Now that you’re searching for graduate programs you probably don’t want to spread your time too thin applying for all of the opportunities when you can get a little more targeted in your approach.
Would you rather:
1) Apply for 30 graduate programs, quickly rush the application process and hope that an employer takes the bait and invites you to progress through the application process, or;
2) Apply for a select few graduate programs that you really want to take part in, complete a quality application and enhance your chances of making it through the process.
The company, industry and culture of the organisation can have a much bigger impact on your working career then simply landing any graduate job that you may not like or be suitable for.
Below, we have suggested 10 key things that you should consider when searching and applying for graduate programs.
1) Leadership Development
This is the primary purpose of why graduate programs exist. Graduate programs should provide you the right opportunities for you to develop the skills and experiences necessary to take on future leadership positions in the organisation.
Look for a structured approach to leadership development. That is, specific leadership workshops, coaching programs, mentoring opportunities and group learning.
2) Induction & Onboarding
All good graduate programs will have a structured induction and onboarding process. Most individuals will decide whether they want to stay with the organisation long-term within the first few weeks.
Employers know this and employers should be investing in this. As a graduate, you want to make sure that you get the support and information you need early on to be able to set yourself up for success.
3) Functional Development
You went to university for a reason right? You learned a discipline and a new set of skills and I’m sure you want to put what you have learned into practice.
Graduate programs that give you rotations are valuable in that they give you a broader exposure to the business and the area that you’re looking to build a career in.
Rotations allow you to quickly learn about how the business and your function operates, extend your network through meeting a wide variety of stakeholders and it helps you identify where you may want to focus your career longer-term.
4) Project Work
Graduate programs that offer project work are valuable in that they provide you with a core skillset that you can use throughout your entire career.
It’s even better if you can lead or manage a project. Project work will enable you to develop skills such as leadership, teamwork, planning, and strategic thinking and will also help you to develop your network and improve your communication skills.
Projects often have high-visibility and can also provide a great opportunity for you to showcase your skills to more senior management.
5) Business Awareness
The great thing about graduate programs is the exposure you can get early in your career. The best graduate programs don’t just keep you in the silo of your own function or department, but you get to experience more broadly what the business is about.
Business awareness can be gained through cross-functional rotations, business events, coaching and mentoring and project work amongst others.
6) Support Network
I’ve mentioned a couple times already about the importance of having a coach and a mentor. This can be a great help in launching your career.
Coaches and mentors can guide you through the organisation, provide practical tips and advice, share their learning and help get you connected to more people in the organisation.
But that’s not the only support. Think about what support do you get from HR? Your line manager? What groups, teams or communities does the graduate program or employer provide?
7) Culture & Reputation
Culture and reputation are two big components you should be considering when choosing which graduate programs would be right for you.
Culture is fundamental to your overall wellbeing. It represents the values and beliefs of the organisation and this creates the environment in which you work in. If you already know of someone working the company you wish to apply for, ask them what the culture is like.
Also consider the reputation of the company and how is this aligned to your future career goals. Will this graduate program provide you with the right experience to get you to where you want to go longer-term?
8) Length of Program
Graduate programs tend to be anywhere in the vicinity of 1 to 3 years.
Consider your career goals and what you want to get from a graduate program. 1 year may be too short for you… perhaps you would prefer to have more time on the program to focus on your personal development? And perhaps 3 years is too long, you might want to get stuck into your first ‘full-time’ role and not be classed as a graduate.
Choose a graduate program that is aligned to your career goals and whatever you do, make sure you can stick around for the full duration.
9) Success Stories from Previous Grads
This one could be the most important of the lot.
As a graduate, you want to know that the graduate program you are applying for has created successful leaders in the organisation.
What are the experiences not only of current graduates, but what about graduates from 3 years ago? 5 years ago? 10 years ago? Have they progressed through the organisation? Where are they now?
10) The Industry
The industry can play a bigger role in your career than you may think.
Each industry is vastly different in how they operate and have different priorities, processes and strategies. Ideally, the industry you join will be related to your interests and passions.
Consider accounting as a profession. Accountants do similar things in all businesses, but depending on the type of industry and the size of the organisation it can vary dramatically. As an example, an accountant working in the technology industry will have a vastly different career experience to an accountant in the manufacturing industry.
When searching for the right graduate program for you, consider the industry as it is the industry that facilitates the type of work, the challenges, the culture and the opportunities you will be presented with throughout your career.
What else do you look for in a graduate program?
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