If you haven’t yet attained your first BA role, life can seem complicated. The majority of BA roles ask for previous business analysis work experience, and you might find yourself caught in a familiar feedback loop:
“Without previous experience, employers won’t consider me for a BA job.”
“Without a BA job, I can’t get experience.”
There are very few truly entry level jobs in the BA world, and many job specification ask for 3, 5 or even 10 years of experience. When entry-level jobs do crop up, competition is extremely fierce.
So how can you turn the odds in your favour, and secure your first BA position?
The number of BA roles available is beyond your control. The key is to maximise your chances of getting your chance of landing one of them. It’s all about differentiating yourself from your peers, and gaining additional experience that will give you the edge.
Think about this from an employer’s point of view. If you were hiring a new BA, and had 50 resumes sitting on your desk, what would make the difference?
Here are five tips that will increase your chances of success.
I cannot emphasize this enough. A significant way of increasing your chances of getting a job is to get out and meet other BAs. You’ll get to hear about job opportunities that you might not otherwise have heard about. You’ll hear about the real-life challenges that BAs face, and will be able to prepare for how you’ll deal with these challenges when you get your first job. You’ll also hear about the tools, techniques and terminology that BAs use on-the-ground and in the real world. All of these things stand you in good stead for when you attend job interviews.
You can find some specific tips for networking in my previous article, ‘6 simple tips for building a professional network’. If you are fortunate enough to live near an active IIBA chapter, a great way to start your network is to attend as a guest.
2. Applicable and Relevant Training (But Choose Carefully!)
Employers prefer BAs who have received formal training, there is no doubt about this. Having a good foundation of BA training might just give you the edge. However, training and certification aren’t the silver bullet.
If you are planning to go on a BA training course, make sure you do your research. Don’t go with the cheapest company. Find out what you’ll learn and ask yourself whether this will increase your employability. Try to find other BAs who have attended the course, and ask them their opinion.
Definitely consider signing up for training, but make sure you go for the right course for you!
3. Softer Skills
Much is written about the analytical side of the BA role. However, as a BA you’ll be working with people every single day. Employers do consider whether a candidate has the necessary soft skills too, so make sure you include evidence of this on your resume. This might be through voluntary work, or even a customer service job you did at college!
4. Speak to Other BAs/Mentors
The job market varies from city to city. Speak to other BAs in your area, find out how they got their first job. Find out which employment consultants they’d recommend.
If you can, find a mentor. As an aspiring BA, you’ll undoubtedly have questions, and having a mentor on hand to help you out (and challenge you) can be extremely useful.
5. Get BA Experience Without BA Title
The BABOK acknowledges that you don’t have to have the title “Business Analyst” to be doing business analysis. If you are struggling to find your first BA role, try to get the experience without the title. This will help you break the “no experience = no job” vicious cycle.
There are many ways you might try to achieve this. If you are currently in a role, you might try to apply BA tools and techniques to the work you do, or you might volunteer to work on a new project. (This experience can help to expand the business analysis work history section of your resume.) If you’re looking for a new role, then you may want to consider roles where you can specifically use your BA toolkit. Look for roles that will give you experience of the project lifecycle.
Getting your first BA role is likely to be difficult, but it isn’t impossible. Speak to as many BAs as you can, get a variety of views, and don’t give up. Good luck!