Tips for Practitioners Re / Entering Marketing Research
RE-/ENTERING THE MARKETING RESEARCH AND MARKET INTELLIGENCE INDUSTRY IN CANADA
Here are 10 tips for re-/entering the marketing research industry in Canada. These tips are brought to you by Ellie Sykes, CMRP, who has coached many newcomers and "re-enterers" into the marketing research industry in Canada.
- Networking. Get out there and meet people. If you live in a large centre, there are always events going on. Check out the MRIA, AMA, CPRS, SCIP, SME and other Associations that attract marketing and research professionals and go to their speaker and social events. When you make some connections and they know you're interested in learning more about the industry or a specific area, ask for referrals to other people they think you should talk to.
- Contact your local MRIA Chapter. Get involved and volunteer on your local MRIA Chapter Board, or at least get out to their next event. The MRIA is always looking for keen new volunteers! This is a great opportunity to meet a lot of very connected people very quickly!
- Business cards. If you don't already have business cards - make some. Most office supply stores have business card templates you can print off on your own computer at home, or hit a quick copy printer and do a small batch run. They don't have to be expensive to look professional.
- Work on your Resume. Make sure to focus on your transferable skills if you don't have any direct marketing or market research experience. Remember that service industry or retail experience is highly transferable because you've been in direct contact with consumers on the front line, have sales experience, have a positive/energetic personality, and understand customer satisfaction and training. If you have academic experience doing marketing research projects, build that in under your relevant experience as well.
- Take a Course: Update your skills. MRIA offers some great educational courses as well as the CMRP designation (Certified Marketing Research Professional); check out our Web site. Or try a local college for part-time studies. Brushing up on marketing, marketing research (qualitative and quantitative), computers, sales, communications, branding, customer satisfaction, etc, can be done quickly and affordably.
- Do your Homework. As when looking for any new career/job, you should do some research to determine the type of company you'd like to work for: industry, size, area of specialization, corporate culture and personality, need for someone with your skills, salary levels, perks, etc. Once you've generated a list of companies, try to find a direct contact in the marketing or research department.
- Book information Interviews. Call the companies on your "short list" and ask for an information interview. Most people are more than willing to give 30 minutes of their time to talk to people interested in getting into the industry. It is best to position your request as an information-gathering session rather than "I'm looking for a job". It is obvious that you're looking for a job, but if you tell people that it just puts their defenses up and they're more likely to say no. When you ask for the interview, say that you're interested in learning more about the industry and their day-to-day activities on the job, what they like and don't like about their profession, etc. Leave your name and number in case they need to reschedule. Arrive a few minutes early, but not too early! If you're worried about being on time get there early but don't go into the office until just before show time. It is stressful for people when they know there is someone waiting for them. After your meeting, immediately mail a personalized thank you note. I've hosted numerous information sessions and they usually end up being more than 30 minutes, because once you get someone talking about themselves and their industry it's hard to get them to stop! I've also kept in touch with those that made themselves memorable, passing along job postings when they came across my desk.
- Put together a Portfolio. When you go for your information interview, have your "tool kit" ready, and be prepared to back up your responses with evidence. So if they happen to ask you about your writing skills, you can show them. If you're a recent grad include your grades (most of the time people don't ask, but in case they do, you can show them). Also include any letters of reference you have from previous employers, clients, colleagues and instructors. Sometimes information interviews end up being a full job interview, so be prepared for this to happen in case it does.
- Get the "perfect" Suit. In addition to having the portfolio to back you up, you need to look the part. Get a good suit for networking and information interviews. Don't forget the shoes too.
- Work on your Handshake. Practice your handshake with friends and family. This may sound silly, but it can really make or break you because it is one of the first things that people will notice and remember about you. Don't worry about sweaty palms. Sweaty and firm grip is much better than sweaty and loose grip. So...square up, make eye contact, put your hand out there. If you're nervous watch the other person's hand as you're making contact to make sure you actually get a good grip, give a good shake and release. Make sure you shake everyone's hand if you're being introduced to a group.