How to get the most out of your career in research

Lara Fisher Jones spent over 11 years in research, both agency side with Ipsos MORI and ISIS Hong Kong and client side with BA and Shell, before making the move into specialist market research recruitment with Stopgap in London. An expert in research recruitment and careers, in this article she looks at how you can get the most out of a career in research… 


A career in the world of market research can be fulfilling, challenging and enjoyable.  But how do you make sure that you that you get where you want to be?  How can you fully realise your potential and at the same time be happy in your role?  Success and career can mean different things to different people but I've listed below some general checks that anyone should be keeping an eye wherever they are in their career:-

Think about the career path you want and plan for it

In the same way you're supporting clients or your company in their longer term strategic aims, you also need to keep an eye on your longer term end goal.  For some this may mean advancing every 1-3 years to the next ‘level’ up – in the agency side world from RE to SRE for example.  For others it could be choosing to specialise in one methodology or sector area. Your employer should clearly articulate what you need to do in order to achieve the next promotion or your end goal – use this to focus on what you need to do for the next year ahead.

As mentioned above, always keep an eye on the bigger picture.  I appreciate time can move very fast when you're in involved in several projects – each with demanding deadlines – however, take a regular step back from the day to day to assess where you are and where you want to be.  Regular catch ups should be happening with your manager – if they're not, ask for them.   In addition to your manager, it can also be worthwhile having a mentor to support you.  Someone within the research sector but not necessarily in your company.  Someone who can take an independent view on matters and provide you with additional support and guidance.  The MRS runs a mentoring scheme which is open to MRS members, giving you access to senior individuals in the research sector.  

Say yes a lot (within reason!)

If you're offered opportunities to get involved in different methodologies, in different project teams or on different client accounts – say yes. Even if you're not so sure – by trying things out you'll learn, increase your exposure internally and work out what you do and don't want to do moving forwards.  

Keep on top of trends, technology and tools

Given the ever changing world we're living in, it’s important to keep your knowledge and skills up to date.  This includes taking advantage of each and every training opportunity your employer offers – some companies set aside a training budget for each employee. Make sure you use it each year.  If there isn't a budget within your company, make a case for it – all of us need to continually develop and learn.  After all, the employer ultimately benefits as well.    Again, the MRS offers a wide range of courses that have something to offer wherever you are in your career.  Training providers needn't be exclusive to the research sector – you can look more widely. For example story-telling is crucial in the presentation of data/ information – this isn't just applicable to research. It can be useful to look at it more broadly and bring learnings across from other sectors.  A commercial mindset is also fundamental for researchers – absorb as much information as possible around your company or end clients’ place in the market, competitor set, understand sector challenges and opportunities.  All of this makes you a better researcher, and enables you to deliver more insightful recommendations.

In addition to training, read widely.  Keep an eye out for interesting podcasts or books that can add to your thinking.  There is a lot of content  freely available.  Also – network, and network in the widest sense. Within your company, with ex-colleagues, with clients and with other marketing colleagues. It all adds to perspective, understanding and knowledge.  

Keep your CV up to date and think about your personal brand

Your next dream job could be just around the corner – make sure you take a regular look over your CV and keep it up to date.  It will save that last minute revision when you may be pressed for time.  Similarly, keep your LinkedIn profile updated – make sure it’s 100% complete, make connecting a habit and develop a clear, succinct summary.  Recruiters and potential employers are looking.

I mentioned personal branding above – again this is something we all need to be aware of. Building your personal brand is about strategically, creatively and professionally presenting what makes you, you. Think about it when you're commenting on posts on LinkedIn, sharing content or even putting yourself forwards to speak at external conferences or internal seminars. 

Where it might take you

A lot of people within research will stay in research for the duration of their career.  That’s because it continues to offer challenges throughout + it’s a sector full of bright, engaged and interesting/interested individuals.  However, the experience you gain by working in research is vital and relevant for entrepreneurship, communications and business strategy plus due to its consultative nature, it can provide a great base for transferring across to a consultancy firm.  Or indeed across to the client side.   Basically there are a number of paths open to you – enjoy whichever direction you take.

Please get in touch if you would like to chat over your career or if you are looking to recruit research professional.  In addition, we have lots of advice on CV writing, LinkedIn profiles, interviewing + more on the Stopgap website.

Lara Fisher Jones, Senior talent consultant – recruiter for research.insight agency & clientside roles at Stopgap.