Professional Development Tips

Professional Development Tips

Make the most of your Business Analysis Skills with these great tips from Watermark Learning. Receive even more valuable industry resources by becoming a Watermark Learning Member.

Timing is Everything

by Roberta Hoffman, Education Consultant

A well-known adage states — Timing is Everything. Every successful comedian understands this, and all of us, as we travel through life can certainly attest to its validity. Opportunities were there because the timing was right—we were ‘at the right place, at the right time’ or available, educated and ready when opportunity knocked.

As I work with individuals interested in training, the subject of timing is ever-present. In an unquestionably difficult economy, the job seeker is less certain of employment prospects and therefore anxious to receive training to help secure a job as soon as possible; and the employee fears that training funds might otherwise be reallocated if they aren’t used quickly. I increasingly note that some individuals are opting for courses that may not adequately fit their training needs or choosing training organizations that may not offer exactly the right course. In these situations, ‘timing,’ not appropriateness, drives the training decision.

Therefore, I’d like to offer another well-known adage — Haste Makes Waste. It’s incredibly difficult to be patient with employment and economic insecurity, but waiting for the right training opportunity will inevitably be a better use of training dollars. Why waste limited and precious training dollars on a course that may not offer the best advantage? Or, as I often say to job seekers, “The worst thing that could happen is that you can’t take the class because you found a job.” Waiting for the right class is really a win/win.

Whether you’re a dislocated worker looking for training, or an employee with a training budget, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Does the course fit my current or projected career?
  • Is the training offered by an organization that is a noted expert in the field?
  • Does the training organization strongly support my profession?
  • Does the training organization offer education consulting to make sure I’m on the right path?
  • Will the class learning style offer the best retention value?

Indeed, class date and site are to be considered, but the value of the education is your best career move.

Five Reasons to Get Your Certification

by Richard Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA

  1. Professional Advancement. Certification will lead to increased stature in your organization. Not everyone will be able to attain it. Organizations value individuals with industry certifications, so you will enhance your career and increase your ability to earn promotions and a higher salary. Employers like to hire and promote people with a desire to “stay current” and a certification is a solid way to demonstrate that attribute. One colleague put it this way: “Personally, I sought the Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification as a confirmation of my own project management knowledge and skills. I wanted to verify that I did have a well-rounded understanding of all project management principles and standards.”
  2. Recognition by Employers. For the PMP® certification, many organizations now require this certification to get hired as a PM. I'm not aware of the percentage of employers who require or strongly prefer a PMP certification, but I'm sure it is high. For the CBAP certification, organizations are increasingly saying “CBAP preferred” and will require it in the future too. Having a PMP certification and/or CBAP certification makes it clear to prospective employers what your chosen career path is and that you are committed to it. Last, people are telling me that both a PMP certification and CBAP certification increases their job prospects because employers often expect the same person to act as both a PM and a BA.
  3. Learn More About Your Profession. This was not one of my initial aims in getting my PMP and CBAP certifications, but it was a valuable outcome in both cases. There were many aspects of project management and business analysis that my experience and training had not encountered. Studying for my PMP and CBAP certifications forced me to learn about some new areas. I feel more confident now as a project manager and business analyst because of it. It's a great way to focus your learning on the generally accepted knowledge and techniques in the PM and BA professions. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) and BABOK® Guide are both excellent sources of knowledge.
  4. Networking with Peers. Joining a study group or taking an exam preparation class is a common way to begin your preparation for certification. The chance to meet and interact with peers seeking the same objective is an invaluable networking opportunity. Group activities can help motivate and energize your effort and add insights to your learning process. As one student of mine said: “It (certification) takes a great deal of concentrated effort, so it really helps to combine a social aspect at times (study group) so you can share the pain as well as insights into how you study.”
  5. Personal Satisfaction. The application process for certification itself is an accomplishment. You will need to gather your professional experience and project contacts, summarize your hours and accomplishments, and reflect on your career. Then, the preparation for the exam is like a small project. There are bodies of knowledge to absorb, terms, tasks and techniques to familiarize yourself with, and exam questions to study and practice. The exam is the “capstone” or “deliverable” of this whole endeavor. I know the relief I felt when I hit the “Done” button on my PMP® exam and it said I passed! A past student of mine wrote: “I got an email today that said: 'We are happy to inform you that you passed the CBAP exam!' Glad it is over and very glad I passed. I will be happy to attend the next IIBA meeting in Indianapolis and raise my hand when they ask if anyone has passed the CBAP exam.”

Certification is a lot of work, but it is also a rare experience and one you can savor. Enjoy the journey because it is special. And, once you get it, those three or four letters after your name look might good! These are five main goals I could think of for becoming certified. Can you think of additional ones? If you have additional reasons, please weigh in!

Career Development Training Pays Off

by Roberta Hoffman, Education Consultant

How valuable is skill development for job retention, enhancement, or placement? In this tip, Watermark Learning student, Laura A. Keiser, provides an interesting account:

“After 9-1/2 years at my job in event planning, I was laid-off in February, 2009. I wasn't sure what I was going to do next, but I knew I didn't want to work as an administrative assistant, which is the only position I felt qualified to do.

I was fortunate to find the Dislocated Worker Program for my area. While researching career options, I discovered that I was interested in the field of Career Development. I was attending a workshop at one of the Workforce Centers, when my Dislocated Worker Case Manager informed me that there was a scholarship available at Watermark Learning in Facilitation Skills. Since this is a valuable skill to have in Career Development, I was excited to have the opportunity to gain some experience in this area.

The two-day Watermark Learning workshop was great. The location where I took the class was convenient and the class size was just right. Each of us took turns facilitating on different topics. The class was fast-paced and feedback was immediate. As the class progressed, the instructor wrote down areas of improvement for each of us on easel paper. I received great feedback from my peers and even took the easel paper home and displayed it on my home office wall (it's still there!) as reinforcement that I was moving in the right direction in my job search.

With the training I received, I was fortunate to be hired at a Workforce Center as a Dislocated Worker Case Manager. I use the facilitation skills I learned in my training on a regular basis. The class I took from Watermark Learning helped me land my new job and I feel prepared for my new career.”

Chris Behling:

“Personally, I sought the PMP certification as a confirmation of my own project management knowledge and skills. I wanted to verify that I did have a well-rounded understanding of all project management principles and standards. I also think the designation is a quick way for employers to ascertain that a given individual has a certified level of project management knowledge and experiences. The designation shows a commitment to the profession.”

Choosing the Right Training

by Roberta Hoffman, Education Consultant

Given the current state of the economy, skill development has never been so critical to stay competitive. No doubt there are a number of classes that would help you in your present position and even advance your career—but which ones do you take?

To determine the best training path, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What skills do I anticipate needing to be successful in my present position? Do I possess those skills?
  2. Will a 'class' teach new skills that I can use on the job immediately?
  3. Do I qualify for professional certification? And will this certification help advance my position?
  4. What skills does the present job market require me to have? Do I meet those requirements?
  5. What other skills will complement those I currently have or will enhance my marketability?
  6. What new skills interest me, that I don't currently possess?
  7. What is my training budget?

Answering these questions will help you determine which class is best for you. It will help you sort out your interests and decide which classes best fit into your budget. Be prepared to present a training plan and discuss this with your supervisor or mentor. Together you will choose a training path that will both benefit the company while enhancing your career.

Mirroring for Success

by Roberta Hoffman, Education Consultant

While transitioning between jobs, you may be attending classes to enhance your Project Management and Business Analysis skills. In addition, you are tasked with combing the job market, tweaking and re-writing resumes, and preparing for job interviews.

Every job interview is different, so how do you prepare for the unknown? Try to take on the personality of the interviewer through “mirroring.”

Simply stated, "mirroring" is the technique of copying/mimicking the communication style (both verbal and non-verbal ) of the person with whom you are interviewing. In other words, you mirror the behavior of the interviewer. If your style is outgoing and talkative, this might not sit well with a more reserved interviewer. Likewise, if you tend to be more quiet or reticent, you may need to bring it up a notch with a more engaging, outgoing interviewer.

And, as we state in our Consulting Skills to Solve Business Problems course: “Watch Non-Verbals". Read non-verbal cues as you are interviewing. Only 7% of communication is with words only. Body language, accent, and attitude all convey critical information about you and your interest in the job.

How Training Classes Can Enhance Your Resume

by Roberta Hoffman, Education Consultant

In this economic climate jobs are fluid and unstable. Whether currently employed or a job seeker, it's vitally important to keep your resume up-to-date. Classes like the ones Watermark Learning provide can help secure your future in several ways.

Learning new project management, business analysis, or related skills indicates a commitment to your continuing education. Employers value that—especially relevant topics that reflect best practices in your field. Relevant course work or certificate programs are valuable additions to every resume.

During class, every student experiences at least one “Aha” moment. The work may be familiar but the description and context is likely to be new. Since Watermark Learning classes use industry-standard language as defined by PMI or IIBA, we recommend you look at your resume and redefine your work with current PMI / IIBA language and context. Use your student guides to review key terminology, concepts, and skills.

As soon as you take a class, add it to your resume. Separately, record the number of hours and date taken. It is helpful to track your progress to meet certification or re-certification requirements. Watermark Learning also keeps student records in case you're looking for this information.

So, enjoy a class and secure your future!