Do you have a business background? Are interested in pursuing a business analyst career (even though it seems like a whole lot of BA roles require IT experience)? Would you like to learn how to leverage the business experience you already have to qualify yourself for a business analyst job?
Of course, to succeed as a business analyst it’s important to have the core business analyst skills. Most new business analysts are strong communicators and problem-solvers and many even have a bit of informal business analysis experience under their belt. But for many, their first positions, their “chance” so to speak, comes from leveraging a qualification that’s specific and unique.
What Can I Leverage?
Potential areas of expertise that are important include the following:
- Industry experience
- Functional / domain experience
- Application expertise
- Organization expertise
You might think of expertise as “know how.” It’s something that probably took you a few years to build and sums up a good part of your on-the-job experience.
For example, as I look at my career history, I’ve built some expertise in working on web products and, especially, content-rich web products. I understand search, content organization, and how to bring this together in a way that is a benefit to the customer or user. And more recently, these content products are driving connections. The websites I’ve worked on are trying to connect two parties (candidates and employers; wedding vendors and engaged couples; etc.).
This means that if I had to find a job fast I’d be looking for companies that could leverage this experience. I know my job search would be more effective in these areas. It also means that if I was considering a career change and trying to find a job outside of business analysis, I’d focus in on these types companies because I’d bring a lot of transferable knowledge to the table.
Whether we like it or not, many managers hire BAs for industry experience. As a new BA, you’ll make a much better case for your qualifications if you can mine elements of your career history that give you a leg up on the competition and make you a well-qualified candidate. Employers are simply more likely to overlook your relative weaknesses in business analysis if you have some irresistible expertise to provide.
What Expertise Do I Have?
Expertise comes from experience and it doesn’t necessarily have to be business analysis experience. Although industry expertise is often the most obvious qualification to leverage, other opportunities exist.
Here are some examples:
- Were you the subject matter expert on a specific tool? Common examples include Enterprise Resource Management tools (such as SAP), Customer Relationship Management Tools (such as Salesforce.com), and Documentation Management Tools (such as SharePoint).
- Do you have deep experience within a business domain or functional area? Consider marketing, finance, product development as ripe possibilities. Although I had built a team of BA generalists, I brought in a specialist BA for an accounting system migration. She new the accounting application, could talk accounting-speak with our finance team, and was a business analyst.
- What about the organizations you’ve worked for or are currently working for? This area of expertise that is often overlooked. It includes what you might know about how an organization works, who the stakeholders are and what the business model is. So many professionals become BAs by moving from one role into another in the same organization. Going back to organization’s you’ve worked for in the past can also yield opportunities. In this case, you can leverage your expertise in that organization and, very likely, your track-record of success in that organization. A close corollary would be focusing on organizations that are direct competitors to an organization you worked for previously.
Expertise Can Also Help Ensure Your Early Success as a BA
Instead of entering a new job where everything is new, you have an anchor of expertise to rely on. This actually makes it easier for you to consciously build your business analysis skills. If you walk into an industry or domain you know inside and out, you won’t need to spend as much time learning the language. Instead you can invest your time learning new business analyst techniques and preparing to use them in your projects.
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