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Trade Talk: What's the view from the MR job sidelines?

Article ID:
June 2013, page 10
Joseph Rydholm, Quirk's Editor

Article Abstract

A look at the verbatim responses from the unemployed cohort from Quirk's annual researcher salary survey.

As part of this year’s iteration of our annual researcher salary survey (see Emily Goon’s recap on p. 66) we asked respondents who indicated they were unemployed an open-ended question on what they saw as the greatest obstacle in finding employment.

Reading over some of their responses proves that, against the current backdrop of cautious optimism pervading the marketing research industry and the economy as a whole, it’s always instructive to remember that not everyone has been swept up in the rising tide.

Perhaps as a result of departments being downsized or eliminated altogether, the comments point to a glut of senior-level or at least highly-experienced researchers (client-side and vendor-side) pounding the pavement:

“There are too few senior-level jobs.”

“Lack of mid-management opportunities in any industry.”

 “Few opportunities at sr. director and v.p. level.”

Ageism appears rampant (accompanied by the dreaded “overqualified” status):

“Being older than 50 – there is incredible age bias out there now.”

“Age, overqualified for most opportunities (I’m willing to accept lower-level positions but companies are not willing to offer them).”

“The amount of experience I have is more than most positions want. Qualifications are stringent and if you don’t exactly match up, there is not a consideration of a possible fit.”

One commenter summed up the impact of the rise of big data: “The social media and big data trend seems to have impacted traditional market research jobs. Increasingly, jobs are asking for a trilogy of skills as part of the emerging ‘data scientist’ role: 1) BI, data querying and database skills, 2) market research and 3) statistical analytics (SPSS/SAS). Each is really a separate discipline that takes years to master.”

The job-search process itself and a lack of solid contacts were highlighted for blame by several respondents:

“Making contacts. Cold résumé submissions to job postings, even on company Web sites, garner no results. Knowing someone inside a company, or even knowing someone who knows someone, is the only way to get traction.”

“The online application process is a huge barrier. Your application goes into a black hole. There is no one to contact to follow up on the status of filling the position or to get feedback.”

In other instances, location-related problems were mentioned:

“A few things: 1) Very competitive environment in the Bay Area; lots of very qualified researchers, especially for corporate research positions. 2) Difficult to convince corporate hiring managers that I am adequately qualified for work in *their* environment, since my background is entirely supply-side. 3) I live in SJ and most supply-side positions are in SF; the commute is just not reasonable for day-to-day work. I plan to relocate closer to SF this summer to make those job prospects even possible.”

“The talent pool is abundant and my search is confined to a small but highly desirable area – Los Angeles.”

“I am a qualitative researcher and there aren’t many of those jobs here in or around Seattle.”

“Limited commercial biopharma opportunities in my geography – San Diego.”

“Finding primary research positions with clients in Denver.”

'Very slim'

From being too experienced to the general difficulty of being in the job market right now, this person perhaps summed it up best: “There’s just simply a shortage of jobs. On top of that, the majority of jobs being advertised are located in either the pharmaceutical/medical or telecommunications industries. If you have not worked in those industries, your chance of being hired for one of these jobs is very slim. Also, as a more senior marketing professional, I feel that companies prefer not to pay the higher salary rates for seasoned professionals but are mostly looking to take on younger people with around five years of experience – not those of us who have dedicated 20 or more years to our calling. Tough market. Tough competition.”

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