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Interview with a Survey Research Assistant Supervisor

Are you good at collecting data and understanding numbers and statistics? If you are gifted in this area, and enjoy interacting with people in your daily job, a career in survey research may be right for you! In this interview, an assistant supervisor in the survey research industry shares her experiences working in a university setting.

Q: What is your job title and what industry do you work in? How many years of experience do you have in this field? How would you describe yourself using only three adjectives?

A: I am currently an assistant supervisor at a survey research center for a major university; this could be considered the data and research industry. I have almost two years of experience in this particular field of survey research. I am well-rounded, even-keeled, and analytical.

Q: What’s your ethnicity and gender? How has it hurt or helped you? If you ever experienced discrimination, how have you responded and what worked best?

A: I am African American and Cherokee Native American. Honestly, for me it is best to just get the job done and go home; people choose to be offended more often then not. Discrimination seems irrelevant to me in 2011, to me its best to just move on and achieve.

Q: How would you describe what you do? What does your work entail? Are there any common misunderstandings you want to correct about what you do?

A: I monitor interviews with eligible respondents for surveys being pursued by various government entities. I also attempt to conduct interviews with eligible respondents who previously declined to do the interview. I provide quality assurance; I make sure all the interviewers employed by the university are conducting the survey interviews in an unbiased professional manner to ensure quality of data collection for the clients.

The surveys are typically for federal or state departments attempting to get in touch with citizens who participate in the program of interest, or who will be affected by the query at hand. When people don't participate they are usually short-changing themselves in the long-term; that is why so many people are employed by the government, to collect the feedback and data.

Q: On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your job satisfaction? What might need to change about your job to unleash your full enthusiasm?

A: I have hit somewhat of a ceiling in my position, so I am waiting to get promoted basically. I am a 6 or 7 at this point, because my job really is very easy and virtually no stress. I am not necessarily enthused either; I would need to be promoted or take on even more responsibility. This is opportunity is rare, but possible.

Q: If this job moves your heart – how so? Ever feel like you found your calling or sweet spot in life? If not, what might do it for you?

A: This job has shown me this is the field in which I am interested in making my long-term career. This employment experience has provided much needed clarity in my long-term career aspirations. The ability to comprehend and apply statistics is extremely valuable in business and life. I have a more mature understanding of research and communication as well.

Q: How did you get started in this line of work? If you could go back and do it differently, what would you change?

A: I finally decided to try working for this department after leaving another job with the university. I knew a few people who had worked here in the past, and I needed a job. I have now advanced past my peers among whom I was hired. I probably could have worked harder and made more money as of late, as my job is somewhat performance based-- but mainly, I cannot complain.

Q: What did you learn the hard way in this job and what happened specifically that led up to this lesson?

A: I learned that on a macroscopic level, my work is very project based; no completed surveys, and no sample means no work. I was unaware or ignorant of this possibility entering the field. Turnover at my job is extremely high because of this dynamic.

Q: What is the single most important thing you have learned outside of school about the working world?

A: I have been working since I was 14, I probably have had close to 30 jobs; two years would probably be the longest I have worked anywhere. I have advanced rather quickly most places I have worked. No matter for whom, or where you work, the ability to multi-task efficiently and productively is essential.

Q: What’s the strangest thing that ever happened to you in this job?

A: My job is mainly listening to newer interviewers engage eligible respondents on the phone, or personally calling back respondents who have already refused the interview. My job has a several strange occurrences on a daily basis, unfortunately I am not permitted to divulge any.

Q: Why do you get up and go to work each day? Can you give an example of something that really made you feel good or proud?

A: I go to work because I need money and they allow me to show up and leave as I desire. It is interesting to talk to the respondents and hear the array of perspectives in a corresponding controlled settings.

Q: What kind of challenges do you handle and what makes you want to just quit?

A: There can be difficult experiences with respondents or issues regarding quality control or protocol in light of the importance of the research. Client or management gripes can seem nitpicky at times.

Q: How stressful is your job? Are you able to maintain a comfortable or healthy work-life balance? How?

A: My job is very low stress. Rejection or quality assurance are the only obstacles, if they can even be considered that. My work schedule requirements are extremely flexible. This allows me to maintain a healthy work-life balance; it is easy to get away.

Q: What’s a rough salary range for the position you hold? Are you paid enough and/or happy living within your means?

A: I earn about $12 per hour right now including my performance bonus; I could probably be making more on bonus if I was working more diligently on the phone like when I first started. It is a simple job, around the corner from my house while I study for my career aspirations; the job serves it’s purpose quite well for now.

Q: How much vacation do you take? Is it enough?

A: I acquire attendance time off as I work and add extra shifts, I can basically take vacation any time I want to.

Q: What education and skills do you need to get hired and succeed in this field?

A: At the basic level, this job will take people with no employment experience to conduct interviews. On a project management or supervisory level, employers typically look for at least an undergraduate degree in statistics, business or programming.

Q: What would you tell a friend considering your line of work?

A: Survey research work is easy if you can remain unbiased and work well with data and people. Applicants need communication and analytical skills.

Q: If you could write your own ticket, what would you like to be doing in five years?

A: My intent is to be working as an actuary on a private consult basis in the energy industry; I would like to be working independently for myself perhaps.