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I'm graduating university (Software Engineering) in a month and I already got a job lined up in a company that I worked in as an intern since last year. I really liked the work I did, the general atmosphere, the freedom the employer gives and I get along with my colleagues really well.

But now that I'll start working 'for real' in a month, I feel like I could have done better with jobhunting, because of the stuff I found out I will be doing. It's 90% SAP stuff (a HUMONGOUS archaic software system), with around 10% of what I've been doing for the past year (advanced proof of concepts). I've known this for a few months and thought that that's okay for me, but just this morning it hit me like a truck: I have 0 interest in learning the SAP stuff, because I don't want to keep working with SAP stuff forever and most of the knowledge I gain from that is not transferrable to other software systems. I feel like I won't learn as much as I could about new technologies with my company and from what I've gathered so far, that's really important. I don't know why I've realized this just now, less than a month before I start working. I don't want to be stuck doing SAP stuff.

I can see three possibilities for me now:

  • Accept my mistake, learn the SAP stuff, get good at it, research new tech in my free time and find a way out in about 3 years
  • The same as above, but I try to find a way out as soon as I find another company to work for that suits my desires
  • Cancel my contract now and start looking for another position right away

The first options doesn't really appeal to me, but it's at least reasonable. I can save money for moving to another city for a more interesting job, but I don't know if I can find such a job because my actual work experience will be strongly limited to SAP systems.

The second option also seems to be reasonable, I just wait for a better offer and quit once I have it. However I feel like I don't want to be seen as someone who jumps over to other companies as he sees fit.

The third option seems the least appealing to me right now. I know that I won't have any money while I'm on the job hunt and also it's January so I might have to wait until October worst case and in the meantime I might have to work an undesirable factory job. But at least I won't be seen as a 'job-hopper'.

I would really like some of your insights on my issue. Thank you.

closed as off-topic by The Wandering Dev Manager, gnat, IDrinkandIKnowThings, PeteCon, Jim G. Jan 5 at 17:49

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "Questions asking for advice on a specific choice, such as what job to take or what skills to learn, are difficult to answer objectively and are rarely useful for anyone else. Instead of asking which decision to make, try asking how to make the decision, or for more specific details about one element of the decision. (More information)" – The Wandering Dev Manager, gnat, IDrinkandIKnowThings, PeteCon, Jim G.
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 39
    SAP is used all over the world. People who know SAP really well are in huge demand and can command incredible salaries. Even if you never want to touch it again, it's incredibly shortsighted to think nothing you learn would transfer to other systems. ERPs and other enterprise systems are all basically the same, even if the architecture or subject matter changes - they're all subject to the same faults and they all require interpretation and implementation to be successful. Take the job, take your blinders off, learn, and then move on once you're ready. – dwizum Jan 4 at 13:55
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    Option 3 is the worst of all. Never quit without another offer in hand. – rath Jan 4 at 16:39
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    @dwizum, I think you are projecting your own priorities on the OP too much. Yes, SAP is very well paid and a great career choice - for some people. However, there are plenty of people who hate SAP and who want out the moment they start. Actually, I know many people who started SAP for the money but who - a year, two years in - claim they would accept any job out of SAP. And the truth is leaving SAP is really difficult. – BigMadAndy Jan 4 at 18:07
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    @dwizum, Yes, I actually read all your comments in this thread. And thanks, I don't need your list, because I have mine - of friends who struggled a lot and then accepted positions related to SAP because they had no other choice. Of course, switching is possible, but it's not as easy or straightforward as leaving some other fields. – BigMadAndy Jan 4 at 18:22
  • 5
    It's worth noting that mastery of an ERP system-- any ERP system-- will familiarize you a huge number of business concepts that are generalizable. Knowledge of general ledger, accounts payable/receivable, inventory, etc. and the sorts of business rules that go with those areas is extremely valuable real-world knowledge that you probably can't get in an academic setting. – John Wu Jan 4 at 21:53

11 Answers 11

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What you do at your first position after graduation doesn't mean you're "stuck" doing that and doing something that is related to what you want (even if only tenuously) is way, way better than doing something completely unrelated like a factory job.

SAP might not be where you want to mainly focus your career but it's still a valuable skill to have on the CV and you never know when it might come in handy.

Option 1 is the only sensible move IMO - I wouldn't say you have to spend 3 years there though, realistically for a first role anything over a 12 or 18 months and you aren't going to be seen as a job hopper.

  • 5
    @TomTom YMMV of course but your first point is absolutely not true either in my own personal experience or that of anyone else I know in the industry who's done the same. Getting "in a corner" can indeed be hard (not impossible) to get out of but it doesn't happen overnight - and not generally in the space of a year or so either. It can also happen with any job you take - if anything my experience would suggest that people expect first jobs to show some differentiation from the rest of the career path. – motosubatsu Jan 4 at 15:06
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    @TomTom Agreed on your second point though - the majority of SAP consultants I've known have done absurdly well out of it. To quote one "I hate SAP..but they keep throwing money at me!" – motosubatsu Jan 4 at 15:14
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    @dwizum meh, having worked with SAP and various legacy systems, I rank job satisfaction ahead of what I get paid. I would have gone crazy/burned out/gotten deeply depressed trying to adapt to a job I had zero interest in. – mbrig Jan 4 at 17:49
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    @mbrig Sure, but you're missing the subtlety in my point. You can eat that lunch today and do whatever you want tomorrow. Taking a job in SAP doesn't imply you're doing it forever. And not wanting to do it forever is a weak reason to walk away from what sounds like a great opportunity right now. – dwizum Jan 4 at 17:51
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    I agree with @TimothyAWiseman - and the great thing about enterprise software implementation as a first job is that it typically exposes you to a LOT - full stack of the architecture, the core operations of the business, etc. SAP aside, you'll get a good look at a lot of potential career options and you'll be well positioned to transition into them. I don't see this as a corner at all. It's more a launchpad. – dwizum Jan 4 at 17:53
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Motosubatsu's answer stresses that

your first position after graduation doesn't mean your "stuck" doing that".

While this is true, SAP is a bit of a special case. I know plenty of SAP consultants and I know how difficult it was for those who wanted to switch jobs to find a position in a different technology.

SAP is a world in itself and when you are considered an "SAP person", it's difficult to start doing something different. Your SAP experience won't mostly count as work related to other technologies, so it's possible that you will need to accept a junior position when you want to switch to a different technology in 1-3 years - unless you want to switch to a job of PM, process specialist or similar.

The good news is, however, at least in Europe SAP positions are currently really well paid. It's also super easy to find a job in SAP. As an SAP specialist you will be receiving plenty of job offers - but yes, they will be related to SAP.

So you need to consider what is most important for you: stability and a good salary or interesting tasks. If the former, stay in this technology and try to learn as much as you can. If the latter, start your job but simultaneously try to find a new position elsewhere.

It's important that you decide where you see yourself in several years. It's only after deciding that you can decide what to do now.

  • "Your SAP experience won't mostly count as work related to other technologies" -- really? I guess even if the language is not used anywhere else, the knowledge about the design of the system must be perfectly reusable and valuable. Especially since very few other software is designed to work at multiational company scale, so literally no-one else knows how to make such systems. – ivan_pozdeev Jan 5 at 7:16
  • My guess is that there is rather a prejudice that "SAP people" are "only in it for the money" and would not like to work in other technologies because it would pay less and damage their pecking order in the SAP services market. Then all it takes is to prominently dispel this assumption in the CV. – ivan_pozdeev Jan 5 at 7:21
  • @ivan_pozdeev. It might be a cultural thing, but I've witnessed plenty of people searching their way out of SAP and it's not easy where I live. Actually if you visit work-related internet fora in my language (German), you will find a lot of threads about it. The most popular "how-to-exit" question there is about leaving SAP consulting. And I don't mean only technical roles. Actually, most of my friends have been in PM or functional roles which in theory should be quite transferable (why shouldn't eg. waterfall and agile methods be transferable?), but it has still been difficult. – BigMadAndy Jan 5 at 7:23
  • @ivan_pozdeev. I don't think there's such a prejudice at all. But I also know many people, myself included, want to leave SAP at some point since SAP projects are quite monotonous in the long run. And I mean it in the most non-judgemental way possible. – BigMadAndy Jan 5 at 7:25
13

I had a very similar situation. Here's how I managed it:

I found my first time job out of college. I was excited about it and didn't care much about the nature of the work. I found out that I'll be writing Winforms in VB.net, and that's ALL I'll be doing. There's a lot of useful technologies to learn, but VB isn't one of them. I worked there for exactly one year and quickly switched to another company that cared about being up to date.

Job hopping too much isn't good. But keeping your first job for 1 year to get that initial experience at the beginning of your career won't hurt you. I'm also speaking like you're in USA, it may be different where you're from.

Option 1 sounds good on paper, and some people can pull it off. I personally can't. I don't program outside of work because 8 hours of it per day are enough since I have a family, friends and hobbies. Some people DO manage to work on personal projects outside of work! Don't let me discourage you. But know that it's more difficult than it seems.

What I suggest:

Stay at this company for 1 year, and find a company that uses tech that you think are useful for your career. When you land another interview, explain this to them and they will most likely appreciate that you stayed with it for a year, and that you care so much about keeping up to date. That's important to employers.

Best of luck to you. I'm sure you'll have a great career ahead of you.

8

As a newly minted Software Engineer, you should be soaking in whatever real world knowledge you can get, and learning a system like SAP will be quite the education. A lot of the things you'll do, and the techniques you'll use, and the issues you'll face are universal in software engineering and will apply to most other systems you will ever work on in the future.

Will you get stuck in SAP? That's completely up to you. You never know, you may enjoy it. You have no idea what your experience will be. So I recommend giving it a fair shot and learning as much as you can. It will not be wasted time, unless you allow it to be. If you hate it, move on in a year or so.

I give interviews to engineers, and to me, what you worked on is not as important as the experience and skills you gained from doing it. In your next job interview, when they ask you about your SAP experience, you will have the ability to say something like "There's a few things I would change about SAP, specifically a, b, and c. But they also did a lot of things right, like x, y, and z." Now you've shown the interviewer that you can learn a complex system, grasp the beauty and the flaws of the system, and you can apply the lessons learned. Follow it up by saying that if you can learn something complex like SAP, it should be easy to learn AWS, or Salesforce, or whatever they use.

  • "what you worked on is not as important as the experience and skills you gained from doing it." <== this. and also the rest of the paragraph where you explain how it is interesting to an interviewer how the interviewee explains what he's learned. Many job postings list specific skills, like "1-2 years Java" or "Spring Boot" or whatever but the fact is that (if you can get past the computerized resume screener) hiring managers will quickly waive all those requirements when they find a person who they think can learn and grow - because they've demonstrated they can learn and grow. – davidbak Jan 4 at 22:44
4

"Cancel my contract now and start looking for another position right away"

This is almost never an option that should be considered. Trying to get a job while without one is significantly harder than when you do. Even if you've only been with the company a short time.

I would say that #2 should, in fact, be your permanent stance... Work where you are; look for something better. Don't aim to move more than once every couple of years so that you're providing reasonable value for money to the company, but you should always be looking for a company that better suits your requirements.

3

You are new to the job and the career field in general. Consider that you might actually like the field in the end. Ask yourself what do you want to be doing ultimately? There are many people who accept any entry-level job in their career field. They then move on eventually to other companies doing other interesting work. The key is breadth and depth. You want to be able to do almost anything which will increase your long term job prospects. If you get pigeonholed in one technology, it may make it difficult to find work down the road.

SAP in of itself could translate. You also have intrinsic value in each job where you gain experience in soft skills. Is the SAP team following agile? Are there process improvements that could be made? Think of ways to improve your options long term and exercise those soft skills and leadership skills. Early testing and honing of those skills will matter a lot more than, say, some programming or technical skills. There are a lot of really smart people who can’t get along with others. Guess who we hire more?

  • 2
    Give me someone with mediocre skills and a good personality over an obnoxious hotshot any day! – Richard U Jan 4 at 15:24
2

I will disagree with the currently most upvoted answer and say:

The first job in technology is often a very important step into a specific direction. It will be much harder to change course later.

Clarification because of comments: In my personal experience, applications by by SAP consultants or other not directly related fields for Software Engineering positions in fancy new technologies will often be already filtered by HR, or automatically be lower on the list. I have come to believe it's easier to land a good Software Engineering job as a junior directly from university than as a professional with non-relevant experience / experience in a different field. True, most people will change technologies multiple times in their lives a tech professionals, but getting into a developer position with a mismatched background on the CV is harder, not easier. This is even more pronounced with SAP, which is a world onto itself, at least in Europe.

The good news is: you now have a full month worth of job hunting time.

Good luck!

  • 3
    I found it the least important step ... it's a question of personal motivation for what direction you travel and how fast after that. – UKMonkey Jan 4 at 14:20
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    This has literally never been true in the technology field since the 1970s – Richard U Jan 4 at 15:31
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    This has to be the worst answer I have seen for this question, even including some of the baffling comments above. It is opinion-based only; to my knowledge, there is no meaningful statistic that has showed this in the entire time I have done IT/Computing jobs. – Paul Beverage Jan 4 at 21:40
  • I started working in retail, then I worked in IT help desk, then a mix of both, then for a water company, then car manufacturing and now I'm finally settled in networking. This definitely isn't true – djsmiley2k Jan 5 at 17:16
  • Thanks for the direct feedback. I still feel this is correct, as in many companies, applications by people with a SAP Consultant background for a software engineer position will be filtered already by HR. Spending three years moving from junior to professional in a SAP consultant environment will not help towards getting experience as for example web developer or backend developer. While most people do switch technologies multiple times, it's easier to get into interviews for Software Engineering positions directly from Uni than with multiple years in a not directly related field. – Wilbert Jan 7 at 12:42
1

DO NOT go down the SAP route! First up, it's a dying field, unless you are going to spend a lot of time in Germany (because at least half the country runs on SAP systems) do not do it. Many companies are migrating away from it although it's extremely costly to do so. They would rather take the hit once then keep having to spend it on costly upgrades and armies of consultants. It used to be well-paid... now there are consultants fighting for the crumbs left on the table. I say do not be fearful, you are a fresh, new graduate... there will be tons of new opportunities for you. Have a chat with your prospective employer and tell them that even though you like their company culture (or some other compliment) you have thought about your long-term career prospects and SAP is not an area you want to specialize in. (You never know, they might even respect you for it.)

The thing to learn early on is to be kind to yourself, there are any amount of people willing to exploit people like you. Listen to your inner voice and find a job that, maybe if it's not exactly exciting, does not make you dread going in to work for the next year. Having a fresh skill set is valued more highly in our industry then having decades of experience in some dying field. I know, because I had to get out of SAP after 20 years of it!

0

"That's why they call it work", as one of my elders used to say. Employers ultimately are interested in "what can you do for the company", not in what might be interesting or attractive. In a most instances, work for an employer is more specific and tedious than what we were used to in academia.

That is also why employers accept that you can leave with reasonable notice, usually no longer than six weeks and more commonly, two weeks.

I would recommend some hybrid of options 1 and 2, unless you can line something more solid up right now.

In my case, I disliked the clerical aspect of our data analysis workload consisting of spreadsheets and asking the dev team to write queries for more complex tasks. I spun up my own little shadow IT with the community version of mySQL on my desktop and developed a solution that was challenging to develop and, frankly, way more fun. Plus I now have SQL skills in my tool kit. In short, I made lemonade from lemons.

I may be naive in assuming your environment would afford that kind of flexibility. It does require tolerant management and significant freedom of choice in how you get the job done.

Don't sweat too hard over this decision. In 1984 when I started, Linux and SQL standards were years in the future. My employers back then scoffed at GUIs, IP networking, and the general idea of a computer in the pockets of the hoi polloi. My point is the workplace and job market will change in ways none of us can predict, so limit your investment in worrying about it.

Finally, a career as an SAP expert might not be the worst fate: I have a friend who makes a living as a COBOL programmer working on systems that are older than me (and that is OLD!). You could avoid this if you keep your skills fresh and invest time in keeping channels to other job choices open while slogging through SAP.

0

Reading between the lines of the OP, I sense at least some level of a common misconception: Now you have got to the end of your degree course you have learned everything conceptually challenging that you need to know for the rest of your working life, so from now on things are going to get boring.

Unless you plan to "downsize" to flipping burgers, that is 100% wrong. The most useful thing you have learned so far is how to learn. The actual "stuff" that gets you a good grade in exams is just detail. In an average university most of it is out of date already compared with what the real world is doing, and even if that isn't true it soon will be.

Personal anecdote: On average, I've learned a new programming language, "industry-standard" application, or computer OS about every two years of my whole working life. That's not "learning just for fun", it's keeping up with the rest of the world and staying employable. And all I can remember about some of them, looking back 30 years, is their names.

So thinking about the big picture, it doesn't really matter at all what you happen to learn first. SAP is as good (or as bad) as any other choice. But don't get hung up about it being the last thing you will ever learn - even if you don't change employers very often. That won't happen!

0

Which option should you choose?

No matter what option you go with, I want to stress that you still have the opportunity to do jobhunting research. I'm not just talking about technologies. Products, work environments, business models and any other criterion that you think might give you buyers remorse again.

As far as avoiding being seen as a job-hopper, the easiest way to achieve that is simply to not be a job hopper. What do I mean by that? Switching jobs after a year because you didn't like the job is just healthy. Switching jobs every year is what constitutes job hopping.

What if I personally was in your shoes?

I would go for option 1, but I wouldn't predetermine the amount of time I want to stay. I've had one job that I quit after four months because what seemed like a dream job turned out to be the stuff of nightmares (I didn't do my research well enough either). I was upfront about it in job interviews. There wasn't a single employer who raised eyebrows because I was specific in what I mentioned that I needed in a working relationship and I didn't badmouth the company where I quit. Examples of things I pointed out: - I found out that I required a well-structured company, which I couldn't find in a startup of 10 people. - I wanted a big enough company that could help me transition into different roles if the original one didn't fit me well. Again, a 10 person company can't do that. - I wanted to work in consulting and the company I left, was a product-based one.

When quitting and looking for new jobs, be specific in the reasons you outline when they ask about why you left after a short time, make sure you are not blaming your former company and above all, ensure that the company you are applying to, actually meets the requirements that your previous company couldn't.

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