Business analyst – and the field of business analysis – is a relatively unknown job role. Not many people will understand what you mean when you tell them that you want to be a Business Analyst.
But let’s not let that deter us.
So you have decided you want to be a Business Analyst. Maybe you’ve read some of the many reasons why people choose the BA career path, or maybe you just want a change of pace from your current role and think BA sounds up your alley.
The only problem is that you have absolutely no formal experience or qualifications to back up your new found dream.
Does this sound about right?
If so this is the post for you. In this article we will be looking at what experience/qualifications are usually necessary to work as a Business Analyst and then looking at how you can get into the field with no qualifications/experience (relevant or otherwise).
Do You NEED Experience or Qualifications to be a Business Analyst?
Quick and easy answer first. There are no legal or regulatory requirements for you to hold or have attained any experience or qualification in order to work as a Business Analyst.
Long and complicated answer. While there are no legal or regulatory requirements each firm will set their own requirements. Senior level BA positions are unlikely to be handed out to persons with no relevant experience or transferable skills. Many junior or trainee positions – particularly in large firms – will only hire candidates with a bachelor’s degree and will favour candidates whose degree is in a relevant field to the company/role (IT, finance, pharmaceuticals).
Should I lie on my job application about my qualifications/experience?
Cautionary Warning about Lying:
Before we look into how to get jobs without any experience I am going to discuss whether it is wise to lie on your CV or in the interview process. I am not going to go into the moral arguments for and against, you are free to decide what shade of grey rope you want to walk.
What I will say though is that *most* employers are not stupid and will see through the vast majority of lies and once you are caught that is you done at that company. You might also have trouble getting a job altogether if the employees in that company share your escapades with their network. You could see yourself blacklisted from the area or industry!
- Lies about your experience are easily checked by calling references (and do you really trust your friend to be able to provide a fake reference? Particularly when the call could come any time of day from now until you leave the role!)
- Qualifications need to be verified. An employer will likely ask for copies of your important certifications and a lot of these are now available online so any falsifications are easily found.
- If you do not have the qualifications or experience required for the role how sure can you be that you can even do the job? You would look a mighty fool if you show up to work and completely fail at something you have professed to be experienced in.
- You will have to maintain the lie throughout your whole career. Forget just the interview stage. From now until you retire you will need to keep your story straight when anyone asks. Can you keep it going that long?
All in all it is probably not worth lying on your CV or application. Sure “big yourself up” as much as possible but once you cross into lying that is when issues can develop.
But hey I’m not the angel on your shoulder: do what you feel is best.
What to do if you have no RELEVANT experience
Having no relevant experience can make it challenging but not as challenging as having no experience at all (see below for what to do if that is the case).
When I say no relevant experience I mean that you have had experience in the workplace but not as a BA and/or not in the industry that you are looking to move into.
In this scenario there are 3 things that you should do as part of your job searching process
1) Pivot Your Existing Experience
Take what you have done in the past and see how that mirrors the BA role description.
Have you had to explain things to senior management before, or have you been responsible for providing updates on your progress to other departments? Then your application should highlight your excellent “Stakeholder management skills”
Have you ever looked at the way you were working and thought it could be done better (and then set about making it better)? Congratulations, you have business process improvement experience!
Take a look at the job description and see how your experience can be easily transferable to the BA position.
2) Utilise your network for referrals/recommendations
There have been numerous studies into it and the numbers are quite remarkable. Over 80% of all jobs are filled due to networking. This means for every job you apply for online there are 4 jobs you have already missed out on because you are not “In The Know”.
So how do you get In The Know?
Hit your contacts. Speak to everyone you know in your current and previous workplaces that you are on friendly terms with and ask if they are aware of any BA positions going. Or if you have sight of a BA position you are interested in you can ask if your contact will provide a recommendation or a referral.
Get onto LinkedIn and look up the company (or department if it’s an internal move) you are looking to join. You want to see if anyone in your network works there, if so reach out to them to find out what the company is like to work for and what the recruitment process is like.
Then go one step deeper, on LinkedIn find any 2nd-degree connections you have at your ‘target firm’. 2nd-degree connections are people who are 1st-degree connections with people that you are also 1st-degree connections with.
Your goal here is to find people that you know that know someone with some pull regarding your application.
Why is all of this important? Because without any relevant experience in the field the hiring manager is going to be incredibly skeptical about bringing you on board. However if someone were to vouch for you then all that changes. Imagine a senior manager speaks to the recruiter and says:
“Oh that guy, yeah I know he’s never been a BA before but I worked with him on a project and he definitely has the skill set required”
If that happens the job is as good as yours, but obviously getting something that perfect is unlikely, still though every little helps, just people name dropping you casually will do wonders for your chances.
3) take a training course (try and get your employer to pay for it!)
Without any experience with being a Business Analyst firms are likely to be a bit hesitant that you actually know and understand what the day-to-day life of a BA is. Sure the actual nature of the role varies a lot between industries, firms and even projects but there are some hard and fast things that every BA needs to know, for example: requirements gathering, process design and the difference between function and non-functional testing.
What is the best way to show that you know these things? By taking a training course and highlighting this within your application. Look for local courses that provide certificates (If you are currently employed this would be a great opportunity to ask your employer to pay for the course), look for online courses that count toward the “PMI-PBA contact hours” these will carry a lot more weight than your average linkedin learning or Udemy courses.
What To Do If You Have No Experience Whatsoever
Firstly, read the advice in the previous section as it can still be useful.
Now let’s see what you can do when you have no experience whatsoever in the workforce, either because you are a recent graduate or just because you have never worked before for whatever reason.
1) Adjust Your Expectations Accordingly
This is not going to be what you want to hear but straight away you are going to need to rein in your expectations. If you have no experience at all your options are really going to be either a very junior role in an organisation or a more senior role in a non-paying or some kind of commission/performance based role.
2) Nurture An Online Presence Establishing Yourself As An Authority
“Those who can’t do. Teach”
An online presence – be it a blog, a LinkedIn account or even a Youtube account – will give you the opportunity to show that you know what you are talking about.
Create videos where you talk about areas of business analysis and offer your insight.
Appear on podcasts to discuss the technical details of the role.
Create blog posts about software packages and how they can be used to perform the role
Go onto forums and discussion boards and offer your help
All of these things can help you establish an online presence (just ensure your personal branding remains the same across all platforms). Use that online presence in your job search. Message recruiters through your accounts so they can easily see your history and what you have written/posted.
3) Highlight Transferable Skills From Recreational Activities
Finally, if you are struggling to add things to your CV. Try to include things you have learned from any recreational activities. Team sports are easy ways to segue into business analyst skills (Teamwork, Stakeholder management, Tactics etc.). Look at what you do in your day-to-day life and see how you can mould that experience to highlight your BA skillset.
What to do if you have no qualifications
As mentioned earlier in this post, having no qualifications is not necessarily a deal-breaker when it comes to the BA role. Most firms will say they want someone with degree level education however if you have decent experience in the field then *most* firms are likely to overlook the education requirement.
The first thing to do is to research the firm that you are looking to apply to. Try and find out if the qualifications are a necessity or just a ‘nice to have’. If it’s the latter then great apply anyway.
If it is the former then you are stuck with two choices. Either pass on the role and limit your future searches to roles that don’t require the qualification or create an action plan to achieve the qualification
- Is a degree required or will a project related qualification (PRINCE2, PMP etc.) count?
- Will your current employer allow you to go back to school part-time?
- Is there night school that you can go to attain the qualifications?
- Are there any online colleges that offer training?
While you put together this action plan try to lean heavily into your experience and knowledge on the subject during your applications and really make sure you brush up on what questions you might be asked in a Business Analyst Interview
Good luck with the job search and if you need someone to look over your CV reach out and ask for a review
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