I’ve been working as a consultant in New York City since 2005, performing business analysis activities for client organizations either as a stand-alone service or as part of a larger consulting packaged service related to custom software development. Because of the nature of my role, it’s common for me to start looking for the next assignment every 4-6 months, near the completion of a project. In this tough market, many business analysts are looking for help finding their next position, and Laura asked me to share my experiences coming upon my latest opportunities. Here are my top recommendations for job seekers, based on my recent experience in the consulting world.
1. Be Selective About Your Business Analyst Job Search
A few months ago, when I was about to finish a project, I sent a single application to a position that I found online. I didn’t know anyone from that company, and it took them a couple of weeks to contact me for a phone screening, but after the initial contact the interview process was fast and successful–the position was perfect for me. In previous occasions, a new project resulted from a recruiter finding my profile in LinkedIn, with an interview being scheduled after I confirmed that the position was, indeed, a good fit. It’s common for me to ignore job leads from recruiters or even friends when the description does not match my background or interests. I find it is much more productive to concentrate my efforts on positions that truly reflect my qualifications and future goals.
Being selective doesn’t mean that you have to apply only for jobs you’ve done before, but rather that you should be realistic, not applying for positions for which you clearly don’t have the right mix of skills. Applying only for target positions you are reasonably qualified for and interested in will allow you more time to create a higher-quality application, which take us to the next tip.
2. Customize your Resume and Cover Letter for Each Job
In order to attract attention, your resume and cover letter must be focused, sharply honed and error-free documents that clearly identifies your skills, experience, and accomplishments related to the position you are seeking. Customized resumes are more relevant to the job and more attractive to recruiters and hiring managers, usually generating more attention than generic resumes. If you are not getting interviews, your first step should be to make sure you are identifying which skills are emphasized most for the position you are seeking, and using this information to point your resume and cover letter in the right direction. I haven’t tried blindly sending out the same generic resume to a number of recruiters or hiring managers, but I’m willing to bet that I wouldn’t get more job interviews and offers using this approach.
3. Tap the Power of Networking and the Business Analyst Community
For the past 4 years, when I wasn’t executing an assignment for the NY-based boutique IT firm I work for, I was consulting on a project that I found researching job boards, responding to a recruiter who contacted me, or, in a much larger scale, networking–particularly with ex-colleagues, executives and managers with whom I have worked in the past. In my experience, the most effective networking-building activities happen during the periods you are not looking for work, and typically with the people you’ve met in real life.
I have been introduced to great people through LinkedIn groups, but perhaps because I never told them when I was looking for a new assignment, these virtual connections haven’t yet translated into work opportunities. With real-life connections, on the other hand, new opportunities are constantly emerging as a consequence of simply keeping in touch and continuing to contribute to the relationship (introducing people who would benefit from meeting each other, sending relevant articles and book recommendations, etc.). My contacts constantly inform me of openings in their organization and introduce me to hiring managers in other companies, which typically translates into new opportunities being lined up long before my current assignment is finished.
For business analysts just starting their career (and consequently with a smaller network of people who can recommend their work), making one-on-one connections in social networking websites can be a good alternative to start building meaningful relationships. Make sure you optimize the time you spend in networking websites, reevaluating your online activities occasionally to confirm that you are meeting the right people and staying in contact over the long-term, so you are remembered when an opportunity comes up. In addition to joining business analyst online communities, I recommend finding groups where you can meet people from a variety of professions working in the industry you specialize in, as this increases your chances of connecting with a potential employer. Networking events may be another option for you to meet people and start growing your network.
Read more posts about professional networking for business analysts.
4. Take Responsibility for Your Own Professional Development
I spent several hours per week of my personal time reading about Agile techniques long before I started working on Agile projects. Being serious about building new competencies significantly increases the chances that you will be considered well-qualified for a position even when it involves performing activities that you haven’t done in the past. Reading books and articles is a good start, and you might also look for the support of a mentor or colleague to help you learn marketable business analysis techniques.
Read more posts about professional development planning for business analysts.
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Being selective about the job search, customizing the application process, staying in touch with people who know me well enough to recommend my services, and spending time building new competencies, are the things that have helped me most during my search for new consulting projects. If you think you need help putting in practice the points mentioned here, I recommend that you buy Laura’s eBook How to Start a Business Analyst Career, which provides practical and actionable advice for building a personalized road map and finding your next business analyst position.