The Essential SAP Career Guide – Hitting the Ground Running
www.career-guide.net is a valuable resource for the college graduate or young professional’s SAP career questions because it’s written by a peer. I’m a second generation consultant (my Dad has been a consultant for 15+ years!) at a large professional services firm.
Since graduating from college, I have worked in both industry and consulting roles on global SAP projects. Therefore, my advice is current and relevant. I understand the challenges with writing a strong resume, finding internships and interviewing for SAP positions. I experienced some of the common challenges for beginners, like how to learn about other modules, write functional specifications, and find project work.
How to find a job with SAP
As you begin your SAP career, there are several major career options to consider.
One of the first decisions to make when starting your career is whether you are interested in an industry or consulting position. All other career options seem to follow this key decision. As a SAP professional at a consulting firm, you could serve clients in a variety of industries with their SAP rollouts and upgrades. An equally rewarding position is to work in industry supporting SAP customers.
Many consultants decide to become independent later in their career. Some find that more lucrative and satisfying than consulting within a firm. Consulting independently is a longer term goal for many SAP professionals, but starting in a firm or at a SAP customer is the best way to start your SAP career. Both options have varying benefits and disadvantages depending on your career and personal goals. The following are the major SAP career options, pros and cons and typical project work.
If you answer yes to the majority of the following questions, you should consider a career in consulting:
- Do you prefer working in various industries for multiple clients over more consistent work?
- Do you consider yourself independent and self-motivated?
- Are you open to traveling full-time (50-100% of the time)?
- Would you mind staying in hotels or apartments and commuting long distances each week to your client?
Your typical work week as a consultant starts by traveling to the client site Monday morning, or Sunday night. Cross-country travelers may spend the better part of Sunday traveling to the client site. Those rare, lucky consultants on local projects get to sleep in the comfort of their own bed every night and avoid travel. While local projects are a great break from being ‘on the road’, you are often expected to work longer hours because you are not traveling and you are not able to expense meals to the client.
The major consulting firms follow a career ladder similar to our figure below. There are variations in the names for each level between firms, but the general idea is the same. Some firms also offer a separate career ladder for those interested in specializing in a specific area of SAP instead of following the partner track. The next page describes each of the levels in the partner career ladder.
Internships are typically full-time summer positions for undergraduate or graduate students. Some firms keep interns part-time during the school year to keep connected with strong talent.
The analyst level is an entry-level position for undergraduates and inexperienced consultants. The analyst role usually lasts 2-3 years before promotion to consultant. Analysts usually work in a project management role or join a functional or technical project team.
After roughly 2 to 3 years of experience, the next level in the SAP consulting ladder is a consultant. Consultants are valuable project team members that take on an increased number of deliverables. Consultants usually work under a senior consultant who manages their work.
Senior consultants usually have about 4 to 7 years of experience. They manage functional project sub-teams or lead small projects. Senior consultants also begin to sell smaller-scale client work.
Managers have at least 7 years of experience with SAP and leading small teams. They are often functional or technical leads of small project teams and oversee senior consultants and consultants. Their work can include selling client engagements, managing project budgets, obtaining team members, overseeing team deliverables, and working closely with the client team lead.
Senior Managers lead larger project teams or are project managers. They often lead sales pursuits from beginning to end working closely with Partners. Senior Managers are respected, senior leaders in the firm that are specialized in an industry, functional, or technical area.
Partners and Principal are different titles for shareholders in the firm. Directors are on the same level as Partners and Principals, but are not firm shareholders. Partners, Directors and Principals (PPD’s) are focused on selling client engagements. There is a lead PPD on each client project.
Creating a stand-out resume
During the typical hiring process, hundreds, sometimes thousands of resumes are submitted for positions. The average resume is read in 10 seconds (Hannon, 2011). Resumes are now frequently submitted online, where aggregation and filtering tools narrow down qualified candidates. It is increasingly important to use key words from position descriptions in order to pass through these filters and have recruiters see your resume.
Preparing for interviews
Preparing for SAP interviews can be stressful with few available resources that provide SAP-specific advice. Interviews can involve multiple rounds and intimidating technical questions. For those preparing for their first interview or fifth, you can prepare yourself for by following these key pieces of advice.
SAP interviews typically consist of several rounds of phone and in-person interviews. Some companies also use business cases or ask interviewees to complete sample problems that demonstrate their competence. The format of interviews widely varies amongst companies, so preparation for the unexpected is crucial.
Most people view interviews as a question and answer session where the interviewee has little control. Instead, think of it as a time to highlight your achievements and skills while making them relevant to the position. This mindset will change your approach from responding to questions to taking control of what the interviewers learn about you.