Looking to Break Into a Business Analyst Career?

Doug Hill recently posted about his first 100 days as a business analyst. In this post, he shares his knowledge with one of his readers with some tips for breaking into business analysis.

Note from the reader

Hi Doug,

I recently read your article on Bridging the Gap between Business and IT site about your first 100 days as a BA. It was very interesting to get some first hand insights about dealing with QAs, project managers, etc. I am a recent university graduate with Bachelors in Economics and a Minor in Business. I have tried to go for entry level BA positions, but it just seems impossible with the level of competition and the struggling economy. I recently became well familiar with a Masters in Business Analysis certification program offered through another university. I am wondering if that credential would be worth it and make me differentiated in the job market?  Would you recommend it for someone who has the least bit experience under his belt, but has a strong desire to learn the Business Analysis field? I would gladly appreciate your input.

Thanks!

“Looking to Break in the B.A. Biz”

Response from Doug Hill

Dear “Looking to Break in the B.A. Biz”,

Thanks for taking time to read the article and offering the generous compliment.  I am not certain about all the circumstances surrounding your recent luck with securing a position as a BA.  You sound like you have a solid undergraduate degree that should play very well in your favor.  Sometimes its as simple as your regional economic conditions (location), the level of talent that is available in your regional pool or even as personal as the communication skills that you display when interviewing (I will elaborate on that later).

The value of IT education

As far as obtaining the Masters in Business Analysis Certification; I am a huge proponent of collecting additional degrees, certifications, commendations, skills and experience one can gather in a lifetime.  Of course at what cost does this come at?  This will always be the counter weight.  I have found that there are many opportunities to get these additional notches on your belt inexpensively or free through employer sponsored training and continued education programs.  Keep an eye out for these as you work for various employers.  The employer I worked nearly a decade for paid 100% of my undergrad and graduate degrees. It was a godsend.  I can say without a doubt that my degrees got my resume in the door.  If it was not for that, I probably would not have been given a first look in many cases.

Pesky need for business analysis experience

You have a solid undergraduate degree to get you in the door and noticed.  What you are missing is that pesky “experience” piece.  Obviously that only comes with time and its one of those “chicken & egg” conundrums. You can’t get experience without the opportunity but you can’t get the opportunity to gain the experience first.  So what do you do?  I would start off by stepping back and looking at your situation like a business analyst would.  This could work as your first business analyst project experience.

Expand your scope and zero-in on tour target

First, I would expand your scope and then narrow it by identifying your target.  Look in all sectors and perhaps in all the regions of the country (or world) that you would like to work.  Select a few targets and research them thoroughly.  Make sure they make sense, meaning that your skill set and background would be a good match and it’s a business sector.  Contact these companies and see if they have any opportunities available.  Don’t rule out internships and even pro-bono work in exchange for experience.  Once you’ve expanded your scope and identified your targets, zero in on them and go after them vigorously.

Consider reputable talent resource firms to help find the first business analyst job

Something else to seriously consider (and what really assisted me) is working with a reputable talent resource firms (also known as “head hunters”).  This should be a free service to you.  Watch out for those companies that offer opportunities for a fee.  This is no service, this is more than likely a scam.  I worked with Cincinnati Bell Technical Solutions.  They are an amazing company with an outstanding reputation in the IT industry here in the Ohio-Indiana-Kentucky area.  You should have a resource in your region.  If you’re interested in the Cincinnati area, send me your resume and I will make sure it gets forwarded on to the decision people that can get the ball rolling here.  I personally know of a couple positions as a business analyst in the banking industry as well as various other industries that I have been called about.

Another opportunity to gain experience is considering contract work and if possible contract to hire opportunities.  This will often give a “would-be-employer” a way to “try you out” and allow you to “try them on for size” to see if it is a good fit.  This has opened a lot of doors for many people to gain much needed experience to get them the job they really want.

Two more tips….

Create a business analyst resume

First, work on your resume.  Go to the library and read up on resume preparation and interest letters.  There are so many resources online and at the library that can help you with this.  Have multiple copies of your resume available.  A “one-pager”, a detailed resume, a resume specific to the position you’re applying for, a resume for specific industries, etc.  Contact people you know in the business sector and do more research once you think you have them where you think they’re are great.   Have these individuals look your resume over and critique it.  Have them be brutally honest.  This will give you another set of eyes from people who are in the position of hiring as well as giving you an opportunity to network and possibly land an offer from one of these individuals who may have something in their company.

Learn to connect with hiring managers

The second tip is to work on your interviewing skills.  Your communication skills and the way you connect with the interviewer over the phone and in person are critical.  This I can not stress enough.  If you don’t connect with the person you are talking to, you will typically not get an offer.  You have to connect on a level that is beyond the resume, experience, education and skill level you posses.

The interviewer needs to walk away from talking with you thinking, “I really like this guy and can’t wait to talk to him again.”  This can be accomplished through a couple of ways.  Once again, hit the library and internet.  There is a ton of information on “How to Interview” and communicate.  These are all great and typically have similar information.  I would also research Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and body language resources.  Learning how to read someone else and adapt to make that connection is critical.  This skill will not only aid you in slam dunking an interview, it will also help you as a business analyst and even in your love life and relationships (seriously).

I hope I didn’t inundate you with information overload.  There’s a lot to digest.  I really appreciate you emailing me with this question. If you have any more questions I would be happy to address them.

Good luck!

Sincerely,
Doug Hill

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Comments

  1. Hi Doug

    I had read your comments on “Looking to break into a business analyst career”. I am thinking of transitioning into a Business Analyst role in Canada. I have experience working in the Retail Industry in India in diversified roles which require analytical and problem solving skills. I have been researching on the kinds of roles in the Retail Sector which could pave the way for making my transition, however the problem I face is that I do not have any experience working in Canada/North America and How do I put this across in my resume and cover letter as this is what that gets the recruiters make the first call.
    I would gladly appreciate your suggestions.
    Thanks
    Nithya Raghuprasad

  2. Pesky need for business analysis experience?
    This is really an “issue” for most career seekers, even those with experience as companies often want a specific type of experience.
    Basically it comes down to how you sell yourself during the interview, past experience, future promise and how quickly you can learn.

    If you’re a fast learner, give examples of how you may not have the exact experience they’re seeking but you’re more than willing to work hard to gain it.

    Just as the last tip suggests, connecting with the hiring manager can really get you further than most anything else you do – granting you’re qualified to begin with.

    Claudia
    Business Analyst Certification

  3. Hi,

    I have 4 yrs of IT experience working in CRM domain as a technical analyst(mainly IT programming). I ve involved in manly responsibilities that BA usually does. Like organising meetings, status calls,documentation, client interaction etc..I consider myself having good people skills and well versed in presentation skills. Can you pls let me know how I can migrate into this field ,my education being Engineering(Computer Science)

  4. Hi Doug, thanks for the insight. I too am trying to break into the BA field.

    I have a finance degree and worked as a IT project analyst/manager at Convergys @ the Cincinnati Office.. However, I really have not been involved in requirements and gathering and so forth. So it seems like I’m already on a PM track, but missing the BA part.

    I would like to break into the BA part to understand a bigger picture. If you can give me any tips in terms of breaking into this area, it would be much appreciated.

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