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What is the Biggest Mistake that SAP Job Seekers Make?

I have written about the fundamentals of a good SAP career strategy, but I continue to get career questions that raise these same points. So I decided to launch a series in my SAP Career Blog that talks about the main job search mistakes that SAP professionals make. Most of these mistakes apply equally to experienced SAP pros as well as those who are new to the field, though there are some distinctions between these  two groups we’ll get into as well.

So let’s start with the biggest mistake I see, which is when people “chase dollars instead of skills.” There is still a notion in some quarters that SAP is a way to make quick money, and that’s just not the case. So, once more with feeling: SAP is no longer a get rich quick scheme, but a career. And it’s a good career – IF you have the passion for SAP. If you don’t have the passion for SAP, I don’t believe you should be in this field. The dues paying is too intense, the travel too demanding, the pressure to keep skills current too intense. If you love it, you love it, if you don’t, you should steer clear of SAP entirely.

  When I talk about “don’t chase dollars,” I also mean “don’t pursue an area of SAP just because it’s hot!” That’s a really flawed approach. Why? Because there isn’t really one area of SAP that is much hotter than all the others. In fact, there are successful consultants working in all areas of SAP right now – yes, including APO, ABAP, PM, QM, and other areas that are supposedly no longer hot.

The key to success in SAP is pursuing the area that is most relevant to your current skill set. If you have a deep financial background, move into SAP Financials. Don’t worry that your friends told you SAP CRM was “hotter.” For you, SAP Financials draws on your expertise and so it’s the best fit. The most common version of this I get is from developers who think that SAP programming is now a dead area. I get emails that have a high level of urgency about moving to functional SAP.

Now if functional SAP is where your passion now lies, by all means, make your move. But if not, then just know that there are plenty of great jobs on the technical side of SAP. Yes, it does take extra effort to make sure your skills on the technical side are not easily outsourced. But outsourcing will come to the functional side of SAP also, and in some cases, it already has. Outsourcing is less about functional and technical and more about whether you can make yourself indispensable to your project as an on-site presence.
That’s a topic I’ve written about a lot and I’ll return to it in the future.

So does that mean that I am saying “don’t pay any attention to the areas of SAP that are in demand?” Definitely not. There are always ways of enhancing your skills. The key here is to take your core expertise and keep pushing towards new areas that make those skills more compelling. Go back to the SAP FI/CO person. The first step is to get that all-important ERP 6.0 (and upgrade) exposure. Staying current on your releases within the area of your SAP expertise is always job number one. Once you are current on releases, there are any number of areas to “extend” your skills. In Financials, it could be that it makes sense to move into some work with the new SAP/BO “EPM” suite, or gain skills in the New General Ledger, or perhaps in Financial Supply Chain Management (FSCM). Another option is increasing the industry focus or adding an industry solution to your skill set.

Of course, when I talk to someone who is torn between two areas of SAP, and they are equally drawn to both of them and have equal experience in both fields, then I will certainly say “go where the action is.” But trust me when I tell you that the real “action” in SAP is finding a fulfilling career path and throwing yourself into it.

So why do I talk so much about passion for SAP? Is that just flowery talk or does it relate to the bottom line of your long term earnings? It has direct bottom line relevance, and here’s why. SAP is a competitive business and those who excel do so because they have an insatiable desire to master their chosen area within SAP. Those that lack the passion for what they do will find themselves going through the motions and not taking the extra steps to get the most out of their SAP pursuits.

I often refer to this as the “airplane test.” By that I mean, would you lug a hardcover book about your area of SAP specialization to the airport, and would you actually enjoy reading it, no, choose to read it, over the pulp fiction you bought at the newsstand? If you can pass the “hardcover airport book test,” that means you have chosen an area of SAP that you can truly stand out in. This will lead you to writing your own white papers, or blogging, or participating in online forums, or simply being the team lead at your company, the person who has the answers that others didn’t take the time to learn.

Needless to say, this translates to project choices as well. Choosing project with higher rates but mediocre skills exposure does not pay off for the same reasons. Choosing the projects with the best skills exposure and the meatiest challenges in terms of skills enhancement is how you stay on top of your game. If you choose the right SAP projects, the money will follow. You may not get rich, but you’ll be well compensated for pursuing something that your truly have a stake in, something that actually has some intellectual fascination for you.

What’s more, this will also save you the time from having to email me and ask me “what’s the hottest thing in SAP right now?” Instead, you’ll ask yourself a new question: “What area of SAP really inspires me to excel?” Master that area, and you’ll have no regrets.

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