What wisdom would I share with my younger research self?

Life as a young researcher in the early 2000’s was probably pretty different to what it would be now… lots of face to face fieldwork, plenty of trips on the delightful M1, getting to know your ‘favourite’ service stations and deciding which holdall bag was big enough to carry your random stimulus of ready meals, with the odd game of ‘I wonder if I’d fit in this holdall’…. at 5 foot 2 it was a fair challenge!

It’s a time that you don’t forget, mainly because it was part of your early research years, when everything seemed new, a bit daunting and most days saw some kind of challenge, big or small. Those early days can be tough, particularly if you’re surrounded by such amazing talent from other experienced seniors. Looking back, these were some of the best years, purely because they’re some of the days when you’re learning and developing at a fast pace and genuinely finding your feet.

You realise that those experienced seniors around you have a lot of wisdom to pass on.

advice is what sticks with you over time (for good and for bad)

You learn and grow quickly and before you know it things you used to find really challenging seem to just ‘click’ and you feel like you finally know what you’re doing.

Now I am at a point where I am one of those said seniors, it got me thinking “What wisdom would I share with my younger research self?”. So many things – don’t take things too personally, there will be mistakes (no matter how hard you try) but it’s how you reflect and learn from them that’s the real learning, treat every day as a new day, things take time to learn and we’re all different, learn to thrive on feedback (even when it’s hard to take), stay humble and if you can, be resilient.

Research is not for the faint hearted

But also, be kind and learn to laugh at yourself, it will really help along the way. Take 5 mins and talk to others in times of stress and give others space when they need it. Everyone is constantly juggling so look for ways you can help. Make your colleague a cup of tea, offer to help, listen, offer to pick up their lunch if they can’t get away, they’re the little things that don’t go unnoticed.

And a few practical things – Break down the day into bitesize chunks when it all gets too much (I still do this now), remember we’re not doctors (even though we may work like them sometimes!), lean on others when you need to and get to know your clients. They will remember you as you grow and develop.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and challenge

It’s essential to be innovative and introduce new ways of thinking.

A career in market research is like no other, there are so many paths to explore, deadlines to meet, client relationships to build, consumers to understand and problems to solve. We are all constantly learning but we are also having fun along the way. As they say, “Time flies when you are having fun” and before you know it, it’ll be 17 years later and you’ll be wondering, how did that even happen and if you can still fit in that holdall…