career

"We Have No Social Lives."

Leigh Wright is a 2018 QRCA Young Professionals Grant recipient. First launched in 2014, the Young Professionals Grant recognizes promising qualitative researchers aged 35 and younger with free passes to the QRCA’s Annual Conference.

“Funny thing is, we have no social lives,” said a lady at my lunch table. Everyone laughed heartily, but I did only slightly. I am emerging into the qualitative field and as a research consultant. I’ve worked as a Director of Brand Strategy for six years, building internal marketing departments, looking through ad stacks, etc. The QRCA 2018 annual conferencewas one of the best — if not the best — places for an introduction.

All conferences are about teaching and education and professional accolades and training. QRCA is different because attendees come for the people and education is lagniappe (New Orleans’ slang for “an extra little gift”) or to support their peers’ work. As consultants, we do not get out and about to see one another during the year, so the QRCA holds a dedicated, sacred spot on the calendars of many.

Needless to say, I arrived in Phoenix with little knowledge of the QRCA, its benefits, the people, or the structure of the conference. To say I am blown away by the supportive structure of the community is an understatement.

From a beginner’s standpoint I found the talks from Naomi Henderson, Susan Abbott, Marta Villanueva, et al., all very enlightening and critical to understanding where I will find my niche in this industry. There were a lot of moderating tools discussed and quite frankly the point of creative flashcards was hammered home. Tory Gentes’ presentation on online recruiting was spot on. I’ve only done bespoke recruitment and have used online platforms to do so. (You would be surprised at how many preschool teachers are part-time babysitters through Care.com.)

The sessions I found the most insightful were about client presentation, online recruiting, business development, and behavioral economics. This is partly because I have done little moderating, but I believe presenting a variety of sessions is impactful. As Jim Bryson said one day during the conference, “It’s not ‘do we need another moderator.’ We need another good researcher.” So, let’s stick with the holistic approach. I believe it is working.

The roundtable discussions were fantastic and I enjoyed Peter Totman’s talk on Failure. There were so many going on at once and I did find it hard to choose which to attend.

In terms of the Young Professionals Grant, I am forever indebted to the sponsors of this program. Without them I would not have known about the QRCA, I would not have attended this year’s conference, and I would not have met the other YPs who I now consider friends. I will consider that week in Phoenix as a career milestone and springboard.

I’m sure others have tried to convey what makes QRCA special, and my words will fall short just like all the rest. The only thing left to say is thank you, and see you in Savannah.

Visit qrca.org/YPG to learn more about the Young Professionals Grant.

Originally written for QRCA blog and can be read on Medium.

The First Seven

In practice nobody cares whether work is useful or useless, productive or parasitic: the sole thing demanded is that it shall be profitable. In all the modern talk about energy, efficicency, social service and the rest of it, what meaning is there except, ‘Get money, get it legally, and get a lot of it?’ Money has become the grand test of virtue.
— George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London

There was a subtle, and internet-era brief, trend on Twitter to list your first seven jobs. It struck me as odd to list the beginning of a work life. Babysitting, yard work, pizza delivery, death by coffee shop seemed to be the most mentioned.

It struck me a little later, maybe even now, that the beginning - even with comparable jobs - sets people up on different trajectories. As someone recently told me, "Out in the work field there are pure breeds and pound puppies." 

I gladly recognize myself with the latter. People such as myself scramble around looking for interests to balance and carving our own way. It is exhausting. It takes time that we constantly contemplate if it's worth it. Sometimes there is no end in sight, only a vague sense of direction that we know is right. 

Kids basketball coach

Push in a way that doesn’t piss people off.
— Patrick Lencioni, 5 Dsyfunctions of a Team

Babysitter

Great jobs are rare and valuable therefore your skills need to be rare and valuable.
— Recap of So Good They Can't Ignore You by Cal Newport

Zookeeper

No water, no life. No blue, no green.
— Sylvia Earle

Waitress/Counter Service Girl

I calculated that one had to walk and run about 15 miles during the day, and yet the strain of the work was more mental than physical. Nothing could be easier, on the face of it, than this stupid scullion work, but it is astonishingly hard when one is in a hurry.
— George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London

Outdoor Recreation desk jockey

I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.
— John Muir

Baker/Cook/Chef

The number of flavors is infinite, for every soluble body has a peculiar flavor, like none other.
— Jean Antheime Brillat-Savarin

Writer

Had I been blessed with even limited access to my own mind there would have been no reason to write. I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.
— Joan Dideon, "Why I Write"

 

This is my (work) beginning. The initiatives I started long ago are weaving and working throughout my current work life. It may seem scattered now, but to me it feels right. For now, I claim: writer, Krav Maga instructor, business anthropologist/marketer, volunteer scuba diver at the Aquarium, and explorer. See?