On the Job, and The State of the Research Job Market, Spring 2014

Karla Ahern and Naomi Keller
Marketing News
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Key Takeaways
  • Take every opportunity to gain experience.

  • Develop your personal brand.

  • Read anything and everything that you can get your hands on.

Tim McGarry talks about how he landed his job as the social media editor for USA Today Sports, and shares his advice for students and job seekers 

Q: How did you get your job?  

A: While an undergrad at the University of Virginia, I served as a marketing intern with the athletics department. After graduating, I moved to Washington, D.C., and enrolled in Georgetown University’s Sports Industry Management master’s degree program.

I was a digital marketing intern with the Washington Redskins during my first semester at Georgetown. The following semester, I served as a marketing and development intern with USA Today Sports. Within that role, I helped manage the social media accounts for USA Today Sports and was offered a full-time position as a social media editor at the end of my internship.

Q: What was your major in college? Does it help with your job today?

A: I concentrated on strategic marketing, communications and digital media while at Georgetown, and the things I learned in the classroom are very applicable to what I do on a daily basis.

However, more than just learning things from a textbook, I think the relationships I formed while at school have been the most valuable. I had the opportunity to learn from some amazing professors and work with some incredibly talented classmates. These are people who I will keep in touch with throughout my career.

Q: Name the top three characteristics that have contributed to your success:

A: 1. Hard-working: I try to do everything possible to ensure that we are delivering the best possible product.

2. Adaptable: I make a point of pushing myself outside of my comfort zone to learn new things.

3. Entrepreneurial: Especially when working with digital media, I try to think outside the box and look for new, innovative ways to do things. 

Q: What catalysts, life-changing moments or decisions have guided you?

A: A big moment came in undergrad when I decided to pursue a career related to sports. Before that, I had considered every career path from medicine to teaching, but it was important to step back and ask myself what I was truly passionate about. After recognizing that sports marketing was my passion, I put all of my energy into that career path and everything else started to fall in line.

Q: What advice would you give students who are interested in the marketing world?

A: 1. Take every opportunity to gain experience. Especially when starting out in the industry, no position or opportunity is beneath you. Go out of your way to take on new responsibility, whether that means working on a new project or volunteering at an event. Take whatever you can and make the most of that opportunity.

2. Develop your personal brand. If you want to prove to an employer that you can manage their brand, it’s important to take ownership of your personal brand first. It’s never been easier to launch a blog or connect with industry professionals. Take advantage of these opportunities and build your personal brand.

3. Read anything and everything that you can get your hands on. The industry is evolving at an unbelievable pace, so it’s important to stay on top of new trends. It’s to a point that if you’re not learning new things on a regular basis, then you’re falling behind. Make a habit of reading industry publications every morning. 


State of the Research Job Market, Spring 2014


Last summer, we looked closely at trends in market research hiring as the economy moved toward recovery. At that time, we were beginning to see steady growth in job availability as well as a renewed sense of urgency within the marketplace.

As more jobs became available, candidates were going on and off the market more quickly, often interviewing and fielding offers from multiple companies. As a result, hiring authorities recognized the need to act fast to snag the best employees and to critically evaluate their compensation packages. Most of this activity was happening on the client side in the pharmaceutical, technology and retail industries. In 2014, we’re seeing this growth and urgency continue with some interesting, new trends.    

First off, we’d be remiss not to address the few rough patches in the landscape. As the economy continues to recover, retail and restaurants have been slow to return. The difficult winter has not helped these industries and some well-known companies have begun taking a hard look at headcount. Additionally, some CPG companies are seeing declines in market share, potentially due to consumer adoption of high-quality, lower-priced, private-label brands. However, in the field of market research, consumer behavioral changes inherently represent great opportunities for growth and investment in research will always illuminate the best strategies to address these changes.

In recent client conversations, a frequent talking point has been their recommitment to the expansion of consumer insights departments. This is great news for the industry as a whole, whether you work on the client side or the supplier side. Reinvestment in research should ripple throughout the industry and if corporate entities lead the charge, we’ll likely see suppliers and consulting firms staff up to meet the increased demand. So far, we’re seeing a split as corporate departments expand: Some are pulling more of their research in-house whereas others are broadening their research capacity while continuing to outsource to vendors.

As a result of this growth, we’re also beginning to see more director-level roles open up. Last year, the majority of openings were at the manager to senior manager level, but as companies commit to expanding their insights teams, they want experienced market researchers at the helm to guide long-term strategy and growth, and, in some cases, help build a consumer insights function from scratch. This trend should prove beneficial for both junior- and senior-level candidates because as employees move up or out, roles will be back-filled, allowing career mobility for junior- and mid-level employees.

The expansion of consumer insights teams and the increase in director-level roles also appear to be contributing to an increased need for candidates with direct management experience. From manager roles upward, many of our clients are telling us that they want employees with demonstrated leadership success. Job seekers should be sure to highlight these skills on their résumés and during interviews in order to stay competitive. For candidates without direct reports, we recommend emphasizing vendor management and project management experience, if applicable.

As we ease out of this long winter, the signs of continued job growth are clear, and confidence is returning to companies and candidates. For those who were waiting out the economic slowdown, now may be a good time to start exploring the market. Even those who aren’t looking for a career change can benefit from understanding how the landscape is shifting, and how these new trends will affect their current role and their careers overall. 




Author Bio:

Karla Ahern and Naomi Keller
Karla Ahern and Naomi Keller are market research executive recruiters at Evanston, Ill.-based Burtch Works Executive Recruiting.
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