How to Protect your Business Analyst Career

As Business Analysts we work in an environment of constant change.  In economic downturns some organizations choose to cut change budgets, and this can affect job security for all change practitioners.  Whilst some would argue that there is little job security in Business Analysis, I believe that there is a huge amount of career security.  You might not stay with the same employer for your whole career –  but would you really want to?

The good news is that even in difficult economic times smart organizations are likely to be continuing with their change projects, ensuring that they are best placed to survive and thrive when the economy rebounds. In fact when times are hard some employers realise that they need to change even more and are more likely to start change projects.  This means that even if you are unlucky enough to be made redundant by one employer, chances are there will be another employer looking for top class BA talent.  However, when times are hard, it’s highly likely there will be more competition and so you’ll have to stand out from the crowd.

How can you make sure you’re best placed to capitalize on these opportunities? Three key habits that can help are to stay current, network and deliver. By building these habits into your weekly and monthly routine, you’ll be in a much stronger place should you need or want to make a career move.

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Staying current, networking and delivery are three ways to protect your BA career.

  1. Stay Current and reflect on your experience:

    Make sure you keep your Résumé or CV fresh, and ensure that you keep up to date with developments both in your industry and within the BA world. A great way to achieve this is to make time to read blogs, articles and attend BA events. Be prepared to try techniques and avoid a “one size fits all” approach to analysis, and when you do this take time to reflect on your successes, perhaps by keeping a project journal. By staying current and reflecting, you will be much better placed to ‘sell’ yourself at interview, and you’ll be able to speak knowledgeably about your varied experiences.

  2. Network beyond and between projects:

    There is an expression in sales that, “People buy from people they like and trust.”  Whilst the project world is slightly different, the sentiment still stands. If a hiring manager knows you and has seen you deliver, this might just give you the edge.  With smaller companies they may not even have considered hiring a BA before they met you, and now you have your foot in the door!

    Networking sounds scary, but it needn’t be this way.  It might be as simple as joining the IIBA, or even spending time talking to colleagues on other projects at the water cooler.   It might even be as simple as pro-actively staying in touch with people you already know.  Building trust-based relationships that last beyond and between projects will pay dividends.

  3. Deliver:

    Finally, and most importantly, DELIVERY builds reputation and career security. This applies at a macro (project) level, but equally applies to every interaction with every stakeholder – however junior or senior. Remember, reputation is everything and you never know when you might be working with a stakeholder again.  It is well worth keeping your promises, and spending time managing expectations.

There are many other tips and techniques which can help to build a long and stable BA career, but I believe that these are three of the most important.

 

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Comments

  1. Thanks Ben and Steven for your comments, I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

    I absolutely agree that it’s important to be able to describe projects you have worked on, and to have concrete examples of work you’ve completed. With regards to keeping copies of deliverables, I agree with Steven that there may be some sensitivities around confidentiality, but I agree this is very useful when it’s possible!

    I also try to reflect on the experiences I have within projects, so that I can include them on my resume (CV), and talk about them at interview. I also try to keep track of the things which didn’t go so well, but that I positively influenced, as these are things that demonstrate creativity and tenacity (and it’s great to have some examples ready for an interview!)

    Delivery is such an important dimension. Ultimately, organizations don’t want business analysts or project managers – they want delivered change. Only by delivering do we prove our value and build our credibility. I truly believe this is the way to build on the success of the profession.

    Thanks again for your comments, and I hope you found the post thought provoking and useful!

    Adrian.

  2. Great post Adrian!

    1 and 2 should always be on a person’s mind but point 3! That’s where the real fun happens and you are totally spot on! I hadn’t quite thought of it that way but boy is it ever true.

    As Ben pointed out, having samples of your work is handy but also needs to have some care put into how you are storing it (obfuscating names, capabilities, etc) so they are not representative of anything proprietary / protected knowledge asset. Now that companies are more in tune with having standards and templates, I’ve found having samples from requirements packages less useful since you are typically expected to follow those standards now.

    What I’ve found more useful now is samples of code or something unique that I was able to pick up enough understanding to be useful without becoming an expert. My examples include 10+ pages of printed SQL code created to report on an audit that I was able to read through and found filter criteria missing, or COBOL code that had to be analyzed from an existing system to understand how the new one needed to perform. In both instances, I had no prior knowledge of either but I showcase it to some extent because I became profient enough to understand and ask questions instead of just tossing my hands up and saying “HELP!” (which can also be useful at times, though).

    I think having some samples of this type of capability building experience (where you took on something new to you to help the project) fallls under the Delivery bullet. I’m definitely keeping an eye out on how I’ve influenced Delivery now, in addition to what I already kept track! Thanks Adrian!

  3. As an addition to point 1 above, I find storing examples of your work during the course of your employment is useful as well.

    I’ve been caught out several times in the past (not anymore!) when potential employers ask to see a specification, report or model that I’ve produced, and I haven’t taken copies of them before I left.

    Now each time I create a new deliverable I save it away (anonymizing any data etc appropriately) so that I’ll have it when interview time comes.

    Anyway thanks for the good, relevant post.
    Cheers,
    Ben

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