I recently wrote a piece on how to stand out during this unprecedented time. This blog article first appeared on Research World.
On the 4th of June I was delighted to take part in a couple of community circles held by the Young ESOMAR Society ‘YES’ on career opportunities. Before taking part in the community the recruitment consultancy I run, ENI, did a survey of our younger candidates. The results were depressing, 23% had been furloughed, and a further 10% had been made redundant. However, the debate on how to find a permanent or contract role, either as a graduate, or as a young researcher, was a lively one with many good ideas.
This article concentrates on the key points that were made, and as redundancy is an issue that is affecting many within the insights community, many of these are relevant at all levels.
- Focus – Don’t apply for anything in the hope… Focus on roles in sectors where you have something to offer, and on roles you really want – you will be better at them. If you are a graduate, does your degree make you relevant to a particular sector? If an experienced researcher in a market that is struggling, for example retail, where else could you apply your expertise and interest, i.e. cx, trade/category data, business development, behavioural economics?
- Research – You are an expert at analysing intelligence, data, and research. Use and demonstrate that. Which markets have not suffered too greatly because of COVID and are of interest to you? Which organisations would you like to work for and why? Why that team or that line manager? No one is going to employ an insight professional who has not demonstrated they are curious.
- Passion – demonstrate your passion, for the company, the sector. Everyone wants to employ someone who is enthusiastic. Employees with a positive attitude, who go out of their way to contribute are more likely to be retained, applicants who have demonstrated a real interest in the organisation will stand out and are more likely to be hired.
- Flexible – some of the changes we have seen at work, are likely to be long term; be open to the opportunities that creates. Consider contracting, do not dismiss opportunities just because the daily commute would be too far. What is the company’s attitude to home working, would contracting offer the flexibility the organisation needs? If the market is a difficult one, would a part-time employee be more cost-effective for them?
- Internship – Internships are a great opportunity to pick up new commercial skills, and contacts. You gain something even if you are not paid (and most are paid something). Does working for free lower your value too far? Then consider organisations like ESOMAR Foundation, charities, local community groups that rely on the voluntary contribution of others.
- Networking – Reach out to everyone you know. Use the opportunity to build up your knowledge of the sector, the key players within it, news about organisations, skills that may be useful. They may have a role, but most of the time this is just a way of ‘researching’ your market. This will provide invaluable information when the right role does arise. Those working within insight are lovely people and most won’t mind you contacting them and asking for information.
- Build your own brand – how do you stand out, particularly hard for graduates with no commercial experience? Why are you right for this sector, why are you passionate about the sector? Showcase that passion, those skills, that interest. Volunteer for industry bodies like ESOMAR (and numerous others i.e. AQR, DMA, EphMRA, MRS). Promote those interests on social media. Start with LinkedIn, although others attending the community circle demonstrated huge success with other approaches, for example a Facebook community for like-minded individuals, podcasts, and blogs.
- Develop your skills. – For graduates this may mean considering postgraduate qualifications. If relevant in some way to insights, this is an option employers like, but be aware that commercial research and analysis skills are not exactly the same as those gained in academia, and you won’t necessarily be paid more as a trainee than other degree level graduates.
Soft skills are those in highest demand by employers. They want people who can contribute a broad understanding of the market, analyse the situation quickly, provide commercial insight and influence stakeholders. It’s possible to read books and attend courses on insight but it is also about mindset, creativity, passion, and communication skills. How can you develop and demonstrate those?
Technical skills will differ depending on the sector you are interested in, so start with you research and find out what is currently in demand. Generally, the technical skill most requested is an understanding of digital and data analysis and software.
Whilst some of the 8 points will be more relevant to some than others, where possible all should be acted on. Finding a job can be a job in itself, it is going to take time and dedication. The good news is the market is very slowly starting to recover, so start now.