How to Decide to Accept a Business Analyst Job Offer

Are you considering a potential business analyst position or a job offer and wondering if it’s the right choice for you? Are you interviewing for a job and want to know what questions to ask so you’ll have the information you need to make an informed decision should they make you a job offer? Do you have multiple potential offers are want a clear way to sort through to the best one?

The heart of job offer decisions comes back to two key elements:

  1. Benefits – What are the benefits of each opportunity in front of you, relative to the short and long-term trajectory of your career?
  2. Risk – How much risk are you able or willing to absorb right now in your career?

This sounds familiar right? We do this type of analysis all the time on our projects. This is yet another example where we can use our business analysis skills to help our business analysis careers.

Let’s Look at Risk First

All too often though, we forget the benefits and let the notion of risk freeze us and prevent us from making any decision at all.  Risk is the probability of a negative impact. Let’s take a look at both the negative impacts being in the wrong job could have on your career, and the factors which increase the probability that something negative will happen.

How do you use these factors? Just as an example, let’s take the professional in a typical “jack of all trades” type position. This person wears a lot of hats and is successful mainly based on their deep expertise in a system. Wearing a lot of hats isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it can expose you to multiple responsibilities and increase your marketability in organizations valuing employees who can pitch in and contribute in multiple areas. But it might limit your options when it comes to pursuing more formal roles within a profession, whether business analysis, development, or project management. The quality and depth of your experience may not stack up to someone who has spent the last several years focused on building a career in that profession.

But what about that system expertise? If your expertise is in a mainframe system that the company is visibly retiring bit-by-bit, the value of that expertise is declining every day. That creates job instability for you, unless you can expand your role and develop expertise with a long-term impact on the organization. But other areas of expertise can be very valuable and have long-term marketability, such as expertise in a widely-adopted tool like SAP or Salesforce.com or SharePoint.

Then over on the probability side are all of these factors that might increase the chances that something bad will happen. In immature organizations, we simply don’t do as much business analysis, which can lead to diminished marketability. In highly specialized roles we increase the changes that economic factors will make our roles (and our skill sets) obsolete (think of all those working in the financial sector in and around New York). If our organization does not perceive value in business analysis, then we’re less likely to have the opportunity to take on more advanced responsibilities, progress our careers, and may even face a bit of job instability when the purse strings get tight.

The point is not to rest on any one factor, but to look at all of them and consider where your risk points are and what aspects of your role might counter-balance those risks.

But What If I Needed a Paycheck Yesterday?

We’re not always in a position to make a decision based on the long-term. Sometimes immediate financial or even career concerns are also a significant factor. When you are deciding to look for a new job or bypass a not-so-right job offer, think about  your financial runway.  Entrepreneurs use this concept a lot when they talk about starting a new business.  They ask, “How many months do I have before I simply run out of money?” Your cushion might be a little bigger.  It might be, “How long do I have before I have to start drawing on critical savings to pay the mortgage? ”

Now, Let’s Look at the Benefits

Risks often prevent our clear thinking, so I’ve spent the most time on them. But benefits are important as well.  If you look at where you are today and where you want to be two to five, to ten years down the road – however far you can look, does the opportunity help you take a forward step in that direction?  Or is it in a different direction that might eventually lead to where you want to go? Will you be building valuable career experiences and will you be minimizing your risk?

Warning: Avoid the “Grass is Greener” Syndrome

A lot of times we can look at jobs outside our company and they seem perfect on the outside.  Few people want to tell you the truth in an interview — that the boss micro-manages and the stakeholders avoid you at all costs and it’s just miserable to work here. You might be looking at your own imperfect situation and thinking any situation can be better.

Yes, the grass is always greener somewhere else. Until we get there. Then we sometimes realize they have similar fundamental flaws and our last opportunity didn’t seem quite so bad.

So take that into account and do some diligence around those benefits. Make sure the grass really is greener.

Pulling it All Together

Weigh the pros and cons of all the options available to you, and weigh them not just against the short term of, “What will they achieve for me next month?” but the long term of, “Where do they take me in my long-term career plan?” Look at the relative risks of each situation. After doing your research and looking at the pros and cons, you might take a deep breathe and decide based on your gut — often your gut gives you information that doesn’t show up on any spreadsheet or comparison chart.

And remember, every situation can be influenced by YOU. Careers are not something that happen to us, careers are something that we build in response to the opportunities that we discover along our paths. The decision you make at this juncture could be the most important in your career, or it could be that either answer will lead you where you want to go. I can’t help you see into the future, only make the best decision based on the necessarily limited information you’ll have to make it.

Stay informed about new articles and course offerings.

(You'll get a free step-by-step BA career planning course too).

Click here to learn more

your details are safe with us

Books and Courses You Might Be Interested In

Comments

  1. DougGtheBA says:

    Hey Laura

    I liked your assessment here. An intelligent decision is always a much better one than that without some sort of knowledge. Often we react to situations based on emotion or before we are ready to. Taking some extra time to weigh things out can make a big difference…I have to wonder if we wind up in situations that we are miserable in because we failed to do the above suggestions that you made.

    That being said, your post reminded me of a conversation you and I had sometime back, in which I relayed to you that I believe the best lessons learned are also the most painful. A lot of times we seek to move to a new location not because of a new great opportunity but because we are suffering in some fashion where we currently work. So, we’re basically seeking the fastest exit, which aligns with your grass is always greener analogy. However, I would challenge the readers to take a step back and assess whether each can overcome his/her current situation by reinventing the approach used to deal with it.

    It’s easy to apply blame and identify reasons for an adverse condition, but what could you as the “sufferee” do to change either the situation itself or how you interact with it. Could you actually make a wholesale change in your own approach that is so powerful that it alters the situation indirectly? In a market that can be dismal for employment opportunities and people can sometimes feel trapped, changes like these can lead to high degrees of self-satisfaction and morale. Also, those around will take notice of the efforts you are expending to change a negative into a positive..whether you are successful or not.

  2. Thanks Doug. Very good point. Sometimes the grass is always greener because YOU are the problem and need to be part of the solution. Or this can also happen because you haven’t fully invested yourself in the organization. I once spoke to a potential mentee that complained for the full 30 minutes about all the things his organization was doing wrong and accepted none of my many suggestions for improving the situation. (Yea, that didn’t work out for either of us.) He had obviously checked out and was beyond saving his role at that particularly organization.

    I’ve been there…or actually I was just really close and looking over the cliff…and when you do get to that point of negativity, you either have to choose to dig deep, deeper than is comfortable and try some radical things to change your situation (like you have honorably done), or move on to something else quick (even if that means eating up your financial runway, which I did 3 years ago). Because the cost of dwelling (even for a short time) in such a bad situation that you can’t pull yourself emotionally out of can be horrible for your career. You will not find a new job in that state of mind, believe me. A good hiring manager will smell the negativity before you even sit down and answer the first interview question!

    I do go into this heavily in Navigating BA Job Decisions, based on the excellent ideas you provided in our interview. And thanks for bringing them up again here. We need to hear them again and again!

  3. Stephanie Ritchie says:

    Hello Doug and Laura,

    Great article (and following points.) I am currently in a situation at work where I do feel trapped and am desperately (ha) seeking more challenging and meaningful work. This article could not have had better timing. I need to weigh all my options carefully and not after say a bad day at the office to ensure I am making an intelligent decision instead of an emotional one.

    I am going to take this advice and seriously look at what I can change in the time being and help become part of the solution (because if you aren’t part of the solution, often you are part of the problem.)

    Thanks to the both of you for continously writing such excellent article and giving me food for thought.

    Cheers,

    Steph

  4. DougGtheBA says:

    Stephanie:
    For my part, you’re welcome. If there is anything that you need help with or just a sounding board, please reach out for help. Best of luck!

    Doug

  5. Stephanie, a second you’re welcome. And thank you for sharing your story. With reflection and insight you’ll find the right path! Even finding a small way to change things for the better will be very empowering and an experience you will take with you!

  6. Heather Cota says:

    I completely appreciate these threads because they are much more productive than therapy sessions (not to mention free). I do believe the “grass is always greener” syndrome is much more prevalent in the BA. It’s just our nature to be hyper sensitive to the “wrongs” around us and even more sensitive when we can’t right them as quickly as we’d like (why can’t everyone else see our vision as fast and clearly as we can?!). The idea of self reflection through difficult times is fairly crucial because the wrongs we need to right won’t always be external. I just don’t think that is something we can avoid, but it’s something we can continually monitor by identifying our yellow/red flags before we reach that brink of desperation.

  7. Hi Laura,

    Thanks for posting this article.

    You are right. The elements that you have highlighted are familiar to most but few could present/ put it all together to help themselves.
    We are accustomed to structures and very few of us could give a structure to our thoughts.

    I’m a lead BA in CRM domain and I believe Bridging The Gap is a great place to share our experiences.

  8. Thanks both Heather and Ahmed for sharing your perspective and experiences. I’ve never before heard Bridging the Gap compared to therapy and I’m not sure I’m comfortable in the role of therapist, but as an analogy with a few grains of truth I think it works!

    BAs do tend to be a bit of perfectionists and maybe this does lead us to be hyper-sensitive to the wrongs. (You can read a story about this here: http://www.bridging-the-gap.com/business-analyst-perfectionist/) I know I’ve felt that experience at least a few times throughout my career — because I simply did not want to fail or be part of a failing project and often saw failure where others saw success. But this is something I’ve learned to unlearn over the last few years and it’s been one of the best aspects of my personal/professional development.