My daughter is an Anthropology major in college. People sometimes bug her, telling her that Anthropology is a degree that has no value. What those people don’t realize is that it’s almost never the case that what you study in college is what you’ll be doing in a career.
For example, I studied Philosophy in College. That’s another major that is often teased for not providing much value. Those people are wrong also.
I learned a long time ago from my brother, that the key is to learn how to learn. If I can get really good at communicating verbally, on paper, and be able to do math really well and be able to think through problems systematically, then the major I decide to concentrate in doesn’t matter.
Given that criteria, I studied Philosophy so that I could learn to think critically; learn how to write well; learn how to communicate verbally well. I also studied a lot of Advanced Level Math so that I could further strengthen my quantitative side.
20 or so years later? I’m not a professional Philosopher. Instead, I’ve had a great career in marketing and also in entrepreneurship. Crazy, I know.
Back to my daughter – there are so many applications for Anthropology outside of academia. A lot.
In fact, as a marketer, I actively seek out people with backgrounds in the social sciences. Why? Because they’re great at research methods and in applying a qualitative and quantitative approach to understanding audiences and markets.
So, here are a few ways any social science major can do to add value in the business marketplace.
Most marketing issues can be broken down into a small set of essential problems, each coinciding with a specific set of analytical techniques:
- Classification: classification techniques are used to segment markets, one of the central tasks of marketing. They are also used to make segmentation schemes useful, by allowing you to classify respondents into segments. Classification techniques include clustering, CHAID, CART, and discriminant analysis.
- Prediction: the ability to accurately predict behavior not only makes you more confident about decisions, but also implies an understanding of the processes at work. Regression in all its shapes and forms remains the central workhorse of social science research. It is central to techniques like conjoint and discrete-choice analysis.
- Exploration and data reduction: sometimes we have more information than we know what to do with and need to summarize relationships in data and provide perspective. For this, we use techniques like principal component analysis and discriminant analysis.
Social Science majors are also well-trained in qualitative methods. In business and marketing, the applications are endless.
One of the best ways to immerse yourself in your customers’ worlds and experiences is through qualitative research. It’s more than just getting at consumer language. Good qualitative research digs deeper—getting at the concept, why behavior occurs, why perceptions exist, and what the implications are to the client’s business.
Qualitative research is interactive. The more clients participate in the process and the progress of the work, the more valuable its outcome will be.
Qualitative research lets consumers describe their own experiences and feelings. Where words fail, we come up with the tools and techniques to enable consumers to express themselves in as rich a manner as possible—in multiple dimensions, unfiltered by predetermined rules, industry lingo or categories.
Qualitative research implies an exploratory, curious, and probing interview. It involves both direct questioning and more indirect forms of inquiry to get at hard-to-articulate topics or feelings.
Social Science majors add tremendous value. Some questions they are good at exploring that the rest of us aren’t are the following:
- When to do groups, mini-groups, triads, or individual in-depth interviews (IDI’s)
- When to consider in-depth interviewing by phone as opposed to in-person
- When to consider ethnographic approaches
Some of our the productive qualitative techniques include:
- Projectives (a wide variety of exercises involving indirect questioning)
- House of Quality (an adaptation appropriate for the focus group setting)
- Collage research
- “Homework” assignments before the group meets (diaries, photo journals, store visits, etc.)
- Tandem team interviewing (two moderators with distinctly separate roles)
- Champion interviewing (combining equal numbers of proponents of different brands in the category in the same group)
So, if you’re a social science major that’s concerned about what to do after college, don’t fear. The applications are endless. What you’ll need some help in is in networking and in showing how your background and experience can translate to business. Perhaps this article will help you get started on the right foot.