If you have big plans for your career, if you know you want to climb, no, scale the corporate ladder, then you should get on the right track with a coveted position in a management trainee programme.
A big “sell” for management trainee programmes is job rotation. And with good reason. When you are fresh out of university, it may not be always clear what you want to do. A job you thought you wanted could turn out to be a pain. But job rotation puts you in a different job function every three to six months allowing you to get first-hand experience and decide whether it is right for you or not. It’s like a “try before you buy” offer!
Some programmes will send you to a variety of departments with different functions. For example, from marketing to human resources to sales. Typically, the more technical departments like finance or IT would not be included because you need specific prior knowledge to do the job. In some programmes, you are recruited into one department, say finance, and are allowed to move across different functions within the department, say from management accounting to corporate finance and internal audit. Or you could be a trainee intended for one department but allowed to experience another aspect of the business. For example, an operations management trainee spending time in the sales department to understand how the departments are complementary.
Whichever arrangement, the bottom line is management trainees get a wider view and appreciation of the company and its businesses than most other recruits.
You’re in the spotlight. All eyes are on you! In the best programmes, trainees would have met with some senior managers before being selected. They would have rubbed shoulders, made presentations, and even had a meal together. The same managers would also have likely given their nods of approval for the trainees to join the programme.
And that is only just the beginning. Regular contact with the senior management team is often part of the programme’s agenda. There are breakfast with the CEO/MD, talks by department heads, mentoring sessions with section managers and the like. Bear in mind, a lot of people go through their entire careers without the opportunity to share a thought with the CEO and here you are, fresh out of university and having coffee with him or her!
Job rotation and assignments will also put you in touch with people from various levels and departments – yet another chance for you to show your stuff and make an impression with decision-makers, who may later on have a say in your confirmation and promotion.
So, really, the management trainee role is a high profile one even if you are at the entry level!
Everything you will learn in an MBA – the case studies, problem solving, analysis, projects, etc. – is covered in the day-to-day training, assignments and working life of a management trainee programme. Management trainees work together with executives and managers on real-life problems confronting the business. There is no trial and error! The pace is fast, the challenges are real, and unlike an MBA case study, the results will have a lasting impact on the business.
“Part of my training saw me sent to the field for eight months, working on what the industry calls trade marketing. It isn’t cerebral like my current MBA, of course, but what I did each day directly impacted the company’s relationship with the people who sold our products, and hence, our sales. It was the real thing!” says Azizah Jamal*, a former management trainee and full-time MBA student.
As your job designation suggests, you are in management. You are exposed to the responsibilities of being a manager but with the plus point of having an experienced manager guide you along the way.
The management trainee programme is the master craftsman to the unpolished diamond that is the graduate fresh out of school. School teaches you the academic stuff, equips you with knowledge, expands your mind, and gives you glimpses of working with others, but it barely scratches the surface of reality and working life. Management training programmes fill in the gaps and bring you up to speed with what you need to know, and how to maximise and apply what you already know.
Some programmes are so renowned in the market that graduates of the programme are highly prized talents, often courted by headhunters and other companies. Even internally, within the company’s network, former trainees are sought out for regional and global transfers, promotions and special positions.
In short, the management trainee programme is like a guarantee, indicating that you are a true talent worth hiring and promoting.
OK, all companies want their staff to succeed. There is just too much cost and effort involved in retraining a new staff so most companies will do their best to keep their talents happy and ensure they have a clear career path.
But a management trainee’s success is not just about personal happiness and efficiency; it is confirmation the system works – from the recruitment process through to the training. So the company works hard to get the right people in and then to groom them into the kind of talent that will keep their HR pipeline well-stocked and well-run.
To do this, it pulls out all the stops. Think classroom training, on-the-job exposure, mentorships, soft skills, job postings, international exposure... Within the ecosystem of a company, management trainees likely get the best (if not, among the best) of career development resources.
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