Moderating as a Career For Introverts
Doing Focus Groups is a Way to Turn Introversion into an Asset
The following statements tend to describe someone who would be happier in an “introvert friendly” career (See Myer Briggs for help with career choice)
- Prefer to work alone rather than in teams
- More of a specialist than a generalist
- Prefer to work on one task at a time rather than multitask
- Work best without constant interruptions
- More likely to be/want to be original
Based on these statements, someone more “bookish,” such as an engineer or teacher is probably more likely to spring to mind than a moderator of focus groups or one-on-one interviews. But these and other aspects of qualitative research may in fact be a great choice for introverts. Here’s why:
Profile of a Moderator
- A moderator acts within a research setting and focuses on a particular issue. So even though it involves working with people, it’s really more “task-oriented” in a way that appeals to the introvert.
- In a sense, moderating is like acting. It means slipping into the persona of researcher and working within a prescribed “script.”
- Moderating (not unlike accounting, say) is structured in a way that allows for a sense of control. For example, interviews or group discussions are scheduled to start and end at specific times, and the moderator works on one side of a two-way mirror, while the clients listen on the other.
- A moderator solves problems by becoming an “expert” on how consumers think and feel, much the same as solving problems in the quiet of a library.
- Moderators are valued for being focused, detail-oriented, and persistent – key strengths of the introvert.
- They are asked to come up with “insights.” This requires the type of original thinking and creativity that introverts are known for and is increasingly more in demand these days.
- “I do my best thinking on a plane.” Moderators travel, which means they are less subject to office distractions.
- They may be able to work, part-time, at home. Working at home is a growing trend and it’s especially true for moderators.
The Best Way to Train as a Moderator
Whether educated as a psychologist or not, being able to conduct focus groups and other types of qualitative research requires training. Similar to learning a sport, learning to moderate well requires active participation.
Where to Train as a Moderator
- Riva Institute and Burke Institute, among others, offer courses and workshops that provide valuable tools as a market researcher. Riva specializes in qualitative research.
- Interviewing friends and family is another way to hone skills. Moderators must be able to think on their feet. Being a good listener, keeping on topic, and being open to unexpected and interesting “detours” in the discussion require practice.
How to Find Work as a Moderator
The last place to look is on the internet. Significantly more people are hired through personal connections. That’s especially true during a recession when so many are competing for the same jobs. For those who shudder at the idea of social networking, it’s not as bad as it sounds. It’s possible to start the process with family, friends, and people you know well and feel comfortable with, and work out from there. One way to get a foot in the door is to work as an intern at a market research company. It’s a great way to meet clients and, if the company permits it, conduct some focus groups. Many new opportunities are opening up on the web, in the form of online focus groups, although the role of the moderator is different from the more traditional face to face groups,
The Beauty of it All
Moderating (and qualitative research in general), is an area that fits the introverted personality to a tee. It might even give introverts a leg up on those who pursue the same career for the wrong reason. That is, on the surface, moderating groups of people may seem most appropriate for someone who is outgoing, a “people person” (someone who is extraverted). The truth is, this just might be one of those “introvert friendly” careers that offer introverts an opportunity not only to succeed, but to flourish.