Most business analysts come from other professions and job families. You can discover business analysis when talking to friends, exploring corporate career boards, or participating in projects as a subject matter expert. You become interested, learn more, and decide that business analysis may be for you.
Pivoting your career is rarely easy and may be scary. Yet, we do it out of necessity, when we discover a more attractive career path, or when our current careers are not going anywhere. Some do it several times in their life – dramatic career changes become more commonplace.
So, what should you do if you want to pivot your career to business analysis?
It’s always a good idea to make sure this is what you want before expending too much energy, time, and money.
Start by exploring: what business analysts do all day?
What are they expected to create? What do the outcomes of business analysis look like?
What skills does one need to be a successful analyst? What types of companies hire them and why?
Most importantly, does what you are discovering appeal to you? Does it make you more interested in business analysis?
If yes, then it’s worth taking the next step.
If not, or if you didn’t really like doing all this research, and you just prefer to read the answers, then please think – is this really for you? Business analysis requires research, investigation, looking for hidden patterns and clues, comparing and analyzing. It sometimes requires going back and starting all over if a wrong assumption is made. It requires multiple cycles of analysis. If you don’t like doing that, then you may want to research a different career path.
2. Assess your knowledge and skills.
If you have done your research, answered the questions from the previous section, and want to continue, the next step is to understand your knowledge gap. Compare what you know and can do today, and what you need to land a job as a business analyst and become successful. This will tell you what you need to learn and practice doing. In other words, you will need a professional development plan.
First, you must assess your knowledge and skills. And you have to be smart about it.
If you were to look at the business analysis competencies described in authoritative sources such as BABOK, you will find an extensive list. Don’t let it intimidate you.
First, think of all the competencies falling into several broad categories:
- Industry/ business knowledge
- Business analysis skills
- Methodology knowledge & experience
- Durable skills (communication, facilitation, leadership)
- Education, training, certifications
- Software & tools
Instead of trying to tackle everything, focus on what you need to get started. What is required to get your feet wet and get that first junior position that will allow you to learn and grow on the job?
You will develop and polish more advanced competencies as you practice business analysis.
While you can get a lot of advice about what is more important at the beginning of your new career, you will feel more confident if you do your own research. In this case, research the job market in your locale, and in your preferred industries. Look for entry-level or mid-level positions.
Find out what your prospective employers are looking for:
What do they think is important enough to include in job postings?
What top five skills are included in job descriptions?
What competencies are most frequently mentioned?
Which of those do you already have, need to improve or have to learn?
This research will help you define priorities for your professional development.
3. Create your own professional development plan.
You are the best judge of what helps you learn better. Once you have a list of priorities for professional development, decide on the learning methods.
Do you like watching videos, and then discussing what you’ve learned with others via online professional forums?
Would you feel more confident if you completed a formal training program with homework and quizzes?
Would you prefer a hybrid approach – learn through videos but in a structured way, with a well-defined sequence, such as via an online self-paced video course?
These are all realistic options – the best option is the one you will pursue without giving it up after two weeks.
4. Execute your plan.
The best plan is the one you implement successfully. Help yourself by making the timing and the goals realistic – but set an expectation that you will work hard. I sometimes meet with aspiring business analysts that want to learn more through coaching sessions, but then never find time to do their assignments, even when they can get them reviewed and improved at no additional cost.
Evaluate how much time you have available for study based on your work schedule and family obligations. Then add a little bit to that – make a commitment to reduce some of the time-wasters that we all indulge in. Whether you sometimes get caught up in Instagram browsing, gaming, or checking your classmates’ titles on LinkedIn – can you cut that and invest the time into your future?
Once your plan is drafted, don’t worry about making it perfect – start executing it. You can adjust it as you progress. You will have setbacks, but don’t let any of them discourage you:
You will likely do less than planned because we tend to overestimate our abilities to do things quickly.
You may go slower because you will need to go back to research often.
You may need to re-prioritize.
Or you may find a source that you like, and you will want to explore everything that you can find there.
Be agile. Don’t be afraid to change your plan – just make sure you are making progress.
Alternate self-learning cycles with getting help from others – through job shadowing, mentorship, or coaching.
Try different learning methods – don’t forget to practice what you learn and try teaching others.
5. Gain practical experience.
Candidates looking for a career pivot face a common challenge – getting exposure to a new profession. They need it to assess whether they will like the new job, to learn more, and to gain experience that they can talk about during job interviews.
Practical experience is priceless. Getting it is not always easy, especially when you still have your day job. However, it is possible with some smart planning and research. And don’t forget to check with your employer – the best reskilling opportunities may be closer than you think.
6. Prepare your resume and get ready for job interviews.
There is a ton of advice out there on preparing your resume. Books, articles, videos, and courses are abundant. Use them when working on your resume and remember something else.
When you apply for business analysis jobs, your resume is also a reflection of your professionalism. The quality of the presentation, the clarity and the message in your resume also reflect what to expect from your work as a business analyst. Avoid common resume mistakes described in my previous article and video.
Preparing for job interviews is an area where you can benefit from human help. You can practice with friends, buddies, a mentor or a career coach. You must be ready for common interview questions, yet ready to think on your feet. Your attitude and communication style during an interview will also be a clear indication of your durable skills which are so essential for a good business analyst.
More resources for aspiring business analysts
Business Analyst Mindset – blog post series
Business Analysis for Professionals Changing Careers (self-paced video course)