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Reflections on graduate work experience

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Sam Willcocks I’ve recently completed work experience at the RS Consulting Group, a market and social research agency, and thought I’d share some reflections on my first stint working in the industry. 

Coming out of University, like many others, I wasn’t sure what to do next. This was made worse by the fact my degree is in Human Geography, one of the least job specific degrees around. There seem to be an infinite number of jobs being advertised and I don’t really get many of them. Terms such as ‘account executive’ are used to describe almost all positions, a term meaning nothing to me.

After much consideration I decided to focus on market research. Throughout my degree I enjoyed research related modules and really enjoyed writing my dissertation (something my friends could never understand). However, I had little understanding of the day-to-day role of a Research Consultant and was unwilling to apply for jobs with little knowledge of what I was getting myself into.

So I contacted a number of agencies asking if it was possible that they could offer me some work experience, in the hope I’d gain greater insight into the world of market research, before deciding whether it’s the career for me.  RS Consulting got back to me saying they would help, so we spoke about my experience to date and what I was hoping to get from my time there. This helped them organise a schedule which would allow me to get the most out the experience.

When I arrived I was assigned to a Research Consultant (Guy), who introduced me to the company, and my schedule.  The company structure  was surprisingly complex, with 4  brands serving different customer research needs:  Consensus research – Finance, Leapfrog – Consumer research, mruk – Social research and RS Consulting – B2B research.  Later on I went out for a ‘welcome lunch’ with a few of the RS researchers, learning directly about their experiences. They all worked in different areas of the business so I got a very rounded view of what I could expect from a career in market research, and insight into the practicalities of the different specialisms I could expect to work on (quantitative, qualitative or both).

I was assigned the sort of tasks which I could expect as a graduate researcher. Guy also talked me through detailed examples of previous projects he had completed. From this I learned how a research project is undertaken, from when the initial brief is received, right through to the final presentation. This gave me a real understanding of what would be expected of me as a researcher starting out, and the direction I could expect my career to take.

I’m grateful to RS for giving me the opportunity, and I’m confident market research is the career for me. I found everyone I worked with very friendly, with very positive views on both the company and working in the research industry (apart from the odd moan about deadlines!). Moreover, having helped the team to work on a number of projects I’m confident I have skills and aptitude to take on a research position.

Now for the slightly harder task of actually getting a permanent job!

Sam Willcocks

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