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"I graduated in 2008 into an unwelcoming economic climate. I hadn't planned ahead, and ended up taking a basic job while looking for a graduate position. I found one some months later, in Market Research. This was not what I had set out to do with an English degree, but my team were welcoming, and the office was good. I wore a suit less than I had imagined (never) but while everyone was friendly and casual, I quickly realised that they were all very serious about the business.
Questions were openly encouraged, as it's better to bother people at first than make mistakes later. I think now that a lot of corporate culture is similar, and there certainly are great opportunities for training and development within the larger multinationals; if you're willing to build your reputation and capitalise on it. I also discovered that the hours in the contract were seen as a minimum, and staying late to finish any outstanding work was expected. Only a few people got in very early, and I think it pays to be among them in order to get the core work done without distraction. I was not versed in office politics, but they're definitely there. Everything's quite formal at work, but it's in the pub afterwards that the real relationships are built. I found it useful to be authentic, and to speak up if not being given a fair share. People are often divided into subject matter experts, and managers who can summarise and present what they produce. If you're making a career, make sure that you're the latter.
Dress like your manager's boss and be polite if you're looking for a client-facing role. I found in my job that it wasn't always the stressed people who worked on weekends who got ahead, but the people who identified the objective and pulled together the necessary resources to achieve it.
Most people didn't venture out for their lunch break; if you want to, make it a routine from the start. Market Research is like most other marketing roles; as a graduate you will be drawing in different threads of the business to meet a client brief. There's quite a few freebies, but that shouldn't be part of decision making. If you're looking for a role that will teach you transferable commercial project management experience, market research is definitely one to consider. Try and start in a large company to ensure you get the best training. There were a few pedantic points about conformity that go with the corporate environment and it's
important to fit in with these. If you're looking for an extension of university, this sector isn't necessarily what you're looking for, as things are taken very seriously. That said, it's good fun, and you'll never tire of people asking if you're the person who calls them when they're having dinner when you tell them you work in market research."
BEN, LANCASTER UNIVERSITY
Before I went to University I had no idea what I wanted to do afterwards. That's why I chose a Science degree (Biology) as I knew it would still leave me with a wide range of career options. Unfortunately when I left the University of Exeter, I still didn't have a clue about what I wanted to do! I signed up to the Graduate Recruitment Bureau and they immediately started sending me roles that would fit with my degree. A few of these were for Market Research agencies. At the time, I had never even heard of Market Research, but I became interested after reading a bit more about the roles. GRB set me up with an interview for a company based in London and provided me with a great deal of support, with guidance on what to expect and the kind of things I should talk about in the interview. My first interview seemed to go well, I was invited back for a second and then evenutally I was offered the job!
It turned out that market research was perfectly suited to my interests, skills, education and even my limited previous work experience (Saturday jobs in the high street)! Market research involves researching the opinion of consumers to help companies improve their services and products and I've been able to work with major global companies, including Coca Cola, Unilever and Nestle. Over the past 3 years I've been lucky enough to be given several promotions, although it has involved a lot of hard work at times. Now I'm a Research Manager and I'm living and working in Dubai with a different Market Research agency after recently moving jobs. When I left University 3 years ago without a clue what to do next, I never could have imagined I would end up here and I'm very grateful to GRB for their help starting me on this path!
Luke - University of Exeter