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Research Officer: Inspire Me

By UCL Careers, on 15 January 2015

As part of our #UCLInspireMe series, Joni Browne, Research Officer at the Institute for Volunteering Research (IVR) part of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO)  talks to us about how she got this role and shares some tips for UCL students who want to get into the Research sector.

How did you get into your role?Joni Browne

After five years of frenzied trial and error in other roles, I worked out that I needed a job which was varied, required a mix of interpersonal, academic and analytical skills, and had a structured career path. Research was particularly appealing because it has the power to influence and shape an organisation’s policies and strategies. I got my foot in the door by applying for a graduate role at a market research agency called IFF Research where I quickly gained exposure to different research methodologies across a variety of sectors. I then moved into health-related researcher/analyst roles in the NHS, Ipsos MORI and Capita. Last year I took up my current position as a Research Officer at the Institute for Volunteering Research (IVR), where I spend most of my time evaluating volunteering programmes for voluntary organisations.

What are the best things about working in your role?

If variety is the spice of life, then research is Spiceworld. I’m involved in qualitative and quantitative research, so tasks I might carry out include designing questionnaires, conducting interviews, analysing data and presenting findings. There are periods where I might be out doing fieldwork, talking to volunteers or staff at voluntary organisations, and then other times I might be by myself agonising over some data, what they mean and how to best explain them in a report. No two projects are ever the same, and each comes with its own challenges so it’s always stimulating and I’m always learning.

I’m fortunate enough to work with extremely bright, thoughtful, supportive people that I like and learn from. We can debate serious matters such as research ethics one moment, and have in-depth discussions about ‘MasterChef’ or croissants the next – all with equal fervour. If I’m working on a stressful or difficult project, having good colleagues around takes the edge off it.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your work?

Job security can be an issue depending on how the research role is funded and whether it’s agency-side or client-side/in-house. Fixed-term rather than permanent contracts are the norm for some roles given that many organisations (especially in the voluntary sector) are seeing their research budgets squeezed. The hours of work can sometimes be unsociable if you have to travel for fieldwork. Finally, it’s worth noting that if you want to make millions, retire at 40 and sip piña coladas on your own private beach, research isn’t the area to get into. I don’t think the pay ever truly reflects the effort and range of skills required to do the job well.

What top tips would you pass on to a student interested in this type of work?

Social research and market research are highly competitive, but do not be deterred. I’d recommend the following:

  1. Try to get onto a graduate scheme. While some bigger organisations are better known and look good on your CV, a smaller organisation might give you more responsibility more quickly
  2. You might want to specialise in either qualitative or quantitative research but consider gaining skills in both to maximise your attractiveness to employers
  3. Try to take degree modules which have a research methods component for training in research techniques and an understanding of the theories behind them
  4. Strong IT skills (especially Microsoft Office) are essential, and if you can use software such as SPSS, even better
  5. Getting voluntary work experience as a researcher is one way to gain practical experience and get a taste of whether you might like to pursue it as a career
  6. It’s worth identifying organisations you would like to do research for, checking out their website and sending them your CV on spec. Other channels you might use to find graduate schemes and research jobs include CharityJob, Jobs.ac.uk, Guardian Jobs, and Milkround.

If you’re interested in a career in the Market Research sector, visit Careers Tagged.

Senior Project Manager: Inspire Me

By UCL Careers, on 30 September 2014

As part of our #UCLInspireMe series, Darren Ramsay, Senior Project Manager at Market Probe  talks to us about how he decided to work in Project Management within a Market Research company and shares some tips for UCL students who may be considering this as a career.

About Me:Darren Ramsay

After 4 successful years in TV and Media, presenting, modelling and acting the work started to dry up. Whilst I was in-between presenting roles at the age of 26 I decided to look for part time paid work. I saw an ad for a Market Researcher in a call centre which paid minimum wage but paid enough money to cover my rent and cover a few bills whilst waiting for the next presenting role to come along.

I got the job and began calling respondents and carrying out surveys. I actually enjoyed this and decided to turn down presenting roles in favour for work in the call centre. (Occasionally leaving to attend the BBC building in White City for presenting work as it was near and the extra money was always welcome.

How did I get the role I am in today:

A few months passed and I plucked up the courage to ask my Director if there were any career opportunities within the company and if so, were there any vacancies? He said they were looking for a receptionist. I decided to interview for this for this position. During the interview I was told that they wanted me for a more professional role and that I would be assisting the Associate Director.

I had the encompassing job title of Operations Executive. This basically meant that I helped tidy up all the projects that were running at the time. Checking tables, coding, data entry, validating etc. Working with the Associate Director was a huge learning curve for me and helped me grow professionally, paving my way to bigger and better opportunities.

After 4 months as an Operations Exec I saw a vacant position for Project Manager in the Face-2-Face department. I once again plucked up the courage to ask my director if I could apply. I had the interview and was accepted for the position. 8 years on and I am running the Face-2-Face department in the company as a Senior Project Manager.

What I like about the role I am in today: Market Probe

I love people! As a people’s person and I have the opportunity to work with so many different people every day. Not only do we have a call centre that holds 100 interviewers, I also have up to 500 staff around the UK working on Face-2-Face projects for me. I get to liaise with them on a daily basis building a good working relationship, rapport, trust and even friendships. This for me is rewarding. The interviewers enjoy what they do, they enjoy working for me and they get paid for it. Having a professional, fun, working relationship with the interviewers ensures they are  reliable, trustworthy, provide good quality interviews, with punctual work packs sent back to the office and research that my clients and I are thankful and grateful for.

I also secretively enjoy working for different brands like 3 Network. This is because I am a customer of 3 and it’s very interesting to read what thousands of other customers of 3 think about them.

What are my biggest challenges?

My biggest challenge at work is juggling the projects I am running.  This is a challenge because I have to factor in many, many stages for just one project.

My top tips:

GO-GET-EM-ATTITUDE!!! Working in Market Research is not something many study for. A lot of the people in this industry fell into their roles. Be brazen, quick thinking and have the ability to work in a pressured environment. My acting, presenting skills and most important, my ambitious personality helps me deliver all the above and more in my role.

To find out more about careers in Market Research, visit Careers Tagged. To get hand on experience of what Project Management is, sign up to the Project Management Skills4Work sessions.