I have spoken to a number of people recently who are keen to get into the business analysis profession. This can be tricky, as many roles specifically require a certain number of years of BA experience before a candidate can even be considered.
This can lead to a ‘chicken and egg’ cycle… without experience, it’s tricky getting a first role. But without a role, it is tricky getting experience! This blog post is an attempt to capture some thoughts on how to overcome this. It’d be great if you could add your own thoughts into the comments section—that way hopefully this will evolve as a useful set of ideas for those entering the profession.
Overcoming the 'No Experience' Doom Loop
One crucial fact to keep in mind when applying for roles is that you don’t have to have the title “business analyst” to be undertaking business analysis. The International Institute of Business Analysis describe a BA as: “Any person who performs business analysis, no matter what their job title or organisational role”.
This has an important implication: If you have a BA mind-set, there is a good chance that you are already undertaking some elements of business analysis in your role, and there might even be the possibility of expanding this to cover even more ground. Of course it’s unlikely that you’ll be undertaking the full breadth of a BA role, but you may well be undertaking some crucial parts of it. This can be true even in the most seemingly unlikely of roles—a call centre advisor, for example, may have gained significant experience of defining and improving processes alongside their ‘core’ job. It is worth actively seeking out these types of experiences, as well as cataloguing the experience that you already have so that it can be added to your CV or Résumé.
Get to Know Common Approaches, Techniques and 'Lingo'
As with any profession, there are a whole range of approaches, techniques and even a common ‘language’ that BAs speak. It is worth becoming familiar with this, as this will help to gauge the areas where you already have experience (which is an advantage) and those where you don’t. It isn’t essential to have knowledge and experience of every conceivable technique, but there are a number of ‘core’ concepts that are useful in just about every BA role. There are plenty of blogs, webinars, courses, books and other resources out there that can help. It is also very valuable to consider a foundation or entry level certification programme. Whilst this isn’t essential, it might just give you the edge over other candidates.
Network: Community Based Learning
I have always found the BA community to be one of the most welcoming, inclusive, communities that I’ve ever known. Approach just about any BA and ask them for help, and they’ll give it to you in spades. It’s well worth spending some time networking and getting to know other BAs. If you work for a large organisation that has a BA practice, then it will be worth connecting with the BAs there. You might even find you can get an invite to the occasional team meeting—this is great as you’ll get a ‘sneak peak’ at the types of projects (and challenges) that the team face, and the senior leaders are getting to know who you are too!
It is also well worth seeking out local BA meet-ups, IIBA chapter events and general BA conferences in your area, as well as networking online. There are many business analysis related LinkedIN groups, and many BAs are active on Twitter (the #BAOT hashtag, which stands for ‘business analysis on twitter’ is a good place to start). Of course, whilst online networking is useful, it is no substitute for meeting people in the real world.
Seek & Apply for Roles
With a polished CV or Résumé, you’ll be well-placed to apply for roles. In many cases, entry-level BA roles might appear to be the most appropriate but don’t forget that you might have more BA experience than you initially think. It is worth ensuring this is clearly signposted on your CV, and this may enable you to apply for a range of roles.
Depending on your career aspirations and current skills, you might choose to apply for roles that are adjacent to business analysis. For example, if you have no experience working within a ‘change’ or ‘project’ environment, you might seek a role to gain this specific type of experience as a stepping stone towards a BA role—and in doing so you could actively choose to seek BA experience and certification along the way.
It’s a Varied Road
Finally, it’s important to point out that there isn’t just a single route into (or through) a BA role. Nor is there a single type of BA role. It is a broad discipline, with different roles needing to focus on different areas at different times. This is one of the many things that (in my view) makes it such an exciting role—there is always room for growth!
Good luck in getting your first (or next) BA role!
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