5 Steps to Becoming a Business Analyst, by Laura Brandenburg

You might be asking, “How do I become a business analyst?” I’m going to help you discover your answer to this question.
First, let me explain why there is no one answer to this question (and hence why this post is so long — if you want to review and dig deeper into these concepts over a series of a few weeks, be sure to join our free email course). Your path to business analysis is going to be based on your own unique career background and professional situation. It will also be based on the type of business analyst you’d like to become and what your longer-term career goals are.
I can’t write a post that gives one answer or one path because I don’t know what your career background is, what your strengths are, or what’s pulling you into the BA profession. (And yes, I know that doesn’t stop others from suggesting silver bullets, but, well, there is no bone in my body that’s going to let me do that and sleep well at night.)
Although there is not one path, there is an answer for you. There might even be several possible answers from which you can choose. What I can promise is that the 5 steps below will help you find your path to business analysis and make this career change as painless as possible by crafting a plan that leverages your inner business analyst.

Step 1: Build Your Business Analysis Knowledge

As with entering any new domain, building knowledge of business analysis knowledge is an important part of your career change. And there are several ways to accumulate enough knowledge to be successful. You can read the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge®, though I really recommend that those new to the profession choose a more accessible text. The BABOK is amazing, but it’s not written to be accessible by aspiring business analysts…it’s written to be a reference guide for working business analysts. The Software Requirements Memory Jogger or Seven Steps to Mastering Business Analysis are good alternatives.
As part of learning about business analysis, you’ll also want to get clear on the difference between a business analyst and business analysis. Being a “business analyst” does not equate to one distinct role – so there are many professionals filling different business analyst roles who all consider themselves business analysts.
Becoming knowledgeable about business analysis is only the first step and the biggest mistake I see is that many aspiring BAs spend way too much time here, neglecting the realities of the next 4 steps. Here are a few posts to help you plan to do “just enough” in step 1:

Step 2: Identify Your Business Analyst Career Experiences

Just like we still ponder, “what came first, the chicken or the egg?”, we also get stuck with, “what came first, the business analyst or the business analyst experience?” Entry-level BA jobs are relatively few and far between. The good news is that if you have some professional experience, you probably have more business analysis experience than you realize. Michelle Swoboda tackles this concept in response to the following reader question: How do I get beyond being a jack of all trades?
Many of today’s successful business analysts built their careers by plugging gaps and wearing multiple hats, and many of them still do. If you’ve been wearing multiple hats, it may be that one of them is being a business analyst. Mining your career history for transferable skills can reap great rewards, none less than the fact that each year of paid business analyst experience you identify has the potential to boost your salary by $923 per year, according to the most recent BA salary survey.
Everyone comes to BA from somewhere else. There is no common background amongst business analysts and nearly every career path offers some great potential for those looking to become BAs. Here are discussions of how different career paths could be relevant to your business analyst career.
How do I transition from QA Engineer to BA? (my personal favorite… :) )

Step 3: Identify Your Leverage Points

Whether or not you have a deep career history in business analysis, it’s likely that one or more elements of your career history give youexpertise to leverage into business analysis. Whether it’s your knock-your-socks off communication skills or your deep experience in a relevant industry domain, you have a quality that potential managers are specifically hiring for.
If you are currently employed in a company that employs BAs, then your most valuable leverage point very well could be knowledge of that individual organization, the business model, and the business stakeholders.
Other factors can include:

Step 4: Build Your Personalized Roadmap

Once you cultivate an awareness of business analysis and discover your qualifications, both within business analysis and beyond, then it’s time to set a BA career goal and build your roadmap to achieve it.
This might seem simple. After all, you know you want to become a BA. But because the role is so multi-faceted, your goal will need to be more specific to be realistic. You’ll also need to put a time frame around it and ensure that it is achievable given the time and resources you have to invest in your career change. Then, of course, you craft a plan to get from “A” to “BA”.
Part of your roadmap will likely involve building new business analyst experiences. In this video blog post, I tackle the challenge of building on-the-job business analyst experiences.
But even if you are unemployed or employed in a job with limited opportunities, there are still options. You can start accumulating BA experience through volunteer positions. And if you still have doubts, read Kimberley Heath’s success story about how she created a BA volunteer opportunity for herself and what she learned from the experience.

Step 5: Focus Your Business Analyst Job Search

While you might be in a position to propose a business analyst role in your firm, oftentimes becoming a business analyst involves a job search process. A successful job search starts with focus. By letting go of all kinds of irrelevant positions for which you are not well-positioned to succeed, you free up your time and energy for the positions with the highest potential. For a new business analyst, your leverage points will play a key part in defining this focus.
We have a whole host of resources on this topic. Read How to Find a Business Analyst Job.
Because of the necessity of prior BA experiences for most BA jobs, it might be that you need to explore a transitional role to lead you on the path to BA. Here we address what a future BA can learn from a technical analyst role.  And Adrian Reed provides a comprehensive overview of roles that can lead to business analyst jobs.

It’s time to get started. Join the free email course

Convinced that it’s time to craft a plan to become a business analyst that leverages the strengths and experiences you already have? Or, just think this concept is interesting and are ready to learn more?
Subscribe to our free email course on becoming a business analyst. We’ll break this 5-step approach down into manageable pieces and give you concrete action items you can take each week to figure out your transition plan into a business analyst career.