Editor’s note: Abigail Monson is a St. Paul, Minn.-based independent marketing researcher. She can be reached at 507-581-3276 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Drive and passion. Two words I see over and over on job postings for entry-level market research positions. “Driven and passionate about the field of market research and consumer insights. Smart, analytical mind. Creative, innovative thinker. Team player.” And on and on. All nearly impossible things to prove via résumé and cover letter.
After three years of job hunting, drive and passion begin to look more like desperation, which apparently is not nearly as enticing to the hiring managers. However, my fellow job hunters, there is hope. You can prove these abstract skills and prove your determination in some important ways.
First of all, network. Lazy people, unintelligent people and uncreative people don’t network. It’s hard. It’s scary. It takes a lot of work to keep that relationship up, to keep it going to the point where all those coffees and happy-hours pay off. The good thing is, it gets easier after a while. The first time is awful. The second time is awkward. The third time is … a charm. And just remember, the worst that can happen is that person says, “No, I don’t want to network.” Their loss, right?
“But I don’t have a network,” you say. False. Do you have friends? Family? Former coworkers? Professors? That fifth-grade teacher who always pushed you to achieve more? Network! I promise you that someone knows someone else who has an aunt in the market research business who will be overjoyed to chat with you. If that doesn’t work, search for college and high school alumni. Go to your local Chamber of Commerce. Join local chapters of marketing and market research associations. Check LinkedIn for connections. I promise you that your network is out there if only you can tap it.
Second, volunteer. Again, lazy people don’t volunteer. It’s no fun to work hard and spend lots of time on something that doesn’t reimburse. But if you stick around long enough and prove your worth, you could end up with lots of good references, contacts or even a job. Even if you only volunteer two hours each month, you might make that one extra connection or gain one extra skill to put your résumé at the top of the pile.
Third, take a class. What is that one skill that all your dream job postings have, that area in which you know you’re really lacking? There are conferences, lectures, Webinars, online courses, certificate programs, community ed programs and on and on that offer classes about every topic known to man. Quirk’s has tons of postings and recommendations, as do other MR Web sites. So take one. Spend money on a class if you have to. It might be the best $300 you ever spent. If money is an issue, search for scholarships. Market research groups and associations want quality, hardworking professionals to have access to educational opportunities and sometimes will help you finance those opportunities if you look hard enough.
I was lucky enough to fall into an internship right out of college where I had an amazing mentor right there. She wanted me to gain experience, connect with people and learn as much as I could. I still had to work at it but she continues to advise me and connect me with other professionals three years later. The thing is, it really is up to you. Send one more cover letter, make one more phone call, sign up for one more Webinar. Because it could be that one time that you choose not to, that one time when you’re just too tired or would much rather hang up your job-hunting hat and just be a bartender forever; it could be that contact, that job, that phone call, that was meant for you.
I’m still waiting for mine. But here I am, three years later, still driven, still passionate. Confident that my market research job is right around the corner.