3 Ways to Improve Your Marketability as a BA

Author: Adriana Beal

Bridging the Gap readers write:

I’ve been doing functional testing, requirements gathering, and functional support to technical and business teams for the past 4 years, and I’m finding it difficult to be considered for junior BA positions in other organizations. What could I do change this situation?

How to improve as a BA, increase my skills & marketability, and change the perception in my organization that BAs are “glorified notetakers”?

How to move into more leadership/strategic roles when I keep getting pulled back into the technical details of a project?

Whether you are interested in finding a better job, developing skills and experience that are highly valued and hard to replace, or simply working on more high-profile projects within your organization, there are some proven steps that you can take to increase your marketability and create new opportunities in your career as a business analyst:

1. Take Charge of your Learning

If you feel that your experience isn’t being valued, or that you aren’t been given opportunities to expand your role within your organization, it’s your responsibility to figure out what is missing. Spend some time assessing your competence gap, prioritizing these gaps, and developing an action plan. If your organization doesn’t have a competency model for business analysts, talk about the benefits of having one with the BA manager, HR, or anyone that could help make it a reality.

Identify the skills, knowledge and personal characteristics that are valued, recognized and rewarded in your organization (or in the companies you are interested in working for), and create a realistic plan to develop these competencies and/or to demonstrate your proficiency in the desired skill set.

2. Let People Know You Are Willing to Take on More Responsibilities

Many BAs fail to communicate to their managers their interest in increasing their responsibilities, participating in more strategic projects, and broadening their skills.

At one point in my career I belonged of a team of 6 BAs, all working on a very complex system. Even though we were typically very busy updating use cases impacted by changes in business rules, there were always slow periods in which we were waiting for a decision to be made, an answer to be given by the technical team, or a requirements walk-through meeting to be scheduled.

I was the most junior BA on that team, and the only one who proactively talked to our manager to let her know that I was willing to take other projects that could be tackled during these waiting times.

As a result, I was given a leading role on a project to implement a new requirements management tool, and later became responsible for training the other BAs on the new tool. I was also assigned to help another department develop the business requirements for a high visibility project. That project allowed me to interact directly with senior executives and opened new opportunities that didn’t become available to other BAs who chose to spend their spare time just studying or waiting for the next task.

Later on, this experience turned out to be a great conversation point in job interviews whenever the hiring manager was interested in learning about my ability to work in multiple projects simultaneously.

3. Create Career Opportunities For Yourself

In What to Do When You Are In Between Projects, Laura offers many helpful suggestions for temporary reassignments that can broaden a BA’s experience while making a direct contribution to business goals. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t wait for your management to make these suggestions — figure out what contributions you could be making to your organization at that point, and talk with your supervisor about offering your services to teams that might be in need of an extra pair of hands.

Mark Jenkins offers another valuable tip on how to elevate the BA role by adding a business relationship management component to it:

By maintaining continuity and developing an ongoing, consultative relationship the BA stays abreast of what’s going on in a department in the absence of active project work with that department. In my experience, it also allows the BA to move beyond being regarded solely in a project sense and more as a consultant or advisor.

Even if your manager doesn’t recognize the value of developing a solid relationship with your internal customers outside project work, you can still create opportunities to get more exposure to the business side. Going to lunch with business stakeholders and joining them for coffee breaks will help you learn what business problems need solutions, and which initiatives you might be able to help with.

. . .

The advice provided here may seem hard to implement if you already feel overwhelmed with work (a situation many BAs are experiencing, after surviving rounds of layoffs in their organizations). If you are feeling overworked, and sense that is not a temporary problem, communicate this to your manager. He or she may not realize how busy you currently are, either because you appear to be handling it well or because s/he is also feeling overwhelmed. Talking to management may produce some potential solutions to scale back your busy schedule so you can pursue your goal of taking on more responsibilities, elevating your role to a more strategic level, or landing a better job.

Don’t simply wait for new opportunities to come knocking on your door; create your vision of a better job, and put in the work to bring it to life. Good luck!

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  1. Hi, Joan,

    Thank you for leaving your comment. Regarding your question, there is much hope and opportunity for a 48 year old who likes BA work :-). Your experience in operations and analysis, and passion for determining solutions for business needs, are sure to open many doors for you.

    Just to give you an example, an ex-colleague who became a faithful reader of Bridging the Gap by my recommendation recently told me that one of his friends, who had just left a software programming role, found a BA position in weeks after starting reading BTG. This website helped him figure out how to position the experience he already had accumulated in business analysis, and in no time he became a “formal” BA.

    I have no doubt that if you start to investigate new opportunities (if not available internally, talking to people in your network) and create a development plan that targets your unique strengths and weaknesses, you will find it easy to transition into a BA role as well. Good luck!

  2. Joan Torres says

    Great article, it certainly reiterates that we always have opportunities to improve a process, at work if we look for them. I currently work at a very small distribution organization as the Administrator of Operations(13 years). My boss, the VP of Operations is really the untitled BA and I have no more room for advancement.
    I took this class at the urging of a friend, who is a Principle at a Life Science company and I know a BA should be my next natural career move.
    IS there hope for a 48 year old with a ton of “BA” knowledge who loves to graze, identify and initiate solutions(only with my bosses okay first)?

  3. In Transition says

    thought provoking article…

  4. Henry, thank you for describing your experience and good results from initiative taking. I’m confident that the stories you will be able to tell recruiters and hiring managers about working across organizational boundaries and being admired and sought after by your colleagues will help you land a great new position in no time. Good luck!

  5. Henry Motyka says

    Excellent article. When I was at PricewaterhouseCoopers, I managed to expand the scope of what I was doing by learning the business/financial side as well as the technical side. I was very highly sought after for my opinions and my input and my power and influence grew in the organization. I would go so far as to say that I became famous within the organization and that many people knew me.

    Now that I am looking for a new position, I advertise that as one of my skills.

    Thanks again for a great article.

  6. Yes, Joy, I definitely agree. In several occasions I had to recruit a BA for a client, and their field of study played no part in the decision about the best candidate.

    There are a series of skills that a good BA should be able to demonstrate (many of which I list in this article here: http://businessanalystmentor.com/2009/06/12/becoming-a-business-analyst-assessing-your-competence-gap/ ), and they can be developed regardless of the title of one’s degree.

    Thanks for joining the conversation!

  7. Thanks for the post Adriana. I seem to more frequently hear about a lot of people who want to be BA’s now and aren’t sure how to break into the field. We have a post that describes some things we look for during the recruiting process, when trying to find a BA. One thing of note – we aren’t really looking what a person studied in school – so it surprises me when people are worried they had the wrong major!

  8. Girish,

    Thank you too for leaving your comment — it’s always good to know that an article stimulated thought. Hopefully it will inspire positive change for many BAs!

  9. Girish Wadhwani says

    Thought provoking article especially with point #3. It’s very important to maintain consultative relationships with customers & stakeholders and look beyond the project work in order to create more opportunities.
    Thanks Adriana.

  10. Nancy, thank you for stopping by and commenting. And yes, I think most of us need to be reminded from time to time that remaining a “promotable BA” takes discipline, but the rewards of a fulfilling career is definitely worth all of the work.

  11. Nancy Carr says

    Nice article. Sometimes, it is just good to be reminded that you need to continually jump-start your career!

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