Why choose to be part of a graduate programme?

Why choose a graduate programme? Joanna Li, F15 Graduate at Arla, provides you with her insights on why it is a good idea to start your career as a graduate. 


Joanna Li, Graduate at Arla

Why did you choose to apply for a graduate programme? 
I changed schools every two years on average and lived in 3 different countries before I turned 18. Not having a kind of “permanency” in life was my status quo. I had already worked for some global companies on the side by the time I got my master’s degree at AU, but I wanted to explore as many options as possible. It was very important for me to find out what I truly loved as a career. The graduate program was the perfect choice: It allowed me work in functions which may not be related to my studies or working experiences, and maintained my need to be connected with different cultures around the world. Working in different functions within the same company meant I could take advantage of the skill set acquired and later cater it towards the business needs. There would be less transferability of the accumulated knowledge, if I were to switch between different companies in order to achieve a similar experience.

Which qualifications (personal and professional) is required for graduates?
I believe the only qualification for anyone to work in a graduate program, is the right mentality. Most graduate programs in global corporations will expose you new cultures, and relocate you to new destinations. Your job will not be an ordinary 9 to 5, and there is no career advancement during the program. You need to be someone who is open for changes, open to be challenged and also embrace the lack of certainty.  If you do not have that mindset, you won’t be happy in a graduate program and you won’t thrive with it. Many graduate programs will look past your studies or job experiences, if they believe you have the right personality. So do not hesitate to apply to a graduate program, even if you have never studied what is related to the career track/business industry.

Having said that, having existing international experiences, being able to use multiple languages professionally and of course the knowledge of basic office software tools will place you further than others.

What advantages and disadvantages have you experienced? 
The advantages of a graduate program are exactly what I had expected: the international exposure, the personal development, new knowledge and skillsets. The disadvantage are more on a personal level – it is hard not to have any kind of fixed routine due to relocation or business travels, and hard to establish a social circle within a short period of time. These are things even I needed to actively work on, despite being used to moving around. The F15 program relocates us every 8 months, which is the shortest time I’ve ever had to settle in a new environment.

Professionally, expectation management is a general challenge for most graduates. Nobody’s experience is the same, and some will have a better match with their rotation than others in different aspects. Again, having the right mentality plays a big role here.

What are your best tips for students considering applying for a graduate programme?

  • Research as many companies as possible, you will find companies who offer graduate programs which might not have been on your radar before.
  • Pay attention to deadlines – some companies start and end their process earlier than others.
  • Read the program description – company policies differ. Some (like Arla) have general programs open to almost all graduates, while others have designated tracks for certain study backgrounds.
  • Listen around – find people who are either in a graduate program or knows someone who is. Often times their experiences will tell you a lot about the company and how they choose to utilize the program. You will be able to narrow down your list quickly like this and find what you think is the most suitable program.
  • Search on the web – a lot of companies have graduate blogs that have very useful tips on their recruitment process. Google search can also bring you results of experiences from people who did not make it to program but got far in the recruitment process.
  • Apply to more than one, but not too many. If you are applying for the program and not a specific company, keep your options open. Choose a few that you truly believe in. The recruitment of most graduate programs are extensive, usually around 3-4 months. They also tend to overlap towards the end of the process. Having more than one option will increase your chances, but having too many will be hard to manage.
  • Look for red flags – big companies does not mean good graduate programs. If a company believes in the program and wants to develop you, they will use actions as tokens of good faith. If your instinct tells you they are having the program just as employer branding, you are probably right.  
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