How to Level Up your Business Analyst Career
As a forward-thinking Business Analyst, this question is probably crossing your mind frequently.
You’ve established yourself in your career, but you may feel stagnant, eager for a change of scenery or simply ready to learn something new. In a competitive job market, Business Analysts need career know-how to navigate their next steps to keep their work fulfilling. Read on for simple steps you can take to take your Business Analyst career to the next level.
Understand Which Career Path You Want
To get an edge on advancing your career, you need to know where you want to end up. Business Analysts can take their careers in any one of a variety of directions. It all depends on your interests, strengths and opportunities.
As you move through your career, you’ll see that job titles and descriptions become more specialized and specific based on industry and skills. If you’re interested in the tech industry and you’re good at bridging technical work with communicating specialized ideas, a role as an IT Business Analyst could be a great fit. If you’d prefer to work in a variety of industries doing C-level consulting, you may consider a path into a Management Analyst position.
These are just a couple of examples of advanced and in-demand career paths for Business Analysts. Collabera and New Horizons Computer Learning Centers have detailed descriptions of directions that Business Analysts may take as they move throughout their careers.
Find a Mentor
A mentor is a great industry-specific resource for everything from day-to-day questions to giving insight into career decisions. Mentor-mentee relationships can begin organically, like with a trusted superior at work, or you can seek one out with a networking program. The International Institute of Business Analysts (IIBA) hosts local chapters where you can meet other analysts at different points in their careers, and they are forming a mentorship program for members.
A mentor should be someone you can see regularly, perhaps daily or weekly, and who can get to know you and your work habits well. Ideally your mentor is someone at your company, but a former colleague or even a professor can make a great mentor too. With a mentor, you’ll form an ongoing bond that will evolve as your career goals change.
Get a Career Coach
While mentors are typically fellow Business Analysts, career coaches are professionals who operate from a higher level as they help you seek out new opportunities. They may not be Business Analysts themselves, like a mentor would be, but they have plentiful resources for networking, optimizing your soft skills, and helping with resumes and cover letters.
Career coaches often focus on a local region where they have expertise on the job market. They meet with their clients for sessions lasting up to a couple of hours for a flat fee. Virtual and nationwide services are also available through organizations like TheMuse. If you plan on meeting with a career coach, make sure you have an idea of what you want to accomplish during your session and have documents like your resume and work history handy.
Your experience as a Business Analyst doesn’t have to come solely from formal education or on-the-job projects. Taking classes allows you to improve existing skills or add new skills to your resume through cheap and accessible means.
Business Analyst networking groups, like the IIBA, hold specialized workshops to help you hone your skills and learn from other Business Analysts. If you prefer self-directed learning, there are free online resources with high-quality trainings for Business Analysts, like LinkedIn Learning, where you can earn certificates to display on your profile. Coursera also has a free curriculum that specializes in business analytics with courses designed by The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. These courses are great if you have a specialty field in mind where you may be lacking competencies.
Volunteer for Challenging Projects
If you feel stagnated in your current role, be on the lookout for opportunities to challenge yourself. Offer your input in projects that may be out of your usual comfort zone so that you can learn with skilled colleagues or step forward to tackle an issue you found in day-to-day processes. No matter the project, be sure to ask for help when you need it—that’s one of the best ways to grasp new concepts and skills. By taking on challenging projects, you’ll not only gain experience, but you’ll also establish yourself as someone who takes initiative.
Invest in Soft Skills
While it makes sense to devote your time to expanding your technical skills, don’t let soft skills fall by the wayside. Soft skills are qualities and interpersonal skills that are less “trainable” than hard skills, but translate to every role in every industry. Soft skills include conflict resolution, negotiation, communication skills and more. Usman Haq details important soft skills for Business Analysts in his article in BATimes. These skills are acquired and practiced daily, so be mindful of opportunities to hone them. LinkedIn Learning also has courses on soft skills so you can study at your leisure.
Are You Ready to Take Your Career to the Next Level?
Being a business analyst entails wearing a lot of hats. Conquer your career path by understanding your long term career goals, find a mentor and a career coach to help you reach those goals, take classes for both hard and soft skills and don’t be afraid to raise your hand for big projects. As you take these small steps, your future in Business Analytics will unfold.