I’m still looking for the perfect description of what I do. “Research” conjures images of white coats and Bunsen burners, and “survey” often leads people down the path of topography. True story: After hearing what my PhD was in, someone once asked if I had been a waitress for a long time. I must have looked perplexed, because she clarified, “Didn’t you say you studied SERVING methodology?” I think my mother, of all people, has come up with the best “elevator speech” for me: “Jessica helps companies and organizations understand why people do what they do.” Thanks, Mom!
So…how’d you get into this business?
Honestly, I think I’m one of the fortunate few who found what some term my “calling.” Even as a little kid, I was intensely curious about everyone else’s life. I didn’t realize there was a vocational outlet for my nosiness, though, until I was finishing my post-college Peace Corps service. Someone from the Government Accountability Office came to interview all the departing volunteers, and asked me questions for a good hour. Since the only thing I like more than finding out about other people is talking about myself, I had a ball. At the end of the hour, I asked the interviewer how I could get her job.
I moved back to the States and got my first “real” job: interviewing inmates in New York state prisons. This was followed by my second “real” job: interviewing former and current residents in a drug treatment facility. Nowadays, I mostly work with more mainstream audiences, but I’m still delighted that someone will pay me to be nosy.