Dr. Craig Fleisher, Chief Learning Officer, Aurora WDC
Because I have taught and/or practiced in business, competitive and market intelligence (BCMI) space for over three decades, written numerous intelligence articles and handbooks, and been President of an international professional association in the field, undergraduate students in my courses often ask me about how to get their first or entry job in CMI. Because there are no/so few well-established/known post-secondary educational routes, widely accepted certifications, apprenticeship or licensure requirements to practice intelligence in commercial, private-sector contexts – unlike the individuals who want to practice intelligence in the public sector and are preparing to work for one of the many public sector intelligence agencies – answering this question has never been as easy or obvious as many of my (U.S.-based) students would think.
This brief i.e., (< 1k words) is part of a series I am writing as part of my role in the Council of Competitive Intelligence Fellows (Twitter:@TheCIFellows). This one offers several demonstrated steps you need to take in obtaining your first full-time job in business, competitive and market intelligence (BCMI). This advice includes details on getting the “right” university education, networking hacks, creating an impressive portfolio, and managing expectations.
Get the “Right” Education
For better or worse, most entry-level positions in BCMI require at least an undergraduate degree. There is no single degree or educational institution that can guarantee you successful entry into the BCMI field, though there are some degree programs that are well-established and which will definitely give you a leg up on your competition. Places like Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pennsylvania, which offers a BA in Intelligence Studies through its Ridge College of Intelligence Studies and Applied Sciences (see: http://www.mercyhurst.edu/ridge-college-intelligence-studies-and-applied-sciences/intelligence-studies) and James Madison University’s (Harrisonburg, Virginia) Bachelor of Science in Intelligence Analysis program (see: http://www.jmu.edu/ia/), which resides in its Integrated Sciences and Technology (ISAT) department, also provide high-quality university educational experiences while integrating good theoretical and practical experiences. Many other universities offer intelligence-complementary programs or courses of study in areas such as journalism or communication research, business intelligence, information management or science, marketing research or strategy, military education or science, or any rigorous liberal arts or science program that emphasizes strong applied investigatory and research processes.
Pairing these educational pathways with several real-world, intelligence-oriented coops, applied internships, term projects or practicums tends to round out the candidate and make them far more attractive to potential employers. Finding a BCMI professional services firm or solutions developer to collaborate on a project with, participating in a relevant intelligence association’s activities (e.g., SCIP, ICI, CI Fellows, IAFIE, etc.), shadowing a veteran intelligence executive, or interning in a business unit with intelligence responsibilities will also put you in an advantageous position. For example, my students are always required to partner with a “real-world” business sponsor as part of a major class project, and that generated mutual benefits. Quality master degrees in applied intelligence can be earned at places like Mercyhurst, Georgetown University (https://scs.georgetown.edu/programs/423/master-of-professional-studies-in-applied-intelligence/overview), University of Maryland University College (http://www.umuc.edu/academic-programs/masters-degrees/management/intelligence-management.cfm) or American Public University (https://www.apu.apus.edu/academic/schools/security-and-global-studies/masters/intelligence-studies.html), among others. Last but certainly not least, be sure you stand out enough to your professors so that they can both reach out for, and vouch for you and your abilities to potential employers, many of whom they may already have in their CMI networks.
Network, Network, Network
This may be the most important and least formal aspect of landing that first, attractive CMI role. Networking is essentially where you interact with people of shared interests to exchange information, develop contacts, and further one another’s careers. In the old days,” you needed to be able to identify people to speak with and see about potential openings – in other words, it was about “who you knew.” Today, it is all about “who knows you?” and what you offer; as such, anonymity is usually the enemy of having attractive opportunities come your way.
Networking begins by joining online groups of individuals with intelligence interests, finding out about and participating in intelligence-focused associations, attending meetings (virtual or in person) or webinars where other BCMI practitioners are participating, and joining all the relevant social media outlets where practitioners gather and discuss their ideas. Last but not least, if you haven’t frequently reached out to appropriate BCMI practitioners through LinkedIn or joined relevant groups there, you will probably be well behind your peers in terms of gaining awareness of practitioners and potential employers who might have openings that could fit your skills and interests.
Build and Communicate Your Portfolio (of SKAEs)
Being able to demonstrate to a potential employer what knowledge, skills or abilities you would bring to their opening is important. If you can show tangible outputs or outcomes of your competency-building efforts, it is all the better. Fortunately, we live in a high communication age where individuals can and should use social media and technology to their fullest advantage. By doing this, you have far greater control over the items that represent you, your interests, your experiences and competencies that represent you, or even better, your brand. If you are essentially anonymous on the internet, employers will not be aware of you and will move on to others who make it easier for them to identify potential matches with what they seek.
Every individual wanting to get into an entry level BCMI role should have the following items in their portfolios:
1. Updated resume
2. LinkedIn profile
3. Facebook page
4. Twitter profile
Each of these items should be as professional as possible and include your full name for ease of employer identification, kept up-to-date as you add to your competencies, and meticulously maintained to put your best profile forward.
If you also have a blog, Instagram account, Reddit curations or Pinterest pages dedicated to your BCMI interests, then also share those with your potential employer. You’ll also want to emphasize if you have given a presentation, written blog entries or articles, entered and won competitions (like my company’s annual Jim Mathews Award for Intelligence Excellence, for example) or attended any conferences in the field. Last but not least, if you are able to share samples of a deliverable you produced–without violating any NDAs or ethical guidelines– you should do so. All of these items demonstrate you are serious and motivated about pursuing a BCMI role.
Nobody starts off their intelligence careers as the trusted consigliere or “right hand” of the boss, or the G2 in our parlance. Even if the title you are offered in an entry level role is “Junior Analyst”, “Intelligence Associate” or “Associate Researcher” or the like, you will likely have the opportunity to use and refine the BCMI tools you’ve learned and grow in your expertise over time. Your first intelligence job may not be the job of your dreams, but that’s okay. Most people who have long been in the commercial intelligence field started off or came into the field more accidentally than the process I have described herein. As such, think of your first full-time role as a potentially beneficial learning experience and stepping stone. As long as you are moving in the right direction and growing, the future for your intelligence career remains bright.
Dr. Craig S. Fleisher is the Chief Learning Officer at Aurora WDC. A widely published and one of the globe’s most highly cited authors of fourteen books including Business and Competitive Analysis 2nd Ed. (Pearson, 2015), SAGE Handbook of International and Corporate Affairs (2017), Analysis Without Paralysis 2nd Ed. (FT Press, 2013), Competitive Intelligence and Global Business (Praeger, 2005), and Strategic and Competitive Analysis (Pearson, 2003), and 150+ scholarly articles and book chapters, he has twice been a business school dean, endowed university research chair holder, and a tenured, full professor at four Canadian and U.S. universities.
Vice President of the Council of Competitive Intelligence Fellows, Craig has been President of SCIP, Chair of the CI Foundation, and Editor of the Journal of CI and Management. He won the field’s highest annual recognition, the Meritorious Award. Craig is a member of the Canadian Who’s Who, Who’s Who in America, serves and educates blue-chip clients across the globe. Contact Craig at Craig.Fleisher@AuroraWDC.com or see his full profile.