Q

Finding the way back to a technical SAP career

I started off my career quite well: I got a good degree in Manufacturing Systems Engineering and was doing some PhD-work in Supply Chain Management when I sold some of my research to a large company. I abandoned my PhD and went to work on an integration project (which was what my idea needed) running a project team. This was when I first got involved with SAP -- getting data out of it. This work developed into a company and we did more work and got involved in 2 SAP installations. I then sold the company and my career started to go wrong. I did a project helping a corporation make an ERP selection (we recomended SAP, they bought BAAN.) You might be able to guess who that was. After that I got into sales selling Lotus Notes solutions for some reason. This peaked with a job at IBM before I was fired. I now want to go back to what I did succesfully in my earlier career and focus as a functional consultant for the supply chain specializing in SAP. Now, I hear what you say about project work relative to training. What would my best course of action be? Can I present myself to an employer now as a junior looking for experience?
Sounds like a long and winding career path. You're right - once you ended up working with BAAN and Lotus Notes, you weren't in the technical "sweet spot" anymore. I'm glad you read my previous questions and got a good sense of why I stress project experience. (Reader FYI: I always prioritize answering the questions of those who take a good look at the archives and try to ask something I haven't answered before). In terms of your best course of action, I'm not totally sure. You are going to find it tough to move back into SAP at this juncture. In terms of applying for junior-level positions, it's hard to say. Most junior-level positions go to folks that are just a few years out of college - that doesn't sound like you. Remember that once you start thinking about "junior level" roles, you're not really approaching the job market from a position of strength. A better approach is to figure our how to package and present your existing skills in order to seem like a senior-level person who can make a contribution right away. In your case, I recommend looking at breaking into SAP as a two-step process. The first step is to just get a job with a company running on SAP which will involve the utilization of your current skills. Then, do your best to prove yourself on your new project and try to get yourself a role on the SAP side of things down the line. While the two-stage approach can be risky and a bit lengthy, it is a much more impressive way to present yourself to companies. When you try to land a junior-level SAP role, the hiring manager's question is always going to be: "What's in it for me?" You answer that question by profiling your strengths, not your "skills acquisition agenda."
This was first published in August 2003

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