Glassdoor lists Business Analysts as one of the best jobs today, however, there is no clear-cut path to becoming a Business Analyst and so you might be wondering how to change career to Business Analyst when you don’t have an IT background or any relevant experience.
To change career to Business Analysis, first research the field of Business Analysis to understand what is required. Build foundational knowledge by reading books or completing online courses. Then complete a crash course in Business Analysis and get qualified. Next, acquire relevant Business Analyst work experience, package transferable skills, and update professional assets such as CV and Linkedin profiles.
There is a lot more to consider when changing careers to become a Business Analyst. From what books, blogs, or courses to complete, to how to acquire relevant experience, and what certifications are worth it.
Prior to becoming a Business Analyst, I was a fresh academic with no real business analysis experience. In this article, I break down the steps I took to become a Senior Business Analyst within 3 months.
Let’s get in!
Step1: Research and Validate Business Analysis is the career for you
The first place to start your journey is to take a step back to understand what a Business Analyst career entails.
Once you have a full understanding and appreciation of what it means to be a Business Analyst, then you can validate if it’s the career you really want to pursue.
What do Business Analyst do
Business Analysts do many things but at the very basic level, organizations hire Business Analysts to assist them to enhance their processes and systems.
They undertake research and analysis to develop answers to business challenges and assist in the implementation of these systems in organizations and their customers.
Another way to understand what Business Analysts do is to consider them as mediators between advanced technology implementations and the organization’s business needs.
This essentially means the Business Analyst is responsible for translating business needs into technical requirements for the technology team to build into solutions and ensures the solutions built meet the business needs.
You might be wondering why wouldn’t the business directly communicate its needs with the technology team. This is a good question and here is the simple answer – They don’t understand each other!
- Digital transformations are often complex projects that require multiple touchpoints and stakeholders to be engaged and aligned. The Business Analysts’ job is to make this simple for all parties involved.
- Technology teams require clear business needs and requirements so they can deliver the correct solution.
The Business Analyst extracts clear business requirements from the business and also follows through during the development process to ensure the solution accurately meets the business requirement.
- Change is hard. It is one thing to develop a new process or system and it is a completely different thing to get the entire organization to adopt the new solution or system.
You might be thinking isn’t it the business that requested the solution?🤔 yes but you’ll be surprised how most organizations struggle with change!
Either way, it is the job of the Business Analyst to help ensure and prepare the organization for the new changes.
Typically, a business analyst will:
- Understand business needs and their technological limitations.
- Identify opportunities for improvement in a company, especially through the use of data or process modeling techniques
- Speak with senior people in the business to learn what they intend to accomplish
- Research, analyze, and recommend multiple options of solutions for the business
- Create documentation for the business and technology teams
- Supervise the adoption of new systems and technology
- Facilitate workshops and training sessions.
What skills are required to be a Business Analyst
The following are the most important skills required for new Business Analysts, which are divided into 2 categories: General skills and core business analysis skills.
General skills: These are general skills required to be successful in any career including a Business Analyst career
- Strong Communicatrions skills
- Problem-solving skills
- Critical thinking skills
- Commercial awareness
- Time management and organizational skills
- Analytical skills
- Basic understanding of project management principles
Core Business Analysis skills: These are skills specific to being a Business Analyst
- Process mapping skills
- Data modeling skills
- Wireframing skills
- Understanding of software development methodologies
A Day in the life of a Business Analyst
Typically, You’ll frequently find yourself examining the work of your colleagues in the mornings and analyzing other results in the afternoons.
Many times a day, with different people, you may go through this back and forth procedure. This continuous data collection is the only way to get the most accurate image of the firm and its direction.
It will be your responsibility to implement steps after making assessments, thus there is a lot of responsibility involved.
On a typical day for me, I will attend an early morning team meeting to discuss the team’s requirements and goals.
I’ll then go away to figure out what they’ll need to accomplish their objectives by arranging workshops and gathering information from meetings with senior stakeholders.
I spend the remainder of my time doing original research, digging through spreadsheets of data and traceability patterns, analyzing or writing documents, or figuring out the best method to explain a specific need, requirement, or process.
The day-to-day responsibilities of a Business Analyst might vary greatly based on the nature of the current business and project.
Despite this, the Business Analyst will normally perform certain tasks as part of the project’s plan such as
- Examining objectives and problems
- Analyzing data
- Communicating with a diverse group of people
- Keeping track of findings
- Solution evaluation
Tip: Connect with Business Analysts that you know and ask them what a day in their life is like as Business Analysts. It's different across industries and businesses.
At this point, you should have a good understanding of what it requires to be a Business Analyst. Now is the time to ask yourself if this is what you were expecting.
Is this the career for you? Do you have the skills and are you ready to learn new skills?
Use this checklist to validate a career in Business Analysis for you. It is important you do this before committing more time and resources to transition to becoming a Business Analyst.
Step 2: Learn Business Analysis Fundamentals
It’s important to learn the fundamental concepts of Business Analysis before you invest more time and resources to pursue this career path.
It’s also vital to gain a basic understanding of Business Analysts’ concepts so you’re more informed when we get to the other steps further.
I find that some folks do not fully grasp what it is to be a Business Analyst and sometimes misinterpret it to be Business Analytics or Data Business Intelligence, Analyst.
I recently spoke to a friend who was considering becoming a Business Analyst and was referencing Financial Analysis goals.
Another friend was about to sign up for a training program that promised to transition them to Business Analyst, Project Manager, and Software Tester all as one career.
Well, they are completely different and independent roles from Business Analysis!
The fundamentals of Business Analysis involve learning about the software development lifecycle and the role of a BA in that process, how to gather, analyze and validate requirements which is the bread and butter of being a Business Analyst, and how to manage projects.
Not understanding these fundamentals, can lead to confusion, frustration, and waste of time and resources further down your transition journey.
The good news is there are numerous inexpensive ways to learn business analysis and some are even free.
How to learn Business Analysis
Online Course Platforms (Paid): There are numerous online courses on the internet on learning business analyst fundamentals. I personally went on Udemy and found the best-reviewed course on Udemy to learn the fundamentals of business analysis.
This one by Jeremy Aschenbrenner is one I highly recommend. It was the first-ever course I actually completed on Udemy!🤭
If for some reason, you don’t fancy Udemy, then check out this awesome Business Analysis learning path on Linkedin Learning.
Both Linkedin Learning and Udemy are paid options but they are inexpensive. Udemy is a one-time fee and they are always running a discount deal almost every other week.
Linkedin Learning costs about $29.99 per month (the same amount in the UK).
Books (Paid): Yes, books are still a valid mode of learning. They are very cheap and contain all the information on the fundamentals of Business Analysis.
If you prefer to read a book then I highly recommend How to Start a Business Analyst Career by Laura Brandenburg. I bought and consumed this book at the very start of my journey and I still reference it today.
Youtube (Free): There are some concrete youtube channels with complete tutorials on the fundamentals of Business Analysis.
Laura Brandenburg is a legend in this area and her youtube channel was pivotal for me (and no, Laura is not paying me for this and I have never met her in person but she puts out great content and I would love to one day buy her coffee).
There is other long-form video content on youtube like Simplilearn‘s full course on Business Analysis and Knowlege Hut‘s Business Analyst Training for Beginners. Just be careful to not be distracted by other video content when on youtube (you know what I mean😉).
Podcast (Free): Podcasts are another fantastic medium of learning that is free. Podcasts are great because they can be listened to while getting on with other things such as during a run.
There aren’t many Business Analyst specific podcasts but I found a few and recommend Effortless Business Analysis or Mastering Business Analysis.
Podcasts are great for passive listening but I’ll caution you and say Business Analysis is not something you want to learn passively. You’ve got to be active and engaged.
Free Webinars (Free): Some training organizations offer free webinars and I find them to be a great way to understand what business analysts are.
Although they are not as comprehensive as some of the other sources I have mentioned above. They are still a free medium of learning. Be careful not to be lured into purchasing a course you aren’t quite ready for.
Training Courses (Paid): Training courses are a great way to learn business analysis fundamentals. Beyond the fundamentals though, training courses are able to provide you with live or demo projects for hands-on experience. This is where they are different from online courses.
Some training courses even provide you with a community of other professionals transitioning into Business Analysis which is great for collaborative learning and motivation.
They essentially crash courses with a focus to get you prepared for a job as a Business Analyst.
There are so many Business Analyst training programs out there. My criteria for enrolling in a training program are:
- Live/demo project for hands-on experience
- Success stories of previous professionals
- Resume support
- Interview prep
- Linkedin strategies.
- Industry recognized qualification (bonus)
Is it worth doing Certification in Business Analysis?
Certification programs really give you two things, a certificate, and knowledge.
You don’t have to be certified to get a role as a Business Analyst however, having an industry-recognized Business Analyst certification might make you stand out in the job marketplace and help you get an interview.
According to the IIBA, Business analysis professionals who are certified earn about 13 percent more than their non-certified peers.
Also, IIBA’s 2020 global salary survey featuring 5,400 business analysis professionals revealed that 24 percent of participants reported salary increase as one of the top benefits of certification.
Of the full group of survey participants, 57 percent held at least one certification.
Additionally, 36 percent of respondents were extremely to very satisfied with their compensation.
The IIBA is one of the major governing bodies of Business Analysis certifications so no surprises in that data (Not that I question the integrity of the data, I just would prefer a more independent report).
Jeremy Aschenbrenner at the BAGuide, creator of the most reviewed Business Analyst course on Udemy spoke to 10 hiring managers who are in charge of hiring and managing business analysts, to find out how certifications influence their hiring and promotion decisions.
9 out of the 10 hiring managers said certifications have little to no impact on employment decisions.
Instead, they choose candidates based on their previous work experience, expertise, and skills in Business Analysis, as well as whether or not they are likely to add value to business needs.
I personally conducted a poll on my LinkedIn followers who are made up mostly of senior Business Analyst professionals and hiring managers.
I wanted to understand the value of a recognized Business Analyst certification to Business Analysts and their employers.
Half (55%) of the responses suggested that industry certifications are not valuable to Business Analysts. They are a nice-to-have and not a must-have.
The only industry certification I have is the BCS Foundation Certificate in Business Analysis and not one employer or interviewer has asked about it during my time as a Business analyst.
Although I have been screened by a few recruiters for an interview because I had the BCS Certificate. I still did not get the job!
So is it worth getting a certification in Business Analysis? A Business Analyst certification validates your knowledge and competence as a business analyst. It demonstrates to employers that you are devoted and committed to your Business Analyst career.
Also, in a growing market of Business Analysts, it does set you apart to an extent.
However, if your goal is to get a job, a Business Analyst certification will not get you a job. Relevant experience in the area of the business is what gets you a job.
I would personally spend my resources building a portfolio of Business Analyst experience in different projects. As I have said repeatedly, employers only care about how their knowledge can add value to their business and not about the knowledge in itself.
An employer will select a Business Analyst with more relevant experience to their particular business need than a Business Analyst with multiple certifications to their name and no relevant experience.
Why? Because the Business Analyst with relevant experience has proved that they can add value to the business while the Business Analyst with certifications has only shown they can sit and pass exams.
That said, if you can devote the time to get your certification as well as build relevant experience, then that’s the best. Just don’t get sucked into the shiny object syndrome of the latest certification.
The bottom line is a Business Analyst Certification is a nice-to-have and not a must-have.
Step 3. Package your Skills and Reframe your Work Experience
At this stage, you have a good understanding of what Business Analysts do and also now understand the fundamental concepts of Business Analysis.
It’s time to now retrospectively examine your past experience and package up your skills.
Looking at the skills required to become a Business Analyst, this is where you analyze your previous work experiences and discover areas where you used your communication skills and problem-solving skills.
Think about where you have used critical thinking or demonstrated commercial awareness. How about that time when you used analyzed data to come up with some ideas and direction.
These are all skills that are relevant to Business Analysis. It doesn’t matter how little the scale you used any of these skills. The most important thing is you had them, used them, and generated value.
I used to design and build websites for clients. As I trained to become a Business Analyst, I uncovered I have basically been functioning as a Business Analyst.
I collected requirements from business owners to build solutions (websites) to solve their business problems.
It doesn’t matter if you’re an accountant or bus driver, I am confident you have functioned as a Business Analyst in some capacity.
This revelation will enable you to reframe your work experience.
Reframing work experience is the process of highlighting relevant experiences to your new chosen career path, in this case, Business Analysis.
It is important to stress that this isn’t falsifying your experience. It is highlighting relevant experience in your current or previous roles and reframing them to fit your new Business Analysis career path.
Reframing your work experience gives you the language to describe and focus on the relevant experiences you possess and how they will help you succeed.
Step 4. Acquire New Work Experience
The candid truth is that employers don’t care much about your business analysis knowledge and certifications.
What they care about is how your knowledge can be applied to generate actual business value.
And the truth is not everyone is able to simply reframe their previous work experience. Also, not every previous experience is reframe-able.
Besides, employers are more interested in your most recent and relevant experience because that is proof of your ability to generate actual value for the business.
This is why it is highly important to acquire new Business Analyst work experience. It will also provide you with confidence in yourself and skills when conducting interviews.
How to acquire Business Analyst Experience
- Your current organization: Find opportunities to function in the capacity of a Business Analyst. Ask to be included in projects where you can contribute in that capacity.
This might mean taking on extra responsibility but it is the ‘lowest hanging fruit’ on your transition path
- Volunteer for Charity organizations: Charity organizations are constantly looking for help. Find one close to you and volunteer your help in the capacity of a Business Analyst.
Although you won’t be getting paid, you are helping the charity and are applying your new skills so it’s a win-win for both parties. I volunteered for my local church and continue to do so to this day.
- Join a Startup: Very early-stage startups usually appreciate any help they can get. You might have a colleague or family member who is starting a new business and requires some help. Join them and apply your new Business Analysis skills.
Some more established startups will still appreciate you as long as you’re adding value. It is possible to get paid but do not expect much at this stage. Remember, the focus is on learning.
- Freelance: Consider freelance if you’re not making any headway with the above options. Freelancing is almost like starting your own business so there is that extra responsibility.
However, it is possible and much easier to advertise your newly acquired Business Analyst skills in a freelance capacity, get customers, and leverage that to gain professional experience. I believe
Step 5: Update your professional brand assets
At this point, you have all the ingredients required to build and update your professional brand assets.`
Your professional brand assets are your CV, your LinkedIn profile, and your personal website.
I call them professional brand assets because they are resources that you own and control that are able to provide you with a future economic benefit i.e. a job as a Business Analyst.
Building and polishing these professional assets will position you and make you attractive to recruiters and hiring managers.
- Your CV/Resume: Take all your newly acquired knowledge, skills, and experience and include them in your resume in a way that fits the requirements of a Business Analyst.
Analyze at least 10 Business Analyst live job vacancies that you would like to apply to. Review the requirements i.e. the section that says ‘your responsibilities’ or says ‘in this role, we are looking for…’
This is essentially the business telling you what they’re looking for in an ideal candidate. Analyzing 10-15 vacancies will uncover some patterns and keywords.
Ensure these keywords are featured on your CV/Resume.
Pro tip: Matching your CV/resume to actual job roles is a great way to get through the ATS (Application Tracking System) system.
Your CV is an effective way to show employers how you will be a great asset for the position you’re applying for.
- Your LinkedIn Profile: Most recruiters and hiring managers use Linkedin to fill job positions. Actually, Over 90% of them do this!
At the very minimum, make sure the information on your Linkedin profile matches what is on your CV.
As someone moving into a new career as a Business Analyst, it’s also important to let recruiters know that you’re open to hiring and looking for new opportunities.
Connect with recruiters and follow mentors and new colleagues on Linkedin.
Optimize the headline section of your profile by listing major skills that will be required in your new profession.
Also optimize the summary section of your profile by highlighting your work experience, certifications, technical skills, and expertise.
- Your Personal Websites: Your personal website gives you the opportunity to show your work rather than just talk about it.
In today’s competitive employment market, job searchers must do all they can to differentiate themselves from the competition, and having a personal website is one of the most effective methods to do so.
A personal website establishes you as someone passionate about their work and creates the perception that you’re a thought leader as well as helps you build a personal brand
I understand, that building your personal website is a little extra. Here is a pro tip as a bare minimum
Register your domain name (www.yourname.com) and redirect it to your LinkedIn profile. Then include it on your CV. This creates a perception that you're an authoritative professional.
Bonus Step: Take action
Once you have completed all the above steps, now take action! Apply for jobs, attend interviews and apply for more jobs until you land your new role.
It took me 3 months, about 800 applications, and 3 interviews to land my first role as a Business Analyst.
It might take you less time or even more time. Just keep at it.
Be patient with yourself, but also give yourself a timeframe to land your role as a Business Analyst.
Changing careers can be a challenging and overwhelming process. In this article, I have explained in 5 practical steps the process to transition from any career to a business analyst career.
They are the exact steps I took to transition from my academic career path to Business Analysis. They are clear steps I wish someone laid out for me.
I have written this article from my heart to help as many professionals as possible who are looking to transition into a career as Business Analyst.
Follow the steps and please share your success with me.
To your success 🍷
How do I switch careers to business analyst?
Research and understand the field of Business Analysis. Build foundational knowledge by reading books or completing online courses. Complete a crash course in Business Analysis and get qualified. Next, acquire relevant Business Analyst experience, package transferable skills, and update professional assets such as CV and Linkedin profiles.
Is business analyst a good career option?
Business Analyst is a good career option if you want to work in the IT sector but do not possess technical skills. The job of a Business Analyst can be challenging but rewarding both financially and mentally. The future prospect is also very bright.
Is business analyst a growing career?
Business Analysis is definitely a growing career as more organizations now recognize the criticality of digital transformation to their business. They depend on business analysts and project managers to guide them through this digital disruption and advise on best practices and emerging technologies.
Can I switch from sales to business analyst?
Change your career from sales to Business Analyst by first validating your new career choice in Business Analysis. Build foundational knowledge in Business Analysis. Package your transferrable skills in sales, acquire new work experience, and update your professional brand assets to position yourself for a new role.