We are so proud of Ellie McCandless, one of our Fall 2017 interns as she continues her professional journey through the Orr Fellowship Program. Below, she reflects on her experiences here at Loyalty Research Center and how she will carry them moving forward.
During my four-month stint as a market research intern with Loyalty Research Center, I have learned a lot of technical skills that will serve as valuable knowledge once I start my own career. I have gained a broad understanding of the entire market research process, and have become comfortable with tools like Excel and SPSS to make data-driven conclusions. Beyond that technical information, however, I have learned important lessons that I will carry with me into all aspects of my life. Below are the top six lessons I have learned during my time at Loyalty Research Center:
- Your gut may be good, but research is better
Before this internship, I was a firm believer in the “gut instinct.” If I was faced with a tough decision, I was always one to go with my gut, believing that if it felt right then it must be right. Once I started working at the LRC, however, I learned just how wrong I was. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with trusting your instincts, but there is nothing that can replace tangible, data-driven support. There were times that a client would ask a fundamental question, and I was sure that I knew the answer, only to be very off mark when the results were finalized. Instincts are good for split second decisions, but when faced with a choice, there is nothing like statistical support to help you make key decisions.
- Research is so much more than just asking questions
Had you previously asked me what market research entailed, I would’ve simply told you that it is asking a few questions of important people, and compiling those responses into simple, straightforward key findings. Once I began my time with Loyalty Research Center, however, I soon realized that there is so much time that goes into formulating those questions, and from there the journey is still far from over. To perform market research requires a deep understanding of people: who you are talking to, what is important to them, and what they want to get out of this. It is the science of trial and error; it is looking at the same question from every possible angle. So, yes, market research requires you to ask questions, but the journey to get to those questions and what you do with those answers is just as important.
- Don’t be afraid to be curious
It is easy to assume that there is only one way to look at numbers, but during my time at Loyalty Research Center, I was challenged to push boundaries and look at the data in many different ways so as to learn as much as possible from the finite amount of information gathered. In this role, I was encouraged to follow rabbit holes in the data if I believed that there could be important insights, and I also learned how to use different data points combined with verbatim responses to holistically understand the mind of the respondent.
- Practice makes perfect
During my first week at Loyalty Research Center, I was convinced I was in way over my head as I attempted to understand all the programs we use to make sense of the data we collect. Luckily, however, the people in this office weren’t afraid to let me practice, and gave me new projects nearly every day that I could experiment with until it finally clicked. These hands-on experiences allowed me to gain a clear understanding of every step of the market research process, and that wouldn’t have happened if the training process and practice work hadn’t let me fail.
- Say yes to any and every opportunity
In a short, four-month internship, I was exposed to more market research programs than I ever could have predicted, because my answer was always, “yes.” Observe a final presentation to the board of a major company? Yes. Sit in on in-depth interviews with a CEO? Yes. Take extensive notes on an important working session, despite having no clue what information is actually relevant? I think you get the idea. Internships often only allow you to see information from 10 feet up, but that didn’t stop me from taking the opportunity to go 10,000 feet up when offered, despite at times having no idea what was going on from that perspective. Saying yes to every chance I had for more exposure meant a more complete picture, and helped me understand how my contributions made an impact.
- You’re a member of a team
When it comes to research, you can check your numbers 100 times and it still wouldn’t be too much. So, despite everyone having their own clients and their own programs, there was nothing that went out the door without having a team of eyes on it. This taught me an important lesson: Just because your work has only your name on it does not mean that you are doing it alone. If you’re unsure about something, just ask, because at the end of the day one success for the company means success for all.
Internships are a valuable way to push you out of your comfort zone and learn things you could never learn in a classroom, and Loyalty Research Center has provided me with valuable experiences and knowledge I will always remember. Through these six valuable takeaways, along with too many others to list, Loyalty Research Center has challenged me to learn and grow as a member of their market research team.