Major Shortage of SAP Engineers
Although there has been a shortage of bilingual SAP engineers in the Tokyo market for some time now, the need for skilled SAP people has never been so acute. Companies are almost begging for the supply of appropriate engineering candidates.
I believe that there are two factors that have combined to create this SAP sellers market. The first of these being the fact that an increasing number of Japanese companies are going through restructuring in an attempt to shake off a decade's worth of old debts. As well as this, there is the overall global recovery in IT and thus the need for IT organizations to stay competitive by launching new company-wide efficiency projects.
Since it is a sellers market, if you have SAP programming skills in the area of SD (Sales and Distribution), MM (Materials Management), PP (Production Planning), FI-CO (Finance and Control), and ABAP/4, then you should be talking to one of DaiJob's consultants (http://www.daijob.com/ambition/contact.html). Although you may not realize it, there has never been a better time for you to improve both your salary and your work conditions.
For example, right now there is a major software firm that urgently needs SAP engineers for a project with a foreign multinational chemicals firm. Most of the work is done at the client's ultra-modern premises in Tokyo, and thus offers excellent working environment and convenience. Furthermore, although the software company is primarily looking for native Japanese, the good news is that because of the current market the software company is flexible enough to also consider foreign engineers with the right experience and language skills.
Another company currently looking for SAP R3 engineers is a world-famous consulting firm. Normally the job entry requirements to this kind of firm would be an advanced degree and years of industry experience. However, with the tight labor market the firm is starting to look for people with basic relative academic qualifications, or simply those with the right attitude looking to further develop their skills. Relaxation of hiring standards like this don't happen often, so if you're a recently trained SAP engineer, or if you have plenty of experience but are short on the qualifications, take advantage of the opportunity.
The sellers market is also useful for SAP engineers who are 90% happy with their current employers but who would like to price their current worth. While I'm not proposing that you go to job interviews to waste people's time, if in fact you are even slightly interested in moving elsewhere and/or exploring your options, then this is definitely the time to do it. If nothing else, what you will learn from one or two interviews will help you a lot in negotiating your next pay adjustment with your employer.
Actually, another good reason for moving to a new position is a human one, that of boredom. Sometimes a long and large programming project (not just SAP) can become repetitive and irritating. Save your personal relationships and general sanity by being aware of whether or not you need a change. Good money from a current employer provides a useful safety net, but what use is that if you are unhappy?
Perhaps you're worried about being seen as a job hopper? Well, the news is that if you haven't looked at a job change in the last two years, then perhaps you should be asking yourself why. Job changes every two to three years in the software industry is normal and expected (unless you're a manager), especially for bilinguals where there is a lot of salary competition. You will NOT be harming your career if you switch companies after 2-3 years with same firm.
Will the SAP skills shortage continue? The answer for the next 3 years, even if there is another recession, is that yes, it probably will. SAP is more than just a piece of software, its design requires many Japanese companies to completely review the way they do things and brings many firm's work processes into the 21st Century. This "leveling up" of efficiency and consequent quality control is absolutely essential for growing and restructuring companies alike. Thus, whether the economy is going up or down, having SAP capabilities is a great insurance policy against unemployment. So, if you're thinking of getting into SAP, my opinion is that this would be a smart move - especially if coupled with Japanese (or English) ability.
If you are considering a career in the recruiting industry, you can drop Terrie Lloyd an email for more advice at email@example.com. You can also see his weekly newsletter, called Terrie's Take, at www.terrie.com.