   I have been working in research since leaving university... I have always worked in quantitative research... I have recently been freelancing in a company which uses qualitative research to gain insight into consumer behaviour. I have found some of this work to be refreshing and interesting, thus I am wanting to move totally into qualitative research. What is the best way to achieve this?
Answer

Q38.   I am currently a research executive within the media industry. In 2-3 years I hope to do freelance research or work in international research. Do you know of any good courses or a route I should take over the next few years to help me achieve my ambition?
Answer

Q27.   I have reached the level of [Field] AD and I need to experience new challenges in a new company. At my age (late forties) what are my chances and Where should I go?
Answer

Q20.   I have become disenchanted with MR as a career. I have no clear idea of which direction to go in as a career change. Do you know how I could establish what to pursue but maintain my current income?
Answer

Q23.   I am very frustrated in both how interested I am in the work and the pay I receive. How can I move forward?
Answer

Q14.   In general terms, what are the opportunities and also the pitfalls of moving from agency work to clientside?
Answer

Q15.   I am an SRE working in [a large agency]. I want to change my career path... I do not like presenting and would like a job that doesn't entail any...
Answer

Q10.   I am in the US looking rather unsuccessfully for sponsorship. My Qualifications include an MBA, 18 years on the supply side... I am an expert Visual Basic programmer and have concentrated on CATI...
Answer



Questions in full and answers



Q92A.   I am looking to move into a client side insight role in a kid-focused company. My tours around several recruitment agencies shows that they believe I have good potential, yet there are no positions (or at least not positions they know of!). How can I make sure I at least get to know about these positions when they turn up? I am registered now with several recruiters, but never hear anything despite my trying to stay in touch with them...

Also, my experience is more qualitative than quant, although I do do quant research. How much quant do I need to have done before I am considered a good candidate for an insight job? I am currently an AD and do not want to take a pay cut in a move...

I look forward to hearing your thoughts. I have been looking for about 4 months - scanning [magazines] and just don't see any roles that suit my needs... I want to be sure that when they arrive, I am ready!

A.   Caroline says: From the sounds of things you have the right experience for a clientside job. You do not have to be a quant stats or advanced methodology expert to qualify for clientside because you get your research agencies to do the leg work for you. I have in fact come across people with relatively little quant experience who have coped quite well on clientside.

I think the reason why it is taking so long to find something is that you have set yourself quite a specific brief. Clientside is picking up but not as busy as agency and this is across sectors so youth / kids specialist roles are going to be a relatively rare thing. I think you need to be flexible and target companies that have products marketed at the kids sector eg soft drinks, biscuits, cereals, confectionery and accept that you will be in a more general role.

With new legislation on the horizon that looks to change how we market products to kids there may be an increasing need for insight managers to understand the kids market better and think of new marketing strategy. This may be how you ultimately use your interest and specialist experience in this area but it may be a question of carving out a niche for yourself once on board your new company.

Q86.   I am a 23 year old Research Executive working in a London based research agency. This is my first job in market research and I have worked for the company for a year. My issue is that that my job role here does not provide a lot of scope for interpreting results, forming conclusions and making solid recommendations to the client. As a result, I feel as if I am not gaining enough market knowledge about the industries that I am working for. I have a real urge to develop these consultancy based skills but am concerned about moving companies after such a short time. On the other hand, I feel that if I stay I may fail to develop these skills.

I have a 1st class degree and an MRS qualification [details supplied]. I feel that I have learnt many really useful market research techniques in my role covering Project Management, questionnaire design and qualitative researching. I know these would stand me in good stead if I were to move on but I'm just not sure it is a good idea to leave so early as I'm worried another agency might feel I don't have staying power plus I'm not sure how easy it would be to find another research exec role with limited experience anyway. Job advertisements mostly seem to ask for 2 years experience. Do you think that it would be wise for me to stay in this role for the time being or start to look for a new agency now??

A.  

Caroline says: I think with a year's experience that you should stay in your present company for at least another 6 months. There are a few reasons for this. As you quite rightly say, there are not that many opportunities around for people quite as junior as you and you may find yourself experiencing similar frustrations in another agency.

Most importantly though, I think with just a year's experience you will have only just learnt your way around a research project and essentially the 'tools of your trade'. It is important that your research skills are technically sound. A poorly conducted research project will give you inaccurate data which will affect your findings and give the wrong results to the client.

In the right company, consultancy skills will come with time, but without a solid foundation of research training and fundamental project management experience your 'consulting' will be shaky. You are still in the very early stages of your research career and if you are getting plenty of exposure to different ad hoc research techniques then I would give yourself more time. If you are only working on continuous projects or stuck on one large tracking study for a large client then you should firstly have a chat with your boss and talk about your career development options in your present company. If they are not forthcoming, then my advice would be to think about looking. However I would be very selective about who you consider and the roles on offer.

Q82.   I am ten years into a varied marketing career in financial services. My experience is split between research and information (market intelligence, market research, internal analysis, planning and forecasting) - roughly 5 years in total - and product management, and I am now at marketing manager level on the product side. I am keen to change direction and progress my career in research and information because this is the sort of work I enjoy most. From my experience I am somewhat of a generalist, with knowledge and skills across a broad range of activities, and of course have a good understanding of the broader marketing issues which customer/market intelligence can help inform. On the flipside, I haven't developed in-depth specialist skills in any particular area of research/information. I would prefer not to have to take a big salary cut to train up. I would therefore be looking for a generalist information-based role. Am I likely to be successful, would you suggest an alternative route, and what steps would you recommend I take to move forward?

A.   Caroline says: My advice is to look for a role in specialised information and research and stay in financial services. You sound as if you have enough experience to qualify for this type of work and your marketing experience will be useful for working at management level. Many people working in information and research often have marketing experience and move in to research in a similar way to you.

I think you will find it harder to find something specialising purely in primary ad hoc research because clients tend to look for more 'classic' market research training and specialist experience.

Q74.   I have been working in market research for around twelve years. All of my experience is in business to business. I have gained wide experience of different sectors and most types of research (both domestically and international) but I would say I am a generalist practitioner and more of a quant researcher than qual. I have reached a senior field position, with no further promotion prospects within this company. I am comfortable but no longer challenged in this role, but can see no clear career path beyond another b2b agency. What career alternatives do I have if I wanted to gain wider research experience, perhaps outside b2b? Are there opportunities for an experienced all round researcher to apply that experience outside the agency environment or even the market research industry? I know that branding or other marketing consultancies can employ researchers, but don't they tend to favour qual researchers with a consumer background?

A.   Liz says: There are four things you should think about.

Research agencies are the only bodies involved with research that have field and DP facilities. So the experience you are gaining in your current role will not be relevant if you want to move on from agency jobs. When applying for a new job you should emphasise the other experience you have had and ideally take a sideways move to a role which doesn't have these responsibilities in the mean time.

Most marketing consultancies do a lot of consumer branding work and because there is often a blue sky element to a number of the projects, there is an emphasis on qual. You would make a move into this area easier by taking a job which gave you more involvement with consumer and/or qual research. However the other element you would need is a passion for branding and in-depth knowledge of this area.

There are a number of other service organisations which employ researchers. Management consultancies are the most likely to consider a business to business researcher with quant skills, however they also want excellent academics. In addition most of them are struggling at the moment and there is very little recruitment in this area.

What about moving to a role as a research buyer for a company? It isn't only FMCG manufacturers who need in house researchers to buy their research. Because you are buying all their research they need applicants to have a broad range of research experience. The ideal role may not come up immediately but this is certainly an area worth considering.

Q66.   I am a Statistics graduate and have worked as a statistician, in a related role in an academic institution and finally in strategy on the client side for the last 18 months - I'm now the end user of research data, but am not involved directly in its production. I would like to get back in to the "front end" of MR (pref in quant).
My current salary is in the late 20s but I might take a year out to travel. What kind of opportunities will exist for me when I come back?
Obviously, the state of the market is somewhat unknown looking that far ahead, but say I was returning now. I'm guessing I would have to take a reduction in salary as well. How much would you say?

A.   Liz says: In general it is possible for candidates to move from the client side to the agency side when they are still relatively inexperienced as you are.
Your statistical background will certainly make that move easier particularly if you would consider research roles in divisions with a heavy statistical bias to their research. However you should bear in mind that it isn't only prior experience potential employers will be considering (although that will certainly help you get the interview). They will also be thinking about whether your attitude and approach fits an agency environment, whether you have relevant market knowledge and what they think your client interface skills are like. Without meeting you it is difficult to gauge these and therefore establish just how easy it will be for you to get a job.
Not only will the job market have changed in terms of opportunity over the next year, but salaries too will have changed. At the moment I think it unlikely someone with your level of experience will get more than 25,000, but I can't say that will definitely be true in a year.

Q63.   I have been in the Operations side of MR since 6 yrs now and have worked in 3 different countries - India, Germany & presently in UK. Now I wish to switch over to the Research side. What would your advice be on that? What is the best way to do that? Currently I am at 18,000 with appraisal due in October.
My work permit is sponsored by my company, and I also haven't got a degree in any research field, though am PG in Literature.

A.   Liz says: Hopefully the organisation you are with now employs research executive staff as well as operations people as this is realistically the only way you are going to be able to move across at the moment, assuming you want to stay in this country. Other research organisations aren't going to be prepared to employ someone in a trainee role who requires sponsorship, when there are so many other trainees around to choose from.

I appreciate your current organisation may not be keen for you to move, given how difficult it is to find good operations people. But it is definitely something you should bring up in your appraisal. Hopefully you will be able to reach some sort of compromise. Something along the lines of staying in your role for another year, but after that being switched to a research position, or possibly staying in your role but being allowed to study for the MRS diploma.

Q59.   Hi. I have been working in research since leaving university... I have always worked in quantitative research.

I have recently been freelancing in a company which uses qualitative research to gain insight into consumer behaviour. I have found some of this work to be refreshing and interesting, thus I am wanting to move totally into qualitative research. What is the best way to achieve this?

A.   Debby says: Gaining a foothold in qualitative research will require some perseverance on your part. There are a few jobs around but most require someone who can 'hit the ground running' in respect of project design, group moderation, analysis and reporting. Although with your overall experience chances are you could do that, because you have not done qual work consistently for a reasonable period of time (say 12-18m +) it is more likely that you will not get considered.

We have had your CV on file for a number of months but have always found it difficult to fit you to clients requirements. I hope the following observations and suggestions help you to strengthen it - please take it as constructive criticism - then it is down to systematically contacting companies.

Although you claim 9 years experience, you have done a lot of chopping and changing especially in the last few years. This does not really add up to 9, therefore, nor does it give the impression of a really steady, committed person - so somehow you need to explain your way around this. Academic work ... sadly gets fairly short shrift from commercial agencies unless they happen to be in social or possibly healthcare. So it is best if you acknowledge the 'difference' and put in an explanation of why you took your next step ie going back into education...

What you need to do is to identify your strengths in respect of research eg rapport with people, analysis etc and bring these to the fore of your CV. Also your strengths in terms of sectors - it might help to focus on eg healthcare to start with.

Then just keep at the agencies and people like me. Good luck!

Q38.   I am currently a research executive within the media industry. In 2-3 years I hope to do freelance research or work in international research. Do you know of any good courses or a route I should take over the next few years to help me achieve my ambition?

A.   Sinead says: There isnt really any course that you can do - its always useful to do the MRS diploma but it isnt essential for career development.

If you want to work in international research you can approach that through the usual routes. If you would ideally like to go freelance you should either contact a specialist freelance recruitment agency or use the next 2-3 years to build up your contacts. Then ideally you should have a ready made client base.

In the meantime you should carry on developing your research skills.

I hope this is helpful, you seem to have a clear plan which will always give you something to focus on. If I can be of any more help please let me know.

Q27.   After 10 years as interviewer and recruiter I have [moved into a Field Exec role and] reached the level of AD and I feel that I have been successful but I need to experience new challenges in a new company.

At my age (late forties) what are my chances and Where should I go?

A.   Nick says:
Age shouldn't be too much of a barrier for you if you have transferable skills and experience. That said, there is still a degree of prejudice out there but companies that look at date of birth are finding themselves in a minority, particular as the skills shortage in the industry intensifies. What employers are looking for is the right skills set, potential to learn where you have gaps and perhaps most importantly, attitude. The real issue for you is how you want to progress your career. If you are blocked because your boss is at the top and unlikely to move then maybe a larger company could offer you more responsibility.

What are you particularly good at? If it's the project management side then play to that strength by seeking out positions that require strong organisational skills. If you have experience of working directly with clients and are good at it, perhaps you should go for jobs that involve more account management and development.

You should also consider which aspects of your job you enjoy the most. This often goes hand in hand with your strengths but not always. Think about how much you'd like a particular role or company culture as part of your evaluation of any given opportunity. Getting this right does have a major impact on your performance and therefore future prospects.

If you're good at what you do, and other companies need those skills, I see no reason why you shouldn't be able to find a new challenge.

Q20.   I have classic MR training behind me (blue chip agency and currently blue chip clientside) however, for the first time, have become disenchanted with MR as a career.

However, I have no clear idea of which direction to go in as a career change. Do you know how I could establish what to pursue but maintain my current income?

A.   Peter says: There are a number of different avenues you could consider. If you move completely away from research then you may have to consider a salary drop. You may want to consider a different angle within research that will provide you with a new challenge but maintain salary. In terms of the way forward I suggest you seek advice from a consultancy that specialises in research and marketing.

Q23.   I have been in Market Research as a Field Interviewer for approximately 16 years. I have done all sorts of research.

I have done a Diploma in Marketing. My kids have now grown up and left home so I have free time to travel. I don't want to continue to do the same thing.

I have applied for one job doing depth interviewing and interviewing where you use your own initiative which sounds quite interesting.

I have no experience as a Field Executive.

I have done some medical interviewing which I found a bit more interesting and more remunerative. I am very frustrated in both how interested I am in the work and the pay I receive.

How can I move forward?

A.   Peter says: I recommend you sit down and identify which parts of your role you enjoy and which parts the role you do not. From there you may want to consider other job avenues as well market research to see how they compare.

If you have enjoyed medical interviewing then that is one avenue to pursue further: it tends to be better remunerated. There is always plenty of work for good medical interviewers.

Q14.   I have been working in Market Research for several years and am planning to move into London to live and work.

I love working for an agency and enjoy the variety of work on offer, but do not want to rule out working clientside as I think there are so many exciting companies / brands out there. Also, I think it will be excellent experience for me if I decide to move back to agency work in a few years.

In general terms, what are the opportunities and also the pitfalls of moving from agency work to clientside? What is happening today in market research departments within large companies ?... they get pretty bad press (unrealistic expectations, too absorbed in their own brand(s) etc). How much of this is true and how much is fiction?

A.   Sinead says: There are pros and cons to both the clientside and agency case. The pros of moving to the clientside are that you get more exposure to all types of research, for example primary and secondary, and you get more involved in the practicalities of research and its implementation than you do on the agency side. This is also one of the disadvantages of working on the agency side and this is usually what will cause most agency researchers difficulty when they try to move across.

Other pros to working on the clientside depend on what you want long term - it can give you an opportunity to move away from pure research and into more of a planning role, though this is also dependent on the company.

Cons to working clientside; sometimes the research commissioned is left in a cupboard and not implemented, people often complain of the inability to get really involved in the research as it is commissioned and the in-house researcher can often be no more than a co-ordinator. Other complaints usually revolve round the fact that as you have only one client the work can become dull but this really depends on the client and their product range. Again it depends on what you want long term and that should help you decide where you should go next, if you decide on clientside make sure you go somewhere which has a fairly structured department otherwise you may end up caretaking projects.

If you are going to make the move clientside now is probably a good time as you are [at this stage of your career], try and focus on the industry sectors that you know well as what you lack in commercial experience you can make up in market knowledge. There are usually fewer clientside than agency roles due to a lower turnover of staff and small departments, also many client companies are based outside London - lower rents etc.

Q15.   I am an SRE working in [a large agency]. I want to change my career path slightly but do not really know what I can do! I have a largely Quant background but enjoy more creative work, particularly writing. I am interested in brand issues. I do not like presenting and would like a job that doesn't entail any.

Do you know of any related areas that might be of interest?

A.   Sinead says: In terms of what is open to you depends on what you want to do. You could move to a more creative research agency where you could explore those skills, this can mean moving to a smaller agency which means that it is likely that you will be involved in presenting. Alternately you could move to a larger agency where there may be less pressure to present. If you want to focus on writing maybe you should move to secondary research agency where you will mainly write reports this might be frustrating though as you may not be involved in the in depth analysis. I hope this is helpful - this is a tricky one as you do not want to present, if you have any more Questions please let me know.

Q10.   I am in the US looking rather unsuccessfully for sponsorship. My Qualifications include an MBA, 18 years on the supply side of market research doing more than 1000 projects - much of this in South Africa. I am an expert Visual Basic programmer and have concntrated on CATI (Computer Aided Telephone Interviewing) work in the past three years (Windows NT/Server applications). I am looking for a new challenge. Do you have any advice on what I should try next. I have really tried every avenue that I know of.

A.   Sinead says: I am not that familiar with the US market so I am not sure how relevant this will be. My advice is to build on the relationships you had in South Africa and use any contacts that they or you may have in the US to try and secure some employment. One of the ways to do this would be to go back to South Africa - work for a company who have offices in the US and try for an internal transfer. The only other thing I can suggest is to contact companies directly - there will be an issue with sponsorship, you have to prove that you have skills that cannot be found in the US market place but I understand that the number of visas issued has increased but that you need to apply in November.



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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