5 Things I Didn’t Expect From A Job In Market Research

Having recently celebrated her one year anniversary at Mustard, Research Executive Izzy reflects on the past year…

I joined Mustard as a graduate, fresh out of my 3-year psychology degree in Liverpool. I’d never considered a job in market research until it popped up on my university job page – to be honest, I didn’t really know what it was. I hadn’t come across it at all in my degree, and ‘research executive’ was just another title in amongst the chaos that is the postgraduate job hunt. But after giving the description a read (and liking how whimsical it would be to work somewhere that’s named after a condiment), I thought “hmm, now this has the potential to be really interesting.”  18 months later, here I am, living in Manchester, with a year’s market research under my belt. So, what has surprised me about working in market research, as a complete newbie in the field?

1 – It’s not an ‘office job’

One assumption I made upon taking the RE job was that it was a 9-5 desk job… mistake number one. Whilst I do spend the majority of my week in the comfort of my swivel chair, I’ve had to travel up and down the country for focus groups, vox pops, interviews, and presentations. One job that sticks out was the day my colleague and I, Hannah, did almost 40,000 steps across Greenwich Park in one day – my legs have never been the same since. I really like that there’s opportunities to see new places, meet new people, and get out from the office. Whilst the away days can be tiring, it’s fulfilling to see your project come to life in person, and useful to immerse yourself in the place with the sample.

2 – It’s not all graphs and spreadsheets

In total honesty, the name ‘market research’ doesn’t entice people into thinking that this could be a particularly ‘fun’ job. I expected to be creating /analysing graphs and looking at Excel all day. Mistake number two! Whilst there is a big element of spreadsheets and charting, this is more the means-to-an end than the end itself. The focus on storytelling is huge. I’ve also looked into some really entertaining markets. For one project, we created food diaries, where I feasted my eyes on other people’s meals for a week! Another had me ordering 100 meal kits to the office…the variety keeps you on your toes, and it’s always exciting when a more ‘fun’ or abstract brief comes in.

3 – You have to keep up

Coming from a scientific background, I was all too familiar with the fact that research is forever changing – but I didn’t expect this to apply to market research as much as it does. There is so much to keep on top of, news wise! Consumer needs constantly change, research and analysis methods continue to develop, new ground-breaking insights get released daily…you have to keep yourself in the loop about what’s going on, both in wider world and the somewhat smaller world of market research , in order to understand why your data looks the way it does. You’re constantly learning, something I know my colleagues can vouch for too! I do enjoy looking at Research Live every day though – it’s my version of a morning newspaper.

4 – People are mean, sometimes

Maybe one I should have anticipated, but I didn’t consider, is the hostility of (some of) the general public in relation to my job. Thankfully rare and anecdotal experiences, but people are very quick to jump down your throat when their incentive is a day late, or when they think you’re trying to sell them something. It takes a hard skin sometimes to move past, and I have to remind myself that it’s not personal.

5 – We use AI all the time

I guess a  lack of knowledge led me to believe that AI could only be used by those well-versed in computer science…mistake number three. At Mustard, we subscribe to many different AI services for all different purposes – for example, Caplena for coding open-text responses, and Otter to transcribe. It’s incredible how intuitive these services are and how much of a time saver they can be! I enjoy using AI in my day-to-day life to streamline a lot of processed, and I would never look back now.

Whilst I’m sure I’ve only scratched the surface of what this industry has to offer, I’ve really enjoyed dipping my toes into the world of market research. It’s been a very eye-opening experience as someone who didn’t know a single thing about it 18 months ago. I think I may have found a career that I could see myself doing in 10, 15 years time, which is a big statement coming from a post-graduate 23-year-old once previously filled with existential dread. I know I’ve got lots (and lots) to learn, but I’m excited for the journey!