Firstly, let me make a few "for granted" statements:
The consultant in question is honest and has genuine integrity
The consultant is not lazy or afraid of hard work
The consultant has an abundance mentality - "There is enough for you and me in this game"
So, assuming you have the above-mentioned qualities let's work on what steps I would take to get to the next level.
What would you need to focus on?
BECOME A MASTER OF YOUR DOMAIN
The key to success is to be good at what you do. Learn everything you can about your topic. Talk with peers, read the help files, go through every configuration option possible, write programs, do exams, …. Once you’re good at what you do you can start to share that with others….
It's a four letter word for some but not for those who want to get ahead. Work hard, work smart!!!
What is working smart? Focus on your core skill and find a niche in that area that either brings value to a customer through added revenue or cost savings
Don’t be a 9-5’er – Work late!!! Show commitment to your chosen area. Don't do it for the money - Do it for yourself.
It's what you do between 6PM and 2AM that counts! 1st Take care of the family and then get to it...
Get a mentor. Latch on to the knowledgeable people on the project around you and learn all you can from them. You don’t know it all. Learn from them. What a unique opportunity to go from project to project and work with different individuals each time. This varied experience you gain from others is absolutely invaluable and is not found in any book out there. Remember that you will meet other consultants doing the same as you, so share with them as well. You cannot expect others to share with you if you don't share with them...
Build a reputation for yourself, get involved in the community, share your knowledge! Let me break down some real ways of marketing yourself and building up your reputation. Remember that if you are going to get your name out there, be sure that it's a good name. Don't do anything to hurt your reputation. Be honest and fair in all your dealings.
Resume: Load your resume out there and make it searchable - Don't put a phone number - only an email address. Be prepared for people spamming you but the alternative is that no one is able to find you out there should they be searching for your type of skills.
Writing: Write on the topic that you specialize in. The following are areas that you need to focus on:
Whitepapers and Guides - Write papers and guides for the likes of SAP Professional Journal or SAP Insider Books - If you have the time and the inclination this will really set you apart from your peers. Approach Wispubs / SAP Press to see if they will publish your manuscript idea
Social media - Use the social media available out there intelligently - Once again, my good friend Jon Reed has it down (http://feeds.feedburner.com/jonerpfeeds)
LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com) - This is my preferred way to stay connected with my peers in the industry. I don't mix it with social connections (I use Facebook for that) and I ensure that it's up to date with my latest happenings - Connect with your peers so that if you have questions that need answers you can fire it off to your trusted inner circle. In addition, join the relevant groups on LinkedIn and read their archives and answer questions that you know the answer to. Be sure to add value to these posts. Don't be one of those people just looking for the points (like those on SCN).
SCN - Write blogs, contribute towards the wikis, utilize the forums, … get involved…. SCN makes for a nice searchable resource for those looking for skilled people. Make sure you have a good positive presence out there.
Twitter - I am not that big a fan of twitter outside of using it at events. Some recruiters and peers of ours do like twitter so we need to get a presence there too. With it's integration to LinkedIn I can now update one place and communicate with both mediums. One nice thing with Twitter is that you can update it from your phone and then have your blog / website hook in to your tweets automatically. i.e. you can update content on your site quickly from your phone anywhere...
Facebook - I use Facebook pages as another medium to share tips and tricks - Some folks like to use Facebook, so once again, leverage the medium that others are using to consume data - See https://www.facebook.com/SAPEventManagement for an example of a page I maintain for SAP Event Management details.
Be smart when using social media to share. Find a service where you can make one post and it automatically sends it to LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. I leverage Wordpress or Blogger to post and both of these can be linked to your social media so that you hit all the needed channels whenever you update your blog. Saving time and making it easy to do social media is key to being able to maintain the process going forward - Don't SPAM people with useless information - Make each posting valuable otherwise you will have a reverse effect on your need to gain a following...
Speaking: If you are comfortable with public speaking then use that to your advantage. If you are not comfortable speaking in front of an audience, break through the fear and do it. It's not that bad. I hated public speaking at school and now I can easily talk in front of large audiences anywhere. The key is to understand that you have a valuable message to tell and the audience has come to hear you deliver that message to them. They are eager to learn from you so go ahead and teach them. Where can you speak?
Webinars - ASUG, SAP, and others have webinars on a regular basis - Just apply to speak.
Seminars - SAP Insider is a popular one - They have many related conferences and seminars - Submit an abstract and go from there.
Now that you are a master of your domain and you are getting visibility of yourself in the right circles it's time for some networking. You need to be constantly looking for new experts to discuss ideas with. Once you establish a network you need to nurture those in the network. These are your trusted peers, but they are also people too. Don't only hook up with them when you need something. Find out how each is doing and nurture the relationship. I find the people in my network incredible and have treasured every experience I have shared with them and hopefully they with me. People are what makes this job enjoyable.
So how do we network?
Web - The web is the easiest most efficient way to keep in touch with those in your inner circle. In addition it is also a good way to start new relationships with your peers. The web shrinks the whole world down on to your computer. I have great peers in Germany, Poland, India, Australia, South Africa, … and have yet to meet most of them but I consider them all pretty close (and I do hope to meet them all one day). The usual sites like SCN and LinkedIn are good places to see what others are up to.
Conferences - Go out and talk to people at conferences you are attending or speaking at. Remember that these people are attending the same conference as you so they are likely to share the same interests and possibly skill set as you.
Projects - This is the most effective method. As you move from project to project working with your peers you can choose the ones that you want to associate further with and also those that you don't. When you leave a project make sure that you are linked up (or LinkedIn) with those that you wish to communicate with further.
Be on the lookout for people that are going places - movers and shakers. Feed off their positive excitement and become a mover and shaker yourself.
Keys to a successful SAP career
If I were to write down 10 points to take from this they would be:
Maintain honesty and Integrity - The SAP world is still small and word gets around about whether you have done well or whether you have not!!!
Strive to be the best at what you do - Don't settle for mediocrity, strive for greatness
Find a value niche in your focus area and run with it - Focus your talent and be the best at it
Work hard AND smart
Network with movers and shakers
Market yourself through writing and speaking engagements - If people don't know who you are, what you do and how good you are, what good is that?
Contribute to the SAP community network – Get active, get involved
Have an abundance mentality – Share your knowledge with others, there is enough to share with others
Continuously monitor market trends and adapt accordingly
Get excited!!! Have fun with it. People will feed from your passion and excitement
I know there is a lot to add and I'm really looking forward to some comments from those who share the passion with me. Tell me what you think is a great quality that defines a truly unique world-class consultant?