NEWS18 March 2021

A new generation: How to reach out to young researchers

Impact 2021 News People UK Youth

UK – Market research businesses should avoid focusing on academic qualifications when recruiting and try to make the industry more accessible to those from diverse backgrounds, a young researchers panel at MRS Impact 2021 has said.

Career building blocks young researcher_crop

The panel, chaired by Jennifer Roberton, managing director of Respondi, also discussed imposter syndrome and how important it was for senior members of the industry to be candid about the mistakes they made earlier in their careers.

The panel featured Theo Francis, founder and director of GuineaPig Fieldwork and co-founder and director at Colour of Research; Chloe Bartlem, research manager and associate partner at Razor Research; and Amanda Hammond, commercial research executive at ITV.

Francis said that he believes there is too much of an ‘Oxbridge’ culture in market research, and there needed to be steps to move away from that.

“It is decreasing the diversity not just of educational background, but also financial background and ethnicity,” he said. “The work we do is representing the population – the population of the UK is not all Oxbridge graduates, so why would we have an industry full of that?

“It is about ability. I like the idea of just doing away with these credentials.”

Research agencies should step away from traditional recruitment material, such as the CV, said Bartlem, and rethink their requirements for junior or graduate posts.

“The longer I have worked in market research, the more I have become aware of the lack of diversity,” she said. “I don’t necessarily think you need a degree, and don’t think you need a top degree from a top university to work in market research. 

“I think there is room for us to open up and welcome people from different backgrounds.”

On imposter syndrome, Hammond said that she had felt empowered by her manager and team to take opportunities to increase her professional development. “Trust is the most important thing to me when taking leaps of faith, both trusting yourself and trust from your company and your peers,” she said.

“My team and my manager have trusted me to speak on behalf of ITV and write awards submissions, and it has been so beneficial for my development.”

Francis said that “we believe deep down we are not good enough or we need to know more” and added that the “truth is, if you had all of that in place, you still wouldn’t feel ready; you don’t learn how to ride a bike by reading a book”.

He added that chief executives, founders and senior management could help create an environment that encouraged younger people to take opportunities in their careers, rather than being put off due to fear of failure.

“I think we need to be more open and honest in telling our stories,” he explained. “Chief executives and founders should remember that time they were starting out, when they were vulnerable, they had no clue what they were doing and they were trying their best not to mess it up.

“They should tell that story so the next generation can see they did not have it all lined up. They are people who had a dream and backed themselves.

“We have this façade of looking professional and trying to portray this issue of success, so you don’t want to tell everyone all of your fears and anxieties. But that is the one of the most endearing things about being human – relatability.”

Bartlem said failure was a common experience in everyone’s career. “All we can ask people to be is honest, be their true selves and be authentic,” she said.

“We need role models who can show us what their career paths were but with complete honesty, talking us through the highs and lows. The failure is just as important to hear.”

Mentoring could also help. Hammond said there was an awareness issue among younger researchers. “Mentoring schemes sound quite scary at face value. But so much time is spent matching a mentor to a mentee,” she said.

Bartlem said that Covid-19 could also boost access to mentoring, apprenticeships and internships for people outside London. “It is a great time to be reaching out to the rest of the country.”

If you missed the conference, it’s all available via the MRS on demand service. Go to www.mrs.org.uk/Impact2021 to find out more.

1 Comment

6 months ago

You may not learn how to ride a bike by reading a book, but you do learn how to an analysis of variance or a structural equation model by doing so. Yes, we should temper the contribution of top academic professionals to the mix of attributes a good researcher or a young researcher needs. But charm, youth, and desire are not enough for a career based on science and maths.

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