From PhD to Market Research

In this Career Spotlight at Beyond the Professoriate, L. Maren Wood, PhD invites Collette Eccelston, PhD to share her experience using social psychology as a market researcher.

Collette Eccelston, PhD is a social psychologist with academic (previous assistant professor) and industry experience. She is currently the Senior Vice President at Pragmatic Brain Science at Lieberman Research Worldwide, a market research firm. In this career spotlight, Collette shares how her academic career translates to her current position as a market researcher. She talks about what market research entails and notable organizations associated with the field.

What’s Market Research?

Collette sums up market research as “understanding consumers and their behavior in order to help companies make better decisions to better serve their consumers . . . and influence their behavior.” At the forefront of market research is a client’s needs. Most often, clients have a brand or product they want to market, but they struggle with popularizing it. Talking to clients either online or in-person helps Collette figure out what clients want. Because market researchers provide guidance to diverse clients, Collette describes her career as a growing opportunity to use behavioral science strategies beyond the professoriate.

The Market Research Process

For some PhDs, re-focusing efforts to prioritize client needs might seem daunting — and so might the life-cycle of a market research project! Usually, PhDs have years to explore, research, and write a paper/complete a project. In market research, the turn-around time for a project could be just a matter of weeks, regardless of the level of research necessary to complete the project. The proposal process asks market researchers to quickly familiarize themselves with areas that are new and different. Although you don’t have to be an expert on the product, you do have to be familiar with specialized terms. Knowing when to use these terms is important for pitching and presenting research to stakeholders.

Leveraging Your PhD and Research Skills

Collette reassures PhDs we already have fundamental skills that are relevant and useful in research positions. PhDs have to do research to familiarize themselves with new topics—this exploration helps PhDs learn specific terms that apply to their field and others. And those 15-page papers and dissertations? These prepare PhDs for proposal writing and presenting. While not knowing all the answers on a certain research topic might seem scary for most academics, Collette encourages us to be okay with ‘imperfection’. “Leverage what you know and teach yourself what you don’t,” Collette encourages. The ability to be resourceful, learn new concepts quickly, and problem solve makes PhDs strong candidates in non-academic positions like market research.

For more insights into diverse career fields, feel free to browse our blog and webinars at Beyond the Professoriate.

Beyond the Professoriate Community Members attend events like this for free each month and access replays free for two weeks. Ready to launch your next great career? Join the Online Career Hub for PhDs.

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