Monday, November 25, 2013

Should You Take That Consulting Role? Here's Why or Why Not

As many companies are keeping a tight rein on headcount costs, I’m seeing an uptick in available consulting positions. An increasing number of the marketing analytics positions we’ve been working on have been with consulting firms. Although outsourcing to control headcount is not a new trend, the increase means that there could be more opportunities available to someone who is open to the possibility of a consulting role.

In our recent Burtch Works Study: Marketing Research Professionals and Burtch Works Study: Big Data Professionals we discovered that consulting pays well for both groups, and I am interested to see how the current trend affects salary and demographics over the coming years.

For someone whose lifestyle can accommodate a heavy travel schedule there are certainly advantages to taking a consulting position; since your clients may be in a wide variety of industries it is a great way to gain exposure to different industries. It is also a great opportunity to build a network beyond your colleagues. As you gain exposure with high level corporate professionals keep in mind that these connections will benefit you throughout your career.

There are several things to consider however, before pursuing a consulting position. There will almost always be heavy travel involved, with a typical schedule of Monday through Thursday traveling and Friday working in the local office. So if you have a young family or your lifestyle cannot accommodate a rigorous travel schedule, then it might not be the best choice for you.

In addition, as you take on a more senior role you will be expected to drive business and revenue, and contribute to the growth of the business, at which point business development skills will be crucial for success.

For quantitative and marketing research professionals alike the increase in consulting positions could present a lot of opportunities, but it’s always important to consider and balance your lifestyle goals with your career goals before committing to anything.

Regardless of your career goals however, you should position yourself in a way where you are the asset – your knowledge, your skills, and your unique perspective. I always advise my candidates to make sure that you are a value-add to your organization; by doing so you ensure that you will always be marketable, whether your goal is a promotion or a job change.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Career Advice and Trends for Marketing Research Professionals

As part of my guest blogger series, the Burtch Works marketing research team, Karla Ahern and Naomi Keller, will be sharing some of their articles previously published in AMA magazine. In the June 2013 issue Karla and Naomi published the article below about hiring trends they are seeing in the field, as well as career advice for marketing research professionals. They also recently released The Burtch Works Study: Salaries for Marketing Research Professionals, which looks at salary information and how it varies by geography, education, industry, career level and more. Prior to joining Burtch Works, Karla and Naomi worked in client services, account management and business development roles at research firms including GfK, Ipsos and IRI.

Career Advice for Researchers

When we think about the signs of healthy economy activity and recovery from the recession, it’s all too tempting to have tunnel vision in lieu of reports that claim that companies are still cautious on the hiring front. But when you look at businesses’ day-to-day hiring practices, there is no denying that a sense of urgency is returning to the market.

In the past months and years, our team that recruits for professionals in market research witnessed the frustrating trend of human resources and hiring managers failing to move quickly enough. It was not uncommon to interview for months only to wait even longer for a final decision and offer to be made. Companies wanted to make sure that the worker they hired was fully committed for fear that she was only making a move for shortsighted reasons or out of desperation after a layoff. But the tides appear to be turning. Hiring authorities are finally starting to realize that if they sit around waiting for an impossibly perfect candidate, or if they drag their feet during the interview process, candidates have no problem going somewhere else.

A Different Sort of Recovery

Rest assured that economic recovery is happening. It’s not the same kind of bounce-back that we may have seen in past recessions, but we’re witnessing a slow and sure positive change as companies look to increase headcount in market research. Most notably, we have seen increased needs in the pharmaceutical, technology and retail industries, mostly at the middle to senior level. Big-name firms never used to have a problem attracting top-grade talent to join their teams, but times are changing.

The good candidates are out there. If companies are having trouble hiring them, it’s because workers are being courted by multiple companies at once. As soon as a well-qualified candidate begins his job search, multiple employers may be interested. It’s interesting to note that many of these prospects are client-side opportunities as of late, suggesting that this may start to become a trend in job growth in the coming months and years.

Large CPG firms that used to be able to count on their names and reputations now are competing for candidates’ attention, as exceptional workers are weighing multiple offers and can afford to be picky with their choices. For clients, it’s important to know what they’re competing against: aggressive salaries, growing bonus potential, good career trajectory and relocation assistance, for example.

What Makes a Good Candidate

Of course, this is excellent news for market research candidates. We have noticed that those with four to eight years of experience in consumer insights are seeing a lot of activity, especially if they’ve had experience on the client or corporate side. Again, we’ve seen this sector becoming more active lately, so it’s a good indicator of what we can expect in the near future.

Candidates with an advanced degree, either a master’s degree, or an M.B.A., typically attract more attention from employers. Continuing education is always a good investment, but with today’s competitive market, giving yourself another advantage against other workers pays off. We often talk to clients looking to fill more senior positions who only want to consider candidates with the aforementioned degrees and this will only become more of a requirement for senior-level positions in the future.

Flexibility with location also is a desirable trait for candidates today. While major metropolitan areas have always been a hub for market research careers, large corporations have long had opportunities available in less-populated areas in the Midwest and Southern regions of the US. Candidates who are open to relocating are able to explore more options, and more companies are starting to offer competitive relocation assistance packages that we haven’t seen for years.

Flexibility on the title is another, sometimes more challenging, trait to find in candidates. Although workers should consider career growth and management experience in their job searches, it’s important to remember that a title isn’t everything. Your title can vary from company to company, as different employers use various internal classifications. A senior analyst at a small boutique firm means something quite different at a Fortune 500 company. Understand that when switching industries, lateral moves are sometimes necessary to gain experience in the long run.

The coming months should provide more insight into what we’ve already been seeing, namely the growth in shopping insights and client-side options. Market research was named one of the hottest jobs in 2012, and we have no doubt that 2013 and 2014 are sure to follow suit.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

How to Get Your First Analytics Job

Over the past few months Burtch Works’ entry-level recruiting specialists Erin Craig and Erinn Tobin have been visiting colleges and universities to meet with students who are preparing to enter the field of analytics. After securing a degree in statistics, mathematics or other related fields, the next challenge for many students is their job search. This will be the first job search for many of them and I wanted to give Erin and Erinn an opportunity to share some of their most helpful tips for students. Since they receive a lot of questions from students on their campus visits, I will also be inviting them to post their answers on my blog as guest contributors in the coming months.

Burtch Works’ Top Tips for Entry-Level Candidates 

1. Utilize LinkedIn – Over 90% of corporate and independent recruiters who recruit using social media use LinkedIn. It is fast becoming the go-to resource for companies to check your references and resume, as well as a resource for job seekers to stay updated on company news, search for job postings and develop their network. Having an updated, professional profile on the site allows companies with whom you are applying or interviewing to see you as a person they might want to hire, not just another anonymous resume.

2. Complete an Internship – A great way to test your skills, continue learning and expand your network is to complete an internship. Without previous work experience to go on, prospective employers will look at internships (as well as coursework) to determine if you might be a good fit for their organization. Sometimes - if a company is looking to hire full time and you demonstrate an exceptional work ethic- an internship may also lead to a job offer.

3. Get Your Hands On Messy Data – One of the biggest challenges students will face in their first analytics job is the lack of experience they have with real-world data sets, so in addition to completing an internship your strategy to enhance your resume must include working with unstructured data. Two great online resources we would recommend are Coursera and Kaggle: Coursera is an MOOC (Massive Online Open Curriculum) where you can take free courses to further your education and Kaggle hosts data science competitions where you can not only test your abilities against other members, but also get access to large, unstructured data sets more similar to the ones you might use at an analytics job. Completing your SAS certification can also add credibility to your analytic skills and as many companies adopt other tools - such as R, Python, SQL, etc. – you will have a significant advantage if you diversify your skill set.

4. Leverage a Recruiter – Developing a relationship with a recruiter early in your career has many advantages: companies will often have open positions that they fill by working with recruiters (not by posting them on job boards), your resume will be seen by a hiring manager instead of disappearing into a pool of other resumes in their online tracking system, and it lends a more personal experience to what can be a very daunting hiring process.
Burtch Works sends out monthly emails to students that cover all the topics that, in our experience as quantitative recruiters, can help you prepare for the road ahead. Want to learn more about the interview process, how to get high-quality references and what you can expect at your first job? Don’t miss out! Contact Erin Craig to receive more expert advice from our recruiters and be on the invitation list for our career webinars. Check back soon, when Erin and Erinn will tackle some of your job-search questions.