Keys to becoming a great analyst

It’s April, and your search for an entry-level career is on. With final exams are behind you and graduation imminent, the rest of your life is staring right at you.

It can be hard to choose your path, but if you love numbers, statistics, and the scientific method, a career as a business analyst might work.

Mark Stiffler knows all about the power of effective data analysis. First falling in love with the subject during his time at MIT, he made good use of this skill when he founded Synygy, a sales data analysis company.

He provided companies in the pharmaceutical space with consulting services that helped them optimize their sales approach, launching his brand to a level that earned him a place in the Philadelphia Business Hall of Fame just recently.

If you want to become an expert analyst like Mark, cultivating the following soft skills will go a long way to ensuring your success over the long term.

1) Have an innate curiosity about things

This is one of the most desirable traits a data analyst can have, as the naturally curious among us possess the ability to ask questions that others never think about.

This can lead to conclusions that could lead to the development of new strategies once you realize your company was focusing on the wrong things.

Backed up using hard data, new insights can be used to expand profits or right a sinking ship. If you have a hunch, test it out. You never know where it could lead!

2) Be open-minded

We all have biases that influence our perception of how things really are. Once you become aware of them, you can adjust your approach.

While it can be an ego hit to have your initial hypothesis disproven, you may come up with unexpected insight that will get you to your end goal: to improve the results of the enterprise who employs you.

3) Possess a healthy degree of skepticism

It can be tempting to grasp onto any scrap of data that confirms your hypothesis, but exhibiting restraint in the face of a positive result is the mark of an accomplished analyst.

True scientists run scores of cross checks in an attempt to derail their hypothesis. Often, a secondary cause can be responsible for an effect, so be through in your attempts to disprove what your irrationally optimistic side thinks is the gospel truth.

4) Creating a compelling story based on the available data

As a data wonk, it can be tempting to throw together a report that would make your college professor squeal with joy.

However, the business world is a place that thrives on directness, making the use of scientific jargon a bad idea.

You will be trying to convince a room of decision makers of the veracity of your findings, so be sure to use persuasive language and plain English (no $10 words) to craft a story that will move the suits in the boardroom to make the right choices.