People generally fall into two camps when it comes to career development. The first camp puts the responsibility on their companies. They expect their company to provide the necessary environment, mentorship and opportunities to grow. This group points fingers and constantly complain about their managers while doing nothing to change their reality.
The problem with the first camp is that it's difficult to gauge how good a company is at career development before you join it. This camp is taking a gamble and what do you think people in this camp do if that gamble doesn't pay off? They stick around and continue to collect the paycheck.
You don't want to be in the first camp.
In this post I'm going to share with you what people in the second camp do differently and how you can use these tips to accelerate your career as a business analyst.
The responsibility of developing your career is on you, no one else
The first fundamental belief that you need to have is that you're the only person responsible for developing your career.
It's up to you and only you.
If you're fortunate you'll surround yourself with people smarter and more driven than you which can make a huge difference, but in the end, the person that will have the biggest impact on your career is you.
Become someone that prioritizes growth
You might have heard a guru or some motivational speaker talking about having a "growth mindset". I'm a huge proponent of this lesson and at my core, I believe that if you aren't moving forward you're moving backwards.
Most people are very comfortable and it's great to have a steady paycheck and a job which has become easy. The problem is that the world doesn't standstill. Each day that goes by either adds to your ability to provide value to the market, or puts you further behind your true potential.
It's hard to grasp this concept but the way I think about it is to imagine that you're taking part in a race. You could stop running, sit down and relax, hell, it's the easiest option and you've already won so many races in your life. The problem is that the other runners will pass you. It's a dog eat dog world and only a few get the spoils.
As unfair as it may seem at times one of the biggest systems driving our world is the free market system. It's stronger than you and will eat you alive if you don't accept its fundamental principles and use them to your advantage.
You want to be someone that prioritizes growth. Growth needs to become part of your personality and something you demand from yourself and your environment.
If you have this mindset in every area of your life then it will follow you into your job and have a direct impact on your career. Let me make this clear. If you don't have this mindset then you'll find yourself in the first camp, expecting others to help you grow.
Picking the right company
One of the best, if not the best decision you can make to accelerate your career is to pick the right companies to work for.
It kills me when I see friends of mine jump straight into the first company that makes them an offer only to get stuck for years in a shitty environment.
Picking the environment where you will spend more than a 3rd of your life for the next few years is massive and shouldn't be taken lightly.
Most people rush the process of finding a job. I get it, money is important and its super stressful when you don't have a flow of income. My recommendation is to save up an emergency fund so if the day comes when you need to find another job, you aren't desperate.
Below are some tips for finding the right company to join
How to perform due diligence on a company before you decide to join it?
Do your research
You want to understand the business before you walk through the door. This includes:
- The stage of the company (pre-seed, seed, post seed, post series C etc). This will help you understand how risky the company is. Pre-seed is very risky while post series A companies are significantly less risky.
- How many employees. You can find this out roughly on LinkedIn or by reading a recent press release.
- The types of clients the company works with. You can find this out by looking at case studies on the companies website. Most companies also like to showoff the logos of their larger clients.
- The background of their analytics / ops managers. This is also possible through LinkedIn. If they lack managers or have managers with limited experience, this would indicate a higher risk for you.
- Go through the signup flow and if possible even try out the product or service. This will help you during the interview process and help you get a sense of the maturity of the product.
How much money have they raised?
Sites like Angellist and especially Crunchbase are great for finding out about the fundraising successes of the company. A company which has just raised a large round of funding paints a good picture.
Use the interview process to get to know the company
The interview process is the best way for you to get to know the company. Most people go to an interview with the mindset that they need to jump through some hoops in order to get a job. You should see a job interview as reconnaissance.
The interview process is designed to see if you're the right candidate out of dozens of others for a specific job. You should see it the same way. This is only one company and your job is to see if it is a good fit for you.
Ask a lot of questions during the interviews and get a feel for how things work at the company. Pay attention to the mood of the employees, the layout of the office space (is it warm, welcoming and designed with the employees in mind?), and the personalities of the people you meet.
One of the goals of your interview with the hiring manager is to determine if he or she will be a good mentor. Your direct manager will have a huge impact on your growth in the organization and you want to feel good about this person.
Some of the best questions you can ask the hiring manager
- Can you describe to me the day-to-day for members of your team?
- Which tools do the team use?
- What are your plans for growing the team over the next 12 months?
- Which teams / departments will I get to work with in this role?
- I'm interested in learning X, Y and Z in the future, will I have that opportunity?
Work ridiculously hard but with a plan in mind
If you've picked a great company and you're learning new things every day your job now is to take advantage of the situation.
I recommend that you give 120% in your first few months in the company. The reason you want to do this is to allow yourself to take full advantage of the new environment, your enthusiasm and to send the right signals to the company.
Being in a good environment is huge but you still want to be proactive in accelerating your career as an analyst. You want to draw up a plan that has goals that you want to achieve within the next 6 and 12 months.
I'd recommend setting 3 goals, 1 big and 2 small. You should aim to accomplish the big goal within 12 months. The smaller goals within 6 months or less.
Examples of a big goal might be learning a new technology like Python or a system like SalesForce. Small goals might include building a company wide dashboard or learning from a colleague how to perform a retention analysis.
These goals should have an overlap between the needs of the company and what you want to learn as an analyst. If you've picked the right company finding the right overlap won't be difficult.
If you have a good manager who wants you to grow then you can build this plan together with him or her BUT in the end it's on you. The reason I think it is a good idea to tell your manager that you are going to work towards these goals is to send a message that your development is a priority to you. You want the company to know that if you're not able to grow then they could lose you.
The second most important way to accelerate your career
If joining a good company is the best thing you can do for your career, leaving a bad company comes in second place.
Knowing that the time has come to jump ship sometimes never comes to certain people and years go by with zero growth. Sometimes you just have to pull the trigger and take a chance.
If you're not in a financial position to leave your company but hate every day and are falling further behind then you need to make some drastic changes.
Write your resignation letter and date it 3 months into the future. You've now made the decision to leave and it's just a matter of time. You will use the next 3 months to build some financial security so that when you do leave you won't end up on the street.
During the next 3 months you won't spend any money on anything other than the bare essentials (food, rent, etc). Become obsessive and you'll surprise yourself. Put a gun to your own head and don't let anything stop you. If it helps set a financial goal of the amount you estimate you'll need to weather the storm once you leave the job.
Skills are the name of the game
The world of analytics is constantly evolving which means in order to stay relevant you need to evolve with it. New technologies, tools and methods are constantly being introduced into the market and it's up to you to stay up to date.
Skills are the name of the game. The analyst that can use multiple coding languages to tackle a problem is more valuable than an analyst which only has one or two tools in their toolbox.
Hopefully you'll be in an environment where you're encouraged to learn new skills but this isn't always the case. Like I mentioned above, the responsibility is on you to continue to develop.
Thankfully it is getting easier and easier to develop new skills thanks to platforms like Udemy, Coursera, and the blogosphere as a whole.
I'd recommend that you try and learn at least one new technology or popular platform each year. If you succeed at doing that you'll be doing more than the vast majority of people.
You don't want to be one of those people that gets stuck in a boring, demotivating job which is holding you back from your true potential.
To avoid such a fate you need to take things into your own hands and position yourself for growth.
Pick the right company, set goals and prioritize your career development.
Remember, skills are the aim of the game. You want to be constantly learning new ways to provide value to the market. If you focus on that you'll never become irrelevant to the market which will help guarantee a full and successful career.