Bore-out. It’s a new word coined recently in a BBC article about a man suing his company for boring him to the edges of mental illness. In fact, this was shared with me a few times, friends posting it to each other, all making the joke of “I know how he feels.” Though it’s perhaps obligatory to smile at these things, when I stopped to think about it, I didn’t know how he feels.
I’ve certainly had days that have dragged, and everyone in any industry gets lumbered with the menial tasks when they first start. Starting out in research is perhaps more tedious than most – it’s hard to find a job more boring than checking data tables for errors or going through a questionnaire 15 times hunting typos – but on the whole boredom is something I’ve managed to avoid.
That’s not luck. Speaking to some colleagues in market research they agreed. We work in an industry that is immensely engaging, thought provoking and challenging. One day you’re writing a proposal for a project, trying to put yourself in the client’s shoes, reflecting on what gaps in their knowledge they are trying to fill; the next you’re presenting your findings to an audience thinking about how to deliver information that sticks. Then there are days writing a discussion guide – playing out in your mind how you think you can get the best out of a group of strangers discussing a potentially abstract or innovative idea; or analysing the results of a survey, scratching your head trying to tie all the datapoints into a meaningful story.
The point is, it is all endlessly and totally absorbing. I lost count of the number of times – especially when I was starting out in research – when friends down the pub would ask me about my job and generally before I could explain they’d make jokes about clipboards and anoraks.
But after the laughter died down, I did explain – we’ve been asked by a chocolate company whether they should launch their product in Thailand; a drinks company wants our help in developing a new coffee machine; a car company doesn’t understand why they’re not selling in China and needs answers – and then their jokes turned to jealously. This is my day-to-day, swirling around these fascinating questions in my head and trying to work out how best to find an answer. This is a brilliant industry and I love my job.
Market research is interesting. And whilst that isn’t as headline grabbing as someone suing over bore-out, it’s something I think we sometimes need to remind ourselves of. We can be viewed as the ugly sister of marketing or the timid brother of consulting, both of which are unfair and untrue comparisons. Not only has research had a hand in informing, deciding and shaping the future of almost every industry; it’s been a continuous hotbed for career growth and fulfilment. As research subsumes more areas of expertise into its core – big data; neuroscience; and infographics to name but a recent few – it’s an industry that has a bright future.
I once read in a book called The New Division of Labor that as machines and robotics continue to replace workers in some industries, the most in demand skills will be complex communication and data synthesis; bringing together multiple data sources to explain complicated ideas clearly. Well, that is the very essence of market research, an industry that will increasingly be in demand now and in the future.
So in the face of the bore-out story and no doubt many others like it who may well follow suit, I think it’s important to take 5 minutes and reflect on the fact that we work in a great industry, with interesting, thought-provoking jobs. We may never be able to shake off the anorak and clipboard image, but thank God we’re not bored.