Whether you’re an analytics professional with eight years’ experience, a fresh graduate looking to break into data science, or transitioning into the corporate world after a stint in academic research, learning how to nurture and grow your career can be tough.
In our experience working with many quantitative professionals over the years, the two main areas that contribute to long-term career growth are networking and continuous learning. Even though both can open up a lot of career opportunities down the road, networking can seem daunting for many, and when it comes to lifelong learning many professionals simply aren’t sure where to start. Here is our best advice about how to prepare for the road ahead!
Networking – What to do
- Join associations or professional organizations – Joining and attending luncheons, conferences, or networking events for your local chapter of the ASA (American Statistical Association) or INFORMS (The Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences), can introduce you to other professionals in your field, and both offer membership benefits like career resources.
- Join analytics and data science LinkedIn groups – LinkedIn groups can be a good way to connect with people who aren’t local, and to stay informed of trending topics and new developments in analytics, data science, machine learning, market mix modeling, digital marketing, etc.
- Join your alumni association – Look to see if your school has any relevant alumni associations.
- Attend meetups – Aside from more formal organizations like the ASA and INFORMS, many areas also have a vibrant meetups community where analytics and data science professionals can gather and share ideas, discuss topics, or view presentations. You can browse meetups here.
- Attend conferences – Keep an eye on conferences and meetings to see if there are any that might be feasible for you to attend. KDnuggets keeps a running list of upcoming conferences.
Networking – How to prepare
- Keep your LinkedIn profile and resume updated – This should almost go without saying! Even if you aren’t currently looking, you always want your profile to be professional and represent you in the best light. Likewise, even if you’re not job searching you should keep your resume up-to-date. It is easier to articulate your impact on a project when it is fresh in your mind, and, if you wait too long, you might find it difficult to summarize your data projects in resume format. And, when you do finally decide to start looking, it will expedite the process, since your resume will hopefully just need a few tweaks rather than a complete overhaul. You can find more of our analytics resume tips here.
- Practice talking points about background and interests – Networking can be nerve-wracking for many, and, even if that’s not the case for you, practicing talking about your background (and yourself!) can help you stay focused on the points that you want to get across. Obviously you don’t want to sound like a robot with a script, but even simply reading through your resume few times and thinking of questions that you’d like to ask other people can be beneficial.
- Bring business cards – If you run into the Director of Analytics for your dream company in the elevator at a conference, you want them to have a way to look you up on LinkedIn later! If you don’t already have business cards, Vistaprint has a wide range of options.
- Online courses/certifications – With the current boom in analytics and data science, there are many options for learning and adding to your toolkit and skillset. Only worked in R? Consider taking a course on SAS or Python. Want to learn more about machine learning? Browse the offerings on Coursera, Udacity, or Udemy. Some universities even offer online certificates as well. Analytics and data science tools will continue to evolve, so stay aware of new developments in your area. If you only learn how to use one tool and then that tool becomes obsolete, you may have trouble adapting your skills.
- Kaggle competitions – If you haven’t already tried out Kaggle yet, the website offers analytics and data science professionals the opportunity to compete in company-sponsored competitions, but also to download datasets to practice and refine skills. This is a great way to get access to messy data and complex problems, both of which are key to keeping your skills sharp.
- Analytics literature – Seek out books, blogs, magazines, etc. that are tailored specifically to analytics and data science professionals. There are a lot of great resources out there, and the more informed you are about the latest tools, skills, and trends, the better prepared you’ll be for changes in the market.
- Industry specific trends – In addition to keeping an eye on analytics or data science trends, it’s also wise to keep a general awareness of the political and financial news climate, especially if this affects the industry you’re working in (such as finance!). Consider subscriptions to relevant sources like newsletters, The Economist, healthcare journals, etc., because these can help give you a wider business context.
- Contact recruiters to stay aware of job market trends – And no, we’re not just saying this because we’re recruiters! Talking to recruiters can give you an overall sense for the job market or hiring trends that top-line job statistics might not necessarily capture. Recruiters can also give you a sense for what data science and analytics tools and skills are most in-demand, since they work with a variety of clients.
- Check out Burtch Works – Time for a little shameless self-promotion! All kidding aside, we do put together a variety of career resources for quantitative professionals that are all free for you to access. We publish salary studies, post career advice and industry trends/research on our blog, and upload salary and career webinars to our YouTube channel. If you’re looking to stay up-to-date on all of these things, following us on LinkedIn is probably the easiest way!
It’s important to remember that putting forth the effort to network and keep learning new skills, even while you’re not exploring the market, can make looking for a job that much easier when it actually comes time to do so. Your consistency will pay off!