Research

Thriving as a researcher: How to embrace change and elevate your career

Thriving as a researcher: How to embrace change and elevate your career

A boss of mine once said these wise words: “We have to be comfortable with discomfort.” This is a great advice not only for marketers like myself but also for market researchers.

Indeed, thriving as a research professional not only requires technical and interpersonal skills—it demands being comfortable and open to change. As the people responsible for keeping up with evolving consumer preferences, insight professionals need to embrace change themselves to bring more value to their role.

But in an era of data deluge, savvy consumers and disruptors, keeping up with change is easier said than done. As companies aim to be more insight-driven, there’s increasing pressure for market researchers to do more with less and deliver insight more quickly.

The trick is to make keeping up with change part of your daily mindset. Here are some useful tips from experts on how you can do that. 

Be data-agnostic

Being insight-driven is about going beyond the data, but for market researchers looking to remain relevant in a sea of change, being data-fluent is still a core competency. The trick is not to play favorites when it comes to how you cultivate that data.

Recent surveys done by management consulting companies such as Deloitte, Price Waterhouse and KPMG have found “working in teams or departments that use multiple data types and sources is a new way of working for many market research and insights professionals.” If you’re to move up the market research ladder, you can’t look at every customer need as being solved with surveys and focus groups.


“The C-suite wants next-generation leaders – and data fluency is part of that equation.”

– Kathryn Korostoff is founder and lead instructor at Research Rockstar LLC


If your career goals are director level or higher, senior leaders expect you to not only be data-fluent, but also data-agnostic. You must understand when and how to combine different data sources and types to deliver valuable insight more quickly.

Learn from other teams

Insight-driven businesses emerge when organizations break down barriers between departments and eliminate silos. That’s why as a market researcher, you need to look beyond your own department. Let successes in other teams inspire you.


“For both internal design teams and insight teams, one of their top challenges is culture.”

– Paul Laughlin, MD, Laughlin Consultancy


Since you’re providing insight to guide the creation of a better customer experience (CX), your neighboring design team is a great resource as they face similar challenges. Two things in particular successful design teams do is create empathy for customers and the business—the latter requires you to get out of the customers’ world sometimes and build strong relationships with colleagues outside of your research team.

While the design team shares many of your challenges, other departments can be your classroom too. For example, your engineering team could lend insight on how you can adopt the agile or scrum methodology.

Get more training

Finding time to go back to school can be daunting when you’re working full-time to generate insight, but according to a study from NewMR, most market researchers don’t get enough training.

In fact, most only get as five days a year at most. If you’re a market researcher looking to rise in the ranks at organization, you recognize the need to continuously learn. But it doesn’t mean going back to school full-time.

In addition to learning from your team members, there’s the plenty of delivery methods to keep you up to date on trends and technology that are changing how market research done. There’s webinars and other e-learning options, as well as short term in-person training, either at your office or offsite, if only for a day.

Be genuinely curious

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but for a market researcher it’s the key to longevity and career success.

If the customer landscape is always changing, that means there’s always new things to learn. Just as you must combine different data sources and types, you must be open to the idea that the answers are going to change, and so will the questions. As Courtney Williams, executive director of Lucid, recently discussed in an article for Greenbook, curiosity and an open mind can push through your perceived limitation as a researcher.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of doing the same thing every day because it works—until it doesn’t. If you’re curious about your customers, your teammates and your organization, you’ll find new questions to ask and answers that can guide better insight.

Continue to add to your market research toolkit

The challenge of change is that even when you accept it as inevitable, it’s still hard to predict what the change will be. But if you keep it part of your mindset and build out your own toolkit as you go, you’ll find yourself in a position to provide more valuable insight more quickly. Better still, you’ll be among the next generation leader the C-suite is looking for.

The Must-Have Toolkit for Market Researchers



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