Finding a career in business analytics can lead to long-term career prospects, higher earnings and a choice of roles, all of which are personally and financially rewarding. So, where do you start? There are lots of paths you can take to get started. Here are some suggestions to help you begin or grow your business analytics career.
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Stand out with a qualification
Some roles as a business analyst may not list qualifications as essential, but anything that helps you stand out from other applicants is helpful. Graduating from a reputable university such as St. Bonaventure University will improve your chances of being selected. The curriculum for their online Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA) includes analytics capstone, and data visualization and analysis. You will gain the skills you need, including how to use related software and how to present data. You will also complete a realistic project, which can prepare you for a work situation. This may encourage employers to hire you over another applicant at the beginning of their career.
Businesses are often keen to attract new employees with experience but can be more accepting of graduates who have studied and tested their knowledge in practical ways. They understand everyone must start somewhere. Gaining a qualification shows you have the motivation and time management skills to pursue your chosen career.
Choosing to study online with St. Bonaventure allows you to learn in your own time, without leaving your current job and losing your income. This method of studying shows a willingness to work towards starting or growing a business analytics career. Employers are always looking for people who are prepared to actively take steps to pursue their goals. Even if you have some relevant experience, the MSBA program can help you develop your existing skills, learn new aspects of analytics and provide something tangible that employers can look at to confirm you have the relevant skills they need.
Gain practical experience
Experience is sought after and can make all the difference in being chosen for a role. A combination of experience and relevant qualifications will increase how appealing you look to businesses. It is often the perfect combination, and although hiring managers look for other qualities too, these are the two key factors they look for.
One way to gain this is by finding a work placement. As a student, your university can help with this, and you can also find one yourself if you have a preference. As a remote student, you have most likely chosen this path because you want the convenience of balancing study with other responsibilities. This will often mean finding somewhere local, which reduces time and costs for you.
If you already work, even if this is in a different role, there is a good chance the company you work for will employ business analysts. They might let you gain some hands-on experience. Alternatively, you could persuade them of the benefits to the business if they let you try out some of the things you have learned. This helps both you and the business. You gain practical experience and may not have to put in extra hours as your employer might instead choose to reduce some of your other responsibilities. The benefits to the business include having the expertise of a business analyst without having to go through a hiring process or pay more than they already do.
If you are still struggling to gain experience or want to stand out further, you could ask local companies if they need a volunteer. Although most will not advertise for a volunteer business analyst, it is easier for them to see the benefit you can bring. You can gain more experience while helping a local charity, which can also look great. Alternatively, you could start a side business or see if any friends or family with a small business could benefit from business analysis. The more experience you can add to your resume, the more in demand you will become to employers.
Stay up to date with programming languages and software
The software and programming languages used for these roles are always being improved and new versions are being introduced when the need arises. The degree program with St. Bonaventure covers Tableau, Python and several others. However, it can benefit you and any businesses you work with if you keep up to date with changes and new software, etc.
You can do this by practicing in your own time if you own the same or similar software at home. This is useful if you want to keep your skills relevant, particularly if you begin your business analyst career in a role where some of the skills and information you learned are not currently needed. As you progress or move to other roles, you may need to rely more on different software. It can save time on learning or relearning this if you already have a good grasp of how it works and practice regularly.
Following online tutorials and applying what you learn to your own projects are great ways of keeping up to date with any changes. It is easy to forget or become complacent when you are out of practice. Again, you might decide to start a small side business or see if there is anyone else you can help, to benefit the local community and keep your software and programming languages relevant to the fast-paced changing world of business analysis.
Continuously work on improving yourself
Whether you want to find your first job as a business analyst or move to a higher role, it looks impressive on your resume if you regularly take the time to improve yourself.
Besides gaining professional work experience and a degree or another higher qualification, you improve yourself and your chances of finding a business analyst role by taking short courses to refresh your knowledge or stand out from other candidates with the same qualifications and experience.
You can also express an interest in learning and improving in areas you do not consider to be your strongest points. Employers will usually understand that an individual cannot excel at everything, particularly if the role they are advertising has a long list of preferred skills and other requirements. Providing you match the main skills — they are more likely to choose you over someone else if you show a willingness to learn and try to improve.
Reading is another way to improve your skills. It will not qualify you on its own, but as an addition to everything else we have already mentioned, it ensures you stay informed of recent changes in trends and improvements in the industry you want to work in. Because business analysts are required in different sub-industries and roles where other tasks may also be required, it helps to know more about these specific roles, the types of businesses you want to work for and how they function.
It is difficult for most of us to admit our weaknesses to ourselves, and especially to a potential employer. We want to impress them and convince them of our worth to their company. However, if you can take a step back and try to look critically at your own strengths and weaknesses, this is a helpful step in finding ways to improve. If you cannot think of specific examples to show you have the experience listed in a job advertisement, this may be one of the things you need to work on improving.
Communication skills are also vital, as you will most likely work in a team and must convey important information. So, this is also something you can work on, if you currently struggle to work with or communicate with other people. Not everyone is an extrovert, and most companies can benefit from hiring introverts too. There are ways for you to improve your communication skills without changing this important part of your personality.
Do not be afraid of networking
Not all job openings are advertised. It can be easier and cheaper if hiring managers can find the right person without a lengthy recruitment process. Networking can help you find out about these roles. It can seem daunting at first, but like most things, once you know how, it gets easier.
The first step is finding out about networking events. This involves joining relevant groups or signing up with professional bodies such as The International Institute of Business Analysis, subscribing to newsletters, using LinkedIn and keeping in touch with students or colleagues who may share information on networking events they find.
The next step is to turn up dressed smartly. Networking events are not interviews, but you never know who you might meet and where that meeting will lead in your career. You want to make a good impression, and if you are feeling nervous, looking your best can provide a much-needed confidence boost.
You can also network in person on sites such as LinkedIn. By commenting and regularly posting your own original content on your subject of expertise, you will attract attention. This is another instance where you do not know who is paying attention. You only need one person to notice your postings and interactions to find your next role, providing you aim your content at the right groups and businesses.
The important things people might forget when trying to network are to listen and ask questions. You might be nervous, or keen to share your experience and be aware of the limited time you have before people lose interest. However, you can come across as arrogant or too rehearsed if you do not go a little ‘off script’ sometimes and listen, then respond to what the other person says to you.
Pay attention to demand
The demand for different roles can change. One of the great things about looking for jobs as a business analyst is that most businesses can benefit from working with professionals who have experience and qualifications in this area. However, when you are looking for jobs, you will see specific requirements, notice different times of the year when certain roles are more in demand, and you may spot a pattern that helps you get selected.
For example, you may notice more advertised careers for applicants who have experience or qualities in one specific area. If you can gain this, you will increase your chances of being chosen. You may not need to gain this experience. Transferable skills from other jobs you have worked in might qualify you. These could include digital literacy, critical thinking, creativity and leadership skills. So, if you worked in finance before gaining your qualification, you already tick the box for digital literacy. Likewise, critical thinking in any other job can be adapted to a role as a business analyst.
Do not expect hiring managers to automatically make the connection, though. They have a lot of applicants and will spend a few seconds looking at each application form or resume, unless something piques their interest. Ensure you make it clear how your past employment has helped you gain skills relevant to this role, especially if it is a different career.
Data business analyst is one role which is currently in demand and is showing little signs of slowing down. This is because of the importance of data and how much information it can provide. If acted on, this can save time and money, improve the workplace and help boost motivation.
Create a portfolio
References used to be the main criteria for checking whether applicants matched a job description and were suitable for the company. Of course, these are still important, but employers want to see examples of work wherever possible. That is why it is a good idea to create a portfolio.
To find a role as a business analyst, your portfolio could contain information on projects you have worked on. These could be shared, either with permission from the company you worked for or from your own side projects.
You should show how your input improved the business. Usually, this will include financial improvements. So, if you can include a before and after of sales figures, key demographics, best and worse selling products, etc, these will show you can increase revenue and help them find parts of the business which are losing or making less money than others. Finances are a big part of any business, and profits are important for them to be able to continue and grow.
Do not try to include everything in your portfolio, as employers will not have time to go through it all. Pick the two or three projects or different aspects which seem most important to the role and company you are applying for. You can create several small portfolios and share the one which is the most relevant.
Be prepared to take related roles
Graduating with a relevant qualification such as the Master of Science in Business Analytics should help you when applying for business analyst jobs. However, if you need to take on temporary work while you search for your ideal role, it can help if you are prepared to take on other roles. These might be solely related to business analysis. However, they could include some responsibilities that use similar skills and keep your mind active until you find something longer term. It also shows a willingness to work and prevents your resume from having gaps. Those already in work can find it easier to get another job in their chosen field.
For example, you might choose a short-term job where you must carry out a lot of research. Or you might take an unrelated job but ask if you can help with tasks such as looking at ways to improve the efficiency of the company. Most employers will see the value in this and if you achieve results, they may carve out a more focused role for you based on your skills. If they do not, it all counts as experience and will help you find a better career for you.
It might seem difficult to find a business analyst role if you are just starting out and have little or no experience or relevant qualifications. However, because St. Bonaventure’s remote master’s degree program can be completed in less time than degrees at brick-and-mortar universities, it is more manageable. Compared to most careers, business analysis has long-term prospects and is continuing to grow in demand. So, the work you put in will pay off with a choice of roles and career paths to follow.