I’m a business analyst and have been working on my company’s order entry systems for the last five years. I like my job, I like the people, I like the company and I even like the system, but I feel trapped and want to make a change. What should I do?
This is a situation that can happen to people in all professions. You are very good at what you do and do it for a long time. Then, after a few years, everyone starts thinking about you as singularly dimensional and expects that you will want to do that job forever. For some people this scenario is great, because they love what that are doing and want to do it forever. For others, however, like you, who want to move to do other things, it can be difficult to break the personal stereotype you have created.
Because you said you like the company and the people, I’m going to make the assumption that you would like to continue working within the same organization, but just do something different. You need a vision of what you would like to do and then a plan on how to get there.
Regarding a vision of the future, you must first do some soul searching and decide what you would like to do. Without this first step, it’s virtually impossible to devise a plan that will get you where you want to go because you don’t know your desired destination. Note that this doesn’t have to be a twenty year vision, even though that would be advantageous, it could simply be what you want to do next.
Once you defined your vision, it’s time to formulate a plan that will help you reinvest yourself in a way that can help you make the change. In essence, you need to assess your skills, abilities, and interests so you can reformulate them in a way that will allow you to move toward your stated professional vision. Remember, you must not only reinvent yourself in your eyes, this “reinvented you” must also be seen by your boss, and others at the company that can help you move internally to a new job.
To that end, consider the following questions from the perspective of how they can help you reposition yourself toward your short-term and/or long term professional goal:
1. Do you have any hidden skills or abilities that are not generally needed in your current job? If yes, how can you showcase them in your workplace in a way that others will take notice?
2. Are there any technical trends taking hold at your company that you could exploit to your advantage. For example, since you have a deep knowledge of order entry systems, if your IT organization is investigating the use of mobile devices, volunteer to analyze how cell phones and computer tablets can help the sales force more efficiently enter new orders from the road. In the slightly longer term, this can pivot you away from order entry systems into mobile devises in general.
3. Given your background as a business analyst, I’m assuming you have strong communication skills and can work effectively with both techies and business people. These skills are also crucial for project managers. Would beginning to study for PMP help you move toward a project management role? Perhaps, first in your area of expertise (order entry systems) and then, as an experienced project manager, overseeing projects in other technical and business areas.
4. Could your deep knowledge in one area of the company/IT (order entry systems) make you of great value to another part of the company/IT, such as inventory control or CRM systems?
5. Being a business analyst, you are probably very familiar with your company’s software development methodologies, such as Waterfall, Agile/Scrum, or Lean Six Sigma. Can you use this knowledge and experience to pivot yourself toward working within your IT group’s Project Management Office (PMO)? If one doesn’t exist, could you suggest starting one?
6. Could you combine your oral and written communication skills with your knowledge of order entry systems move you toward training, testing, and/or writing documentation? Then, once you prove yourself as a trainer, tester, or writer, you could move to projects unrelated to order entry.
For those who are not business analysts by profession, the concepts alluded to above can work for people in any technical vocation who are looking for change. If you are a help desk specialist and like explaining new features to users, consider moving toward training or software sales. If you are a database administrator specializing in relational databases, consider adding the big data management to your professional repertoire by researching/learning big data technologies such as Hadoop. One advantage we have as technical professionals is that there are so many potential possibilities.