Surviving Your First Year as a Business Analyst at a New Company
It’s not uncommon to change careers as you develop skills, seniority and experience. People grow out of the companies they work for, move away or just want a change of pace. While change is good, entering a new workplace can be intimidating. Check out our guide to succeeding as a business analyst starting at a new company.
Form Professional Connections With People Around You
The people you work with and form partnerships with during your time at a company can either help you advance your career or create more headaches than you would like. During your first few months at a company, consider forming a peer support group to help you (and future business analysts) navigate your role.
Either look for professional groups to join (ideally dedicated to the business analysis field) or create your own group of BAs nearby or even within your organization to help each other out, engineering leadership coach and consultant Lara Hogan suggests. These peers can help you see problems objectively and guide you to make the right decision.
Identify Allies in Your New Workplace
While an external peer support group is beneficial for working through problems, it also helps to have a few allies in the workplace.
“No one succeeds in their career on their own,” Vivian Blade, consultant and executive coach, says. “Not only do you need mentors and sponsors to help pull you up in your career, but you need allies to support you along the way.”
Allies can be your peers, your subordinates or the people above you. They are coworkers who are ready to jump in and help with your project and believe in your skills, quality of work and vision for the company. They can make it easy for you to lobby for projects and offer emotional support when needed.
These professional connections and allies will also ideally turn into friends. Even the top executives and best employees have bad days, and having a sympathetic ear nearby can make your workplace more enjoyable.
“Working and pursuing your career can be lonely,” communication expert Kit Pang writes. “One of the best benefits of taking the time to connect with other professionals is that they understand your journey. The best time to find a true friend is before you need one.”
Friends Can Positively Impact Workplace Performance
While you might not think making friends should be at the top of your list as a new employee, they can actually help increase your productivity and engagement within the organization.
Jessica R. Methot, associate professor at Rutgers University, led a study in which 168 employees at an insurance company listed professional peers they turn to for help and work friends with whom they have personal connections. After building a map of office friendships, she asked managers to conduct performance appraisals on employees. Methot and her team found that employees with strong professional and personal connections at work tend to be more productive and perceived as stronger assets for the company.
Your work friends are more than office lunch buddies; they are important factors in your future career success. Plus, few people enjoy eating lunch by themselves every day.
Make Sure Your Coworkers Know What Business Analysts Do
As you start to get to know your new company, sit down with your coworkers and discuss your job role and duties. You may end up going through several meetings as you explain to different departments how you help the company. This is normal for many BAs.
Companies often confuse the role of a business analyst and a business analytics professional, Savaram Ravindra at BA Times writes. They may want to hire a business analytics professional but use the term analyst because it looks cleaner and is easier to type. This can cause serious problems for job-seekers in the BA field, especially if they start a role in a new company and realize they were hired to do one thing when they were looking to do another.
In fact, now is a particularly confusing time for business analytics and analyst professionals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of business analysts in the market is expected to grow 14 percent between 2016-2026, with 115,200 more BA positions opening for professionals to fill.
However, as of December 2017, 53 percent of companies use big data analytics to drive their business decisions compared to 17 percent in 2015, marketing and product management leader Louis Columbus reports. This has lead to a spike in business analytics roles as organizations scramble to take advantage of analytics for operations optimization.
With both fields growing so rapidly, it’s easy for some companies to confuse the two. Business analysts need to take steps during their first few months to establish what they do and their peers can use them for — or risk falling into a role that they never expected.
Learn About the Goals and Expectations for Your Role
While job expectations may have been discussed during the interview and hiring processes, you want to look for more concrete answers and expectations now that you are actually working at the company.
Shuba Kathikeyan, head of APEX Global, the learning solutions arm of ECC International, compiled a comprehensive list of key performance indicators you can use to guide your career. Talk to your manager about expected KPIs to see which ones they value and which ones need to be improved. A few goals that Kathikeyan lays out include:
Business process productivity increases.
Percentage of rework attributable to requirements.
Percentage of requirements fully implemented.
QA requirements satisfaction index .
You might think you’re doing a good job, but these KPIs can prove that you are driving results and leading the company as a quality business analyst.
Along with learning about hard expectations, you can use this time to understand the soft expectations of stakeholders.
Cassandra Naji at software solutions provider Justinmind, emphasizes the importance of getting to know your stakeholders and learning how to manage them. You may have had a manager or client in the past who was easy to work with and only wanted high-level information and could be in for a rude awakening if you take that same approach in your new role. Find out what stakeholders expect from you and how they lead.
Finally, use this time to explore the other departments and the roles and projects that other teams are working on, communications consultant Thomas Metcalf suggests. This will help you develop better connections and make you more knowledgeable about the organization.
As a BA specifically, learning about others can give you insight into how people at the company approach problems and work on projects — which can assist you in making improvements to these processes in the future.
Start Making Changes Within Your New Organization
Workplace expert Heather Huhman recommends the 30/60/90 plan for new employees. You can apply this model regardless of your level in the company as a way to set goals for acclimating to the work environment.
In this model, employees learn as much as possible during the first 30 days. Then, they start to add their strengths to the company through the 60 day mark. Finally, employees can begin to lead and make changes. This model prevents you from jumping in blindly and trying to make changes as soon as you’re hired.
In fact, waiting to meet with teams and learning about their directions and workstyles can help you build trust with your peers.
“As tempting as it might be to come into a new team situation and project confidence, certainty, and a sense of direction – know that it will only be seen positively by your team if they trust you,” Claire Lew, CEO of Know Your Company, writes. “Without trust, your confidence will seem arrogant, your certainty will seem oblivious, and your sense of direction will seem misguided.”
Trust is built and earned during these first 90 days.
When you’re ready, start rolling out changes within your company. We have touched on implementing change before because it is something that many employees actively avoid. And change may make time to stick, so be patient with your team and co-workers and make note of how the adjustments are going, organizational consultant Monica Thakrar advises.
“Until employees come into the organization acting as if the change is the part of their normal way of doing business, it is not truly accepted,” she writes. “Make sure the people side of the change truly happens. Only then will you have a successful change effort.”
When your change efforts are accepted and acted upon, you will know that you have made the transition from new BA in the company to established employee and future leader in the organization.
Create Plans For Your Future at the Company
The first year at a new company can be stressful for a business analyst, but you should start to get into a groove by the time your annual performance review comes in. During this period, it’s time to consider your future in the organization and where you see yourself in the next few years.
Say Yes to New Opportunities
As you grow your connections and expertise in the company, more people are likely to turn to you for help with projects and initiatives. Taking your peers up on these opportunities can build your skills and relationships with the people you work with.
“Saying yes when opportunities arise can help you be seen, get recognized for your enthusiasm and applauded for your aptitude,” Gabrielle Bill, career coach, writes.
Soon, you could be the go-to expert for everything related to the brand.
Keep Growing Professionally
Just because you’re working in a great new job and enjoying the success of your career doesn’t mean you want to slow down your skills development and professional growth.
Sarah White, senior writer for CIO, created a list of top business analyst certifications to consider adding to your resume. These will help you address challenges better and possible increase your chances of a promotion or raise. We never stop learning in our careers, no matter how far we advance.
Give Your New Employer a Fair Chance
Even if the new job isn’t the dream employment situation you were hoping for, make sure you give the organization a fair chance, Wall Street Journal columnist Sue Shellenbarger writes.
She cites a study of 273 employees and 203 managers that found that employees who seemed committed to the job and took steps to ask questions actively received more support from managers. If you’re struggling during the first few months, take steps to reach out. You may experience a breakthrough with the people you work with, or at least know that you did your best to make a difference before you decide to leave.