Patience & Persistence Part 1: How I Moved from the HR Department to Business Analyst Intern

If you are fortunate enough to have a clear picture of your professional vision in your head then you’ve already made significant progress toward achieving your goals.  Most of the effort remaining ahead has to do with communicating that vision to the right people.  However the outreach process can get frustrating and an initial inquiry will often yield rejection.  How do you get prospective employers to recognize your assets?

Along the winding country road that leads to my house there’s a sign posted, hand-painted in large block letters – “Patience & Persistence” is the message to all who go by.  The author’s meaning isn’t clear. From the jumble of in-progress construction projects on the property, perhaps it’s a message of encouragement to the neighbors that soon an eyesore would become a palace.

For me, the message rings of hope … that being focused and tenacious can drive a positive outcome.

I’m smiling as I write this, and it’s not just the bright spring day that has me in a good humor.  I’ve reach a new turning point in my journey to work virtually; the story that I started sharing with you here a year ago has taken a course with the best of all possible outcomes.  Patience and Persistence are responsible for the results, and I can’t help but think back to another time when these characteristics came into play, transcending some very fundamental obstacles in the way of my desired career path as a Business Analyst.

Turning Rejection Into Opportunity: How I Became a BA Intern

My first job after graduating with a BBA in Computer Science was as Benefits Analyst in the HR department, calculating pensions and collecting health care payments.  I won the position mostly due to a Finance class that gave me experience with Lotus 1-2-3, a rare commodity in 1985 (there were few PCs in the office back then, and spreadsheets were found on the ironing board).

But a senior project in system analysis made me aspire to take on the Business Systems Analyst role, a combination of Business Analyst and Project Manager that resided in the IT Department.  To get there I had to migrate from HR to IT, no easy feat since job posting candidates typically had several years’ foundation as a Programmer, with the best and brightest choosing to move into this role with greater influence on solution design and implementation. There were no entry-level positions.

After being rejected from the candidate pool a second time I started considering options outside my company, while at the same time developing a strategy to build my case internally.  The Patience & Persistence approach?

  • Expand your network, making the most of new connections made through the interview process.  They all know you’re looking and you never know where a job lead will come from. Bonding with your prospective boss and co-workers will also help them to support a decision in your favor if it ever came up again.
  • Repeatedly reach out to your growing network and find ways to help them without anything expected in return. In this way you stay on their radar and show your win/win attitude.  Call it good karma, but in my experience, those who give, get a second look.
  • Demonstrate your capabilities in a way that mirrors what your prospects do now and supports what they want to do in the future.  Create deliverables for them or share samples of your work that align with their own work products, in terms of presentation style, charts and graphic exhibits, etc.

Eventually I had a heart-to-heart with the IT Department Head, recapping my assets as someone who was capable of comparable work plus knowledgeable of the business side, someone that might soon be lost to a competitor given no other choice. My arguments prevailed, and together with my new Team Leader, we defined an intern position that would include coaching to fill gaps in my knowledge while I took on IT’s l-o-o-o-n-n-g list of low hanging fruit: short, easy projects that delivered immediate value – and helped me to earn my paycheck as a Junior Business Analyst.

Finding the Path to Your Own Professional Vision

We leave this story at a promising crossroads – a novice BA exploring the possibilities. In my next article we’ll fast forward in time to explore how Patience and Persistence recently helped me to triumph again in my search to become a Virtual Business Analyst.

Think about how you project your capabilities when investigating new opportunities.  In what ways can you better communicate your vision and demonstrate the assets that you bring?

Nothing happens unless first a dream. – Carl Sandburg

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Comments

  1. Thanks guys, it was fun to share some ancient history.

    David, you’re right that it’s too bad we have to go to these extents, but we also have to see it from the leadership’s perspective – mapping competencies to an immediate business need. It’s the forwarding thinking manager that makes room in the organization for growth and new perspectives. Having an internal learning path, mentors, and specific knowledge transfer programs all enable leadership to look beyond the normal sources of talent.

    However, as Scott described so well in his earlier post, taking the initiative on education is our own responsibility. Back then there was a corporate information center and library I could visit to perform research, get tutoring, and talk things through when I got stuck. I took it upon myself to learn Basic programming in that way and wrote a sophisticated [mainframe] macro to automatically calculate those pensions, based on social security earnings and other data pulled from the payroll system. That was so outside the scope of how other Benefits Analysts had tackled the problem that it got the attention of my boss in HR, who happened to lunch with the IT Department Head and bragged about it to him. Do you see the ripple effect?

    Today there’s a wealth of public education and research available over the internet, special interest groups and discussion boards ready to collaborate, and many avenues to show your stuff by volunteering.

  2. Scott Sampson says

    Hi Joan,

    Great article! I transitioned from HR as well so I can relate to your quest. I addressed this in an article I wrote previously:

    http://www.bridging-the-gap.com/new-business-analyst-position/

    In addition to patience and persistence, a love of learning is also key to moving ahead…

  3. Really good article. Is too bad we have to go to these extents in order to get the opportunity to show what we are capable of in order to secure a position as a BA.

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