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Getting back into SAP

Expert Jon Reed describes the tribulation associated with former SAP professionals who now want back into the SAP environment. It is tough, but possible. Find out how here.

I am trying to get back into the SAP market after three years of pursuing a different career path. What's the best approach for me?

I have seven and a half years of SAP experience, primarily SD and MM functional -- analysis, design, configuration,...

testing, training, intefaces with external systems, some third level support, some ABAP and SAPScript. I have a Bachelors degree in Business with emphasis in MIS and production and operations management. I have been trying to frame my last three years as relevant by highlighting my project management experience running construction projects. I have even earned my PMP certification through PMI in an attempt to "legitimize" my recent experience. But the fact remains that my last SAP experience was three years ago and was on 4.6c. While I have every confidence in my abilities, hiring managers seem to balk at the three year lapse.

Should I invest in training on my own, or would I be best served looking for a short-term contract at a reduced rate to get my feet wet again? What is your advice?

You raise a number of points that are relevant to the many folks who have worked in SAP in the past and want to get back into it.

First, the tactic of signing a contract at a reduced rate to get back into SAP won't work. Companies that hire SAP contractors expect top of the line experts and aren't willing to cut rates to get folks who are no longer current in SAP. You don't have a shot at good SAP contracts until your skills are sharp and current.

The way to break back in is through the "permanent job" angle. You want to get hired onto an SAP project as a full-time employee where you can hopefully use a range of your skills and provide a real value from companies before they update any of your training.

A common mistake on the job search front is to try to make too many moves at once. A good start would simply be to get a functional role with a company running SAP -- even if that role is not focused on SAP currently. Sometimes you have to make a half-move first, and then make your next move once you've proven yourself and you're back inside the project. Three years is a pretty long time to be out of SAP. I'm sure you could get back up to speed quickly but very few companies are willing to train you from day one, especially when they have so many options with folks who have current experience in SAP to choose from.

You can certainly invest in a new certification, and that might help, but I think the real key is just to get inside an SAP project again and work your way back towards a significant role within it. To put it another way, I don't think a new certification is going to help all that much to land an SAP role going in. I think you may just have to be patient and evolve back into SAP over time. It can be challenging to approach the market this way, but it's better to understand the rules of the game and work within them. At this point, it's a rare company that will step outside those rules -- though, if you can find one, that's great news!

Another point for you to keep in mind is that targeting hands-on SAP positions versus project management roles involves two different job searches. Companies looking to hire hands-on SAP folks won't be swayed by the fact you have some good project management skills. It might even work against you as some companies will think you'll be looking for higher pay given you have project management skills. A different approach would be for you to apply for project management positions that involve SAP in some way, though perhaps not centrally.

But these would not be hands-on SAP roles. Searching for hands-on jobs versus project management jobs are really two different searches. You can potentially apply for both types of roles, but it's good to keep in mind that the background you'll want to emphasize for each is different.

This was last published in December 2006

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