Networking for an Outside Job

Author: Geri Schneider Winters

You want to find a Business Analyst position and do not want to stay at your current company. Maybe you are changing careers and are not finding success in sending a resume to a Human Resources department or in response to an ad. Or you have no job experience and no one will talk to you.

There is a lot of confusion in the marketplace about what a Business Analyst is. You have to think creatively about your job hunt. My best advice for finding a Business Analyst job is this: instead of looking for a job and applying for it, think about what the job is that you want to do. Then find a manger who needs someone to do that job, and approach the manager about hiring you to do that work. To find that manager, I suggest networking with other software professionals, such as Business Analysts and Project Managers.

In the Networking Approach, you will find a manager with a need or issue. Then you will draft a cover letter and resume demonstrating how you can fill that need. This takes a lot of time, but means you will find a job that really matches your strengths.

The first step is to describe the job you want to do. Do this for yourself one day – spend some time to write a one page description of the job you want to do. Reviewing job ads is a great way to start. You will use this information to find companies to apply to.

Then, think about what company would have people doing the job you described. You need to research to find out the companies and departments, by browsing websites, asking friends, and using tools such as LinkedIn. Now that you know companies you could work for, approach friends, family, and professional networks to see if you know someone who could introduce you to a manager or employee in the company and department where you want to work. Start a conversation with that person about the issues they face in the department and the needs that are not being met.

Think about the issues a Project Manager faces on a project team. Very often, the people working on his or her team as Business Analysts are really Subject Matter Experts. They do not have the training or experience as a Business Analyst. What is the difference? A Subject Matter Expert (SME) knows his or her business area really well. But he or she may have little or no training or experience in conducting interviews, facilitating requirements gathering sessions, mediating disagreements, writing requirements in many different forms of documentation, managing change, or managing and reporting on requirements. The SME is usually much less efficient and complete when doing Business Analyst work. That means that project issues that should be discovered early in the project are discovered much later, when they are more expensive to fix. Or maybe the manager is working in a highly confrontational situation. There are many issues faced by Project Managers.

Take this list of issues and use them as a starting point to talk with the person you identified above. You want to find out which of those issues this particular person is facing, and make a list of those issues. Then look at your background and experience and compare it to the list of issues. Which issues can you solve for this person? You want to select a few that you know positively you are really good at handling. For example, if you are really good at dealing with difficult people (and want to do that work), then that is an issue you want to pick from the list. You may find that you are not a good fit for this particular person or company, and so will not apply for a job with him or her.

If this person and company are a good match for your background and experience, then apply to the manager to work for him or her. Write a cover letter that addresses the issues you have identified and why you are the best person for the job.

Look over your resume and be sure it is focused on the issues that are important to this manager. You do not have to list every bit of work you have ever done. No one will read all that. Instead, highlight the jobs that are relevant to the issues addressed in the cover letter.

If you have been talking with an employee, that person may be willing to submit your letter and resume to his or her manager. Many companies give preferences to employee submitted resumes and may even offer a bonus to the person who recommends you. If you have been talking with the manager, then send your letter and resume directly to the manager.

Yes, this is a lot of work. You have to think more about each place where you submit your letter and resume, and customize them for each position. You will try this with 6 to 10 companies, or maybe more. Can you see how this could be more effective than sending copies of your resume to every human resources department and every ad, hoping someone will respond?

I heard of a research study where the best people in a company were asked to disguise their identities and submit job applications to their own company. Not one person was selected for an interview. And yet, these were the best people working for that company! This matches my own experience where I cannot get a job applying through human resources, and yet when I talk to the hiring managers directly, I have no trouble getting the position.

In order to have a network of people to talk to about jobs at their company, you need to be known to other Business Analysts. I recommend participating in forums or meetings in Business Analyst communities. For example, join a local chapter of IIBA or spend time in the Prince 2 forums. This is a good way for other people to get to know you. Most of my career, my jobs have come from people who know me and want to work with me. So I can highly recommend becoming known to other Business Analysts and Project Managers.

Here are some specific things you can do:

1. Speak at a conference on a Business Analyst topic. If you do not know enough, find another Business Analyst (inside or outside your company), who you can partner with to do the presentation. Be sure your contact information is in the presentation, and bring a lot of business cards to the conference to give to people.
2. If you cannot get a speaking engagement, attend a conference where you can find other Business Analysts. Have plenty of business cards. Be sure to attend sessions of interest to Business Analysts. If there is a chance to participate, do so. Make sure other people notice you (in a good way). After the conference, keep in touch with people who gave you their business cards. Participate in any forums associated with the conference.
3. Participate in forums or groups on websites where Business Analysts are to be found. Ask intelligent questions, make sensible suggestions. Become known as someone who has useful things to say about Business Analyst topics.
4. In the USA, become active in your local IIBA chapter.
5. In Europe, become active in the Prince 2 forums.
6. Use Google alerts to get notified about Business Analyst positions. Create a Google Alert for Business Analyst. Many of the results you get will be job postings. This can help you find companies who hire Business Analysts. But look carefully at the ads, because many of them are listed by recruiters, not by the hiring company. You can try responding to the ad, though you are probably better off using the approach outlined in this article.
7. Use LinkedIn to find people inside the companies that you want to work for.
8. Build your professional network in LinkedIn and Plaxo.


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About Geri Schneider Winters

Geri Schneider Winters is the primary author of the popular Use Case book "Applying Use Cases: A Practical Guide" and the founder of Wyyzzk, Inc. She has over 25 years experience spanning the software development lifecycle. Geri has learned her craft working with folks such as Grady Booch, Jim Rumbaugh, Ivar Jacobson, Walker Royce, Scott Ambler, Warren Woodford, Philippe Kruchten, and Kendall Scott, along with many less well known, but equally talented, people. Geri has worked in many companies in many industries, including IBM, Boeing, Lockheed, Adobe, Intuit, Delta Dental, United Healthcare, Blue Cross Blue Shield, The Money Store, Charles Schwab, The Federal Reserve Bank, Visa International, USAA, Stanford University, University of California, Carnegie Mellon University, HiLCoE College, Agilent, Knights Technology, Deloitte and Touche, Safeway, and Coca-Cola Enterprises.

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