By Dr. Ben Gilad, ACI Faculty

Mick Lariviere (CIP-II™) recently changed jobs. Formerly at McAfee, he put our Masters’ certification on his resume. The hiring manager at his new job told him our certification was a game changer.

We have dozens of such anecdotes.

We have trained thousands of managers in competitive/market intelligence. Our institution has certified over 2,000 as CIP™- the most widely recognized (and the only externally approved by an international accreditation body) certification in the field. After 30 years of training in the field, I have adhered to one unmovable rule:

No newbies right out of college.

Sorry, undergraduates, unless you have several years of experience in an industry in a managerial capacity, you won’t be hired as an intelligence analyst. No amount of networking will change this. Yes, even though we are a for profit institution, we will tell you this truth outright, and it means leaving money on the table.

The reason is simple: market intelligence requires first and foremost an intimate, inside understanding of how an industry operates and an intimate understanding of the inner working (politics included) of how your company operates. Without these two, you can perhaps get a job as an information hunter/gatherer (i.e., human search engine) with a vendor, but you can’t become a competitive/market intelligence analyst in a large company.

You have to put in the work. You have to toil in the trenches. You have to shed blood sweat and tears and make “your bones” in marketing, sales, product management, business development, market research and other business areas before we take you on. And then our certificate will give you an edge.

Does it make a difference what degrees you have? No. Does it make a difference how old you are? Yes.

Experience talks.

The idea that certain undergraduate degrees will give you an advantage in netting a full time job in CI/MI is to say it mildly, wrong. Your undergraduate degree does not in any way define your career in this field unless you want to become a nurse doing intelligence and in that case it’s only because you can’t become a nurse without a nursing degree.

One of the best intelligence analysts I have ever trained possesses an undergraduate degree in labor relations (I didn’t even know such a degree exists!). Another has a degree in biotech (the preferred route for working in the healthcare industry). Another has a degree in accounting and personal financial planning. Many of our CIPs come from social sciences and humanities. We even certified a manager with a BA in Religious Studies. Sometime, you have to believe in divine intervention to think you can affect executives’ assumptions.

All came after years in the trenches and with a deep sense of how the business works.

I am not at all against students going for “intelligence studies” degrees or programs. Just be aware that when it comes to gaining employment in CI/MI in corporate, as far as I can tell having a degree in Archeology or French Literature or Fine Arts is as useful. And a Fine Arts’ degree does give you more topics to impress the ladies on the first date.

For more information on what degrees our CIPs™ hold and which degrees feature in getting promoted, write to Lynne Smith and ask for access to our two surveys – Who are the most successful CI professionals and My whole CI life.

Our program is offered in a few weeks (June 11-15) in Burlington, Massachusetts and (November 12-16) in Chicago, Illinois. You have several years in business under your belt and want a career in CI? Join us. We give you the edge.

Ben Gilad teaches at the FGH-Academy of Competitive Intelligence, the grantor of the internationally recognized CIP certification.