How to Expand the Business Analyst Work History Section of Your Resume

When it comes to finding a business analyst job, we know that work experience is a big factor in getting the first interview and even being offered a first position as a business analyst. If you are employed in an office setting, what typically works best is to expand your business analyst work experience (even if you don’t have the BA job title).

In absence of being employed in an office setting, there’s another practice that some of our course participants have been using to validate their readiness for a BA position. And this one works even if you are currently unemployed and is especially valuable if you have a recent gap in your work history.

What we’ve seen people doing with positive results is to volunteer to do business analysis activities for a non-profit organization or a small business that otherwise would not be in a position to hire a business analyst. While volunteering they accomplish a few things:

  • They interact with stakeholders from that organization, learning how BA techniques work out in a real work environment and creating a requirements deliverable they can use as a business analyst work sample in future job interviews.
  • They expand their business analysis experience, giving them confidence and talking points for future job interviews.
  • They secure valuable recommendations of their work and contacts they can ask to be references.

One of our course participants had this to say about the value of her recent volunteer work experience:

“I was able to leverage your course, my pharmacy (pro bono) experience and their request for me to come back for process improvement assistance to get the in-person interview! I wanted you to know, even if I don’t get the ultimate job offer, that you’ve made a difference in my life and I thank you.”

Even with that amazing testimonial, I know you’ll have many “yes, buts” in reaction to this idea. I will address them – I promise – but first let’s talk about one more benefit of volunteering to expand your work experience.

What has surprised many of these course participants and what might surprise you as well, is that you can also add this experience to the work history section of your resume. Simply list the organization as an employer on your business analyst resume, list the role you filled as your title, then bullet-point the BA techniques you used and their correlating accomplishments. This approach is especially valuable if your most recent job title isn’t anything close to business analyst, as it gives you the opportunity to add titled work experience to your resume.

I would expect that you probably have some deep-set assumptions about what “work experience” means and I know this idea may seem a little controversial. So let’s deal with some of the natural negative reactions you might have.

But, you say…

But, you might say, I wasn’t “working,” I was “volunteering.” Sure, you are correct. But let’s think critically about what a future employer is looking for from your work history.

  • They are looking for evidence that you can apply business analysis techniques in a work environment.
  • They are looking for evidence that you can deliver value to their organization.
  • They might also be looking for social proof – if someone else has hired you for a paying position, then it’s probably a good idea for them to hire you too.

Your volunteer experience satisfies these first two needs completely. And, if you can couple your volunteer work with a recommendation, the hiring manager’s instinct for social proof might very well be satisfied.

Looked at another way, you really have nothing to lose by listing this experience in your work history. If this particular manager is going to discount your volunteer experience, they are equally likely to discount the gap in your work history, meaning you wouldn’t have gotten the interview in the first place.

But, you might say, what if the “truth” comes out in the interview? Well, what if it does? Let’s look at the truth.

  • The truth as I see it is that you were able to do business analysis successfully to help an organization move forward towards its objectives.
  • The truth as I see it is that you are so committed to your career, that you were willing to volunteer to expand your skill set.
  • The truth as I see it is that you didn’t happen to be paid for the contribution you made.

In the job interview, simply focus more on what you did and less on what didn’t happen (i.e. your lack of a paycheck) and you’ll be fine. You can even start by saying that you contributed a little pro bono work for a client to help them {lead into the exciting result you helped the organization achieve here}…

“Pro bono” is a fancy term consultants use to mean volunteering. And they do it all the time as part of their sales process or to gain experience in new area. You are doing nothing less than a high paid consultant when you “volunteer” for “pro bono” work. It’s valuable work experience.

Stand proud.

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