This is one post in a series on how to be a great corporate analyst, no matter what field you’re in. Stay tuned next week for more.
Most young professionals in the business world start off in some form as an “analyst,” regardless of whether or not your job title reflects that nomenclature. What does that mean exactly? It depends on your specific job, but in general an analyst is one who is asked to assess various business procedures based on data-driven insights, and represent those findings in an easily-digestible format. Analysts are often not on the front lines: not necessarily the ones presenting those findings to executives, or making the final business decisions. Instead, they provide the foundation for these decisions; without them, the pillars wouldn’t stand.
So what makes a great analyst? Here are some of my thoughts, but I am not the expert on the subject. Additions and suggestions are welcome.
- Always try to solve the problem before asking someone for help: if you don’t know how to solve a problem or conduct an analysis, try to do as much as you can before turning to others. This means carefully researching something, coming up with a process, Googling, or otherwise, to show that you’ve thought about it and gotten as far as you can without someone’s assistance. #Protip: usually you’ll figure it out by yourself, and you’ll be glad you didn’t use that favor chip unwisely.
- Be scrappy and resourceful: regardless of whether you are in an industry that has templates for decks or you work for a 10-person company, your job as an analyst is to figure out the answer to a question when asked. One of the best resources is your network. If you don’t know how to solve a problem, know the person who can get you closest to the answer.
- Ask questions: the best analyst, when given an assignment or a project, doesn’t not, smile, and accept. If you’re being asked to analyze something, the first test is to ask lots of questions about the task at hand. Ask about the methodology. Ask clarification questions. Ask anything you need to know to complete the assignment. You have a window of time in which asking questions is necessary and expected, but that window closes relatively quickly. If you’re a week into an assignment and you are asking basic questions, it shows that you didn’t think critically or thoroughly when you received the assignment. And don’t be afraid to ask questions that push back where appropriate. You are being judged by your understanding and framing of the problem as much as you are the outcome.
- Listen actively: As an analyst, you are most likely going to be touching data and process most closely. As a result, you are probably inclined to want to speak or voice your opinion at all times. Although I always advocate having an opinion, listening is an equally valuable quality as an analyst. By listening actively, you pick up on small bits of information that might prove to be helpful down the line.
- Carve a niche or become the expert on one task: when you begin your career, you will be asked to do a broad variety of tasks to bolster various skills. But your real value comes when you can become an expert in one thing: either a type of project, a subject matter, or a particular product. If everyone in your org thinks of you as the master of that one thing, you will be the default for any project that involves that matter. It could open your doors and your eyes to paths you had never previously considered, and builds your rapport with leaders at the company.
…More tips on how to be a great analyst next week!