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A day in the life of a Research Executive in the United Kingdom
I don't think I ever would have realised that what I had done could be applied to the media industry
Briefly describe the organisation you work for
The BBC - The UK's public service broadcaster
What do you do?
I am an audience researcher - the role is broadly similar to market research, and we measure things such as how BBC content performs with audiences, or what our audiences are looking for from The BBC. This can involve number of different measures, from various different sources (such as; official audience ratings, surveys, focus groups and social media analytics)
Reflecting upon your past employment and education, what led you to your current career choice?
I completed a BSc in Psychology at York, and found that research was my main interest but wasn't sure whether I wanted to go down an academia route, or something else! So I went on to an MSc in Research Methods in Psychology- which was a taught masters focusing on carrying out research projects, and not so much the field of psychology those projects were in (opposed to a more traditional content focused masters).
From there I ultimately decided I'd rather use my research skills in a 'business setting' and looked into market research careers - I used sites like Prospects, The Graduate Recruitment Bureau, and LinkedIn to look for openings, as well as looking at grad schemes for the big market research agencies (such as Kantar and Ipsos Mori) - and then just stumbled upon the BBC's Research Assistant scheme in one of my searches.
On the whole application processes were similar for most of these roles, with either a simple application form with a personal statement type request, or they gave you a few specific questions to answer on experience and suitability for the role etc. the bigger organisations (the research agencies and The BBC) had online assessment tasks (usually around problem solving and maths) and then an 'assessment day' type thing where a number of applicants attend together - these usually involved one on one interviews as well as a group task, and the smaller agencies usually just had an interview.
after I had completed my year as a Research Assistant at The BBC, I had firmly decided that market research in the media sector was what I wanted to do - I love being able to research something I am actually passionate about and enjoy myself!
so from there I used a media research recruitment agency when looking for my next role, and ended up accepting another research position at The BBC.
Is your current job sector different from what you thought you would enter when you graduated?
I don't think I ever would have realised that what I had done could be applied to the media industry - so no in that sense, but I did always think that market research or statistical research might be the path I took. There was always part of me that thought I might go into academic research though!
Describe your most memorable day at work
About 6 months into my first role I presented a performance wrap up of that year's Children in Need appeal show. I think what really makes this stand out is that it was an in-depth piece of work that we'd spent several weeks working on, and we were presenting it to some important people.
the presentation wasn't without hiccups -we had some tech issues, but actually having that happen, but still managing to deliver something that was clearly appreciated by the attendees just added to the sense of achievement!
it was also rewarding to be working on something that had tangible impact - they want the appeal shows to help raise as much money as possible for the charity, so it was nice knowing that our work would go into shaping the next year's appeal.
What’s your work environment and culture like?
Pre-covid I worked in an office most days, but it was very flexible and many people did work from home on occasion (we have all been working from home permanently for the duration of the pandemic). The environment isn't formal, you rarely see tie in the office and people are very friendly.
Work life balance is very important in the department, and most people would discourage you from working late. There is also a good culture of socialising with colleagues (should you wish to do so!)
What extracurricular activities did you undertake at university and what transferable skills did you develop through these?
I didn't undertake too many extra curricular hobbies, but I was part of the university concert band - which is always a good one for examples of teamwork and commitment as far as using them in job applications goes (I also enjoyed the social side, and just love playing in a band - which is something I miss post university!)
I also assisted on a project in the sleep lab in the department over one summer of my time at university, and did some work experience at a firm working in customer satisfaction - both of which I think helped with my general research skills, and the latter demonstrated how they could be applied outside of an academic setting
What top tips do you have for York students preparing for today’s job market and life after graduation?
when you are really passionate about something - it shows! I don't think there is any coincidence that the job I got one of my first offers from was one in an industry that I really love
I was probably equally qualified for any of the jobs I applied for, but it was the ones that I had real passion for that I got the best feedback/offers from!
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