Breaking Into The SAP Market

Posted on April 2014 By Judy Cole

Having been in SAP recruitment now for 9 years, probably one of the most common questions I get asked is “How do I get in to SAP?

This unfortunately is not an easy question to answer but for numerous reasons it is certainly one that I have put a lot of thought in to.

Unfortunately, as an SAP Resourcing and Recruitment company we do not actually get many SAP entry level positions in (1 last year), in fact we very rarely get roles in that require less than 3 years of “hands on” working experience and this ideally gained in the local market; this is also indicative of other IT recruiters I know.

I have found this information is a little surprising to some people and I know it is very frustrating for those people looking for work. Believe me; I also see the irony in the whole “Must have a minimum of 3 years experience” that you see on most SAP ads…. I mean how is anyone supposed the be able to get 3 years experience if no one will hire entry level consultants?!

This is why I wanted to write this article, to hopefully try and assist the new people coming through who are often met with brick wall after brick wall. I have worked in the SAP arena for a while now and even though I am not a technical/functional consultant, I still feel like I am a part of the SAP community in Australia, I have built a career on the back of SAP and I think it is important that we all help and try and put back in to the SAP ecosystem… we all need the “new blood” coming through the SAP ranks.

My first tip is…Do not rely on Recruiters!!

Unusual advice from a Recruitment Consultant…I know! But let me explain…

As mentioned, recruitment companies do not get many entry level roles in and why would we? The standard recruitment model is based upon a company (The client) engaging the Recruitment Consultant to find and shortlist candidates/applicants whom they cannot find themselves, and upon the successful engagement of the selected person the client pays a fee to the recruitment company. It is actually quite logical for a client not to want to pay someone a fee to find them people with little to no hands on experience – they can find these people themselves via graduate recruitment programs, their own networks or by simply placing an ad, which they do!

So your best bet with entry level positions is to approach companies directly. Please do not take this as ”do not speak with recruiters at all” as on some occasions they may get a suitable requirement in but also and perhaps more importantly to you…recruiters hold a great deal of information and if you find a good one then they will spend a little time with you to give you a list of some of the larger SAP sites/companies and advice.

Secondly…use your networks!

Whether it be your father in law, your best friend, somebody you studied with or that person you met in a bar…seize every opportunity you can and do not be too proud to ask for help. Ask for introductions, because if you do not ask then you will not get!

Next…apply to the large consulting houses.

The standard model of a large tier one consulting house is that they usually have senior people on projects and then surround them with more junior consultants. The experience you can get by working for these companies will really help kick-start your career and …they do hire entry level consultants.

Play to your strengths and your passion! Often I get asked “what area of SAP should I get in to?” I do appreciate that if you are going to invest in learning SAP then you want to pick a busy area however…SAP is fickle…it goes in phases as to what is busy and what is not depending on multiple factors; which industry is busy? How the Australian economy is? How the global economy is? Whether out-sourcing is in or out of fashion this month? …the list goes on!

My best advice is to do something that actually interests you and play to your strengths. From my experience, the best consultants in the market are truly passionate about what they do and no matter what that is….they are never out of work for very long.

For example: if you are an accountant by trade then why not look into the finance, reporting, budgeting or forecasting modules?  Your business understanding will give you an advantage over those without and if this is an area you are truly passionate about then this will shine through in any interviews…people like to hire enthusiastic and passionate people, they also like to hire people who can “add value” straight away and if you already have accounting skills, then you can!

Finally…try to differentiate yourself!

This is important. As you have probably found, the SAP industry is highly competitive to get in to but once you are in then it truly is a career that will keep you entertained for life. So it’s worth putting in the time now… you need to differentiate yourself from the other people. This doesn’t mean you have to do something crazy and this certainly does not mean that only extraverts will get noticed. You can differentiate yourself in numerous ways; from your personality (whether it is outgoing or not), your passion, your technical skills, your hard work, eagerness, who you know, how you sell yourself and the list goes on.

Perhaps I can give you an example, I sometimes get asked to give presentations for IT/SAP students at Victoria University. One of those students wanted to get in to SAP BW; this person had no “hands on” experience in this field. After the presentation they followed up the very next day with me and asked me for a list of companies where large SAP projects were taking place, they asked for advice and for referrals to which I gave. In addition they built their CV using SAP BW cubes; this showcased their technical skills along with showing passion and dedication. They managed to get an interview with a large SAP end user site in Melbourne (by approaching them directly), they rang me and asked if I knew the person who would be conducting the interview and if I could give a brief background to help them prepare for the interview – which I did.

This person quickly differentiated themselves using numerous ways – they used the recruiter (me), and even though I would not place this person directly I was happy to help because they asked. They used their other networks and did their research, they applied directly to the relevant person within the organisation, show cased their technical ability and passion in something as simple as their CV, prepared for the interview (again using their networks) and…..They got the role!! What’s more.. this particular company was actually looking for that well elusive “minimum of 3 years experience” person at the time… they got the role over other experienced applicants.

So, by doing some research, utilising your networks, applying your strengths and differentiating yourself, your first big SAP role could be just around the corner.