By Sara Goetz and Sarah Buckley Faulkner
In October of 2019, the Cincinnati chapter of Women in Research tried out a new and engaging event format: an “open mic night” for sharing our experiences in the insights profession with each other. It was our hope that, instead of focusing on only one or two speakers’ expertise, an open mic would allow us to utilize the knowledge and experience of many women (and a few men) in the industry.
That night we posted three “topics” and brief descriptions of each as a guide for would-be open mic’ers. We encouraged attendees to sign up for a topic they felt comfortable sharing about (targeting 3-4 panelists per topic) and then our brave volunteers—along with a pre-selected moderator for each topic—discussed everything from how to be more mindful in your day to day, to when it is necessary to transition in your career, as well as how to stay on top of trends and resources.
Here are some of our key takeaways by topic:
“Oh, the Places We’ll Go!”
A discussion of various career paths and progressions, based on personal experience.
- How should I think about taking the next step in my career path?
- Spend some time in self-reflection; think about what you like to do at your job, what your strengths are, and how that aligns with what you are currently doing.
- Look at the types of positions around you at your company, both horizontally and vertically, and ask yourself if you want any of those jobs and what it would take to get there.
- What one piece of advice do you have for those starting out in their career?
- Get a mentor; think about looking for mentors outside of your function, your company, or even your industry to get the broadest perspective.
- Develop your networks; Woody Allen says that “showing up is 80% of life,” but the other 20% is about who you know!
The Great Balancing Act
How to prioritize, focus, and achieve what really matters in a “whole person.”
- What are some tips and tricks for achieving balance and acting with intentionality?
- Be “present not perfect”
- Develop mental reminders and mantras that help you stay positive and focused. For example, when you’re stuck in traffic, remind yourself, “I am lucky to have a job and a car to get to my job.”
- Have a time and a place for using your phone throughout the day – maintain a healthy distance from continuous phone use or you risk living in a constantly-distracted state.
- What can be done in your workspace to promote more physical and mental health?
- Be mindful of your environment and, where possible, make choices that energize you! Think about the chairs you choose to sit in, the right lighting, having enough food and water available to fuel you throughout the day, etc.
- Take walks throughout the day as a personal break and/or invite co-workers for “walking meetings.”
- Podcasts to check out: The Hidden Brain, Broken Brain, Ed Mylett
- Favorite resources: Apple Watch, calendars, reminder app, having a business coach
How we can stay on top of the latest industry trends, suppliers, tools & techniques.
- Why is it important to stay current with trends?
- Understand what your product/service differentiator is.
- Understand your competitors (and what might be coming next).
- How do you stay on top of what’s going on?
- Networking and mentoring
- “Reverse mentoring” — get someone younger and/or newer in the field/company to “mentor” more seasoned employees on new trends, technology, etc. that the seasoned employees may not have had the opportunity to learn, have access to, or understand is out there.
- Make connections with experts in different areas
- Joining organizations
- Read to get competitive intelligence
- Additional resources
- Social media – Be strategic about who you follow; are you learning from their content?
- “Pocket” app
- QRCA and/or other industry organizations
What does all of this mean to you? Across all of the night’s panels, the common theme was the importance of being in-touch: with yourself, your company, your competitors, and your industry—and, of course, it all starts with understanding yourself.
Ask yourself: Are you surrounded by people who inspire you and who you would like to work with or for? Are you leveraging your strengths and passions on a day-to-day basis? Are you being present and positive in all aspects of your life – as an employee, partner, parent, student, mentor, friend, etc.? Are you being resourceful and staying in touch with industry leaders and topics that could affect you, your company, or your clients?
What we learned from our panelists is that it can be tough to juggle all of the moving parts of your life and your career and that sometimes you fail and sometimes you pivot. Everyone has a different story about what led them to market research and we saw examples of many diverse career paths among the panelists. Perhaps the most inspiring thing of all was seeing how each person came to understand their unique strengths and passions and translate those into fulfilling career and life paths.