Dhe last exam was passed and the master’s thesis submitted. And now? Not all graduates can or want to start their dream job straight away – and are therefore looking for a way to get there.
One option is a trainee position. A survey by the job portal Stepstone (like WELT belongs to Axel Springer) among 4,000 personnel from 2018 shows: Half (51 percent) of the companies with more than 1,000 employees offer this type of entry. In companies with fewer than 100 employees, it is at least one in four (25 percent).
In a trainee program, the junior employees are first allowed to orient themselves and get to know different departments of a company within one to two years. In addition, many companies promise a personal mentor, network evenings with the board of directors or stays abroad. That sounds attractive at first. But such a career start is not the right thing for everyone, and not every program is serious. What graduates need to know.
Choice of trainee program: subject-specific or general?
A trainee position can be a good starting point for job seekers who are unsure which area they want to work in. So you see a lot and can orientate yourself for another two years with full pay, explains Stephan Pflaum, who accompanies students at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich on their way to their first job. Every fourth person who comes to him for career counseling is playing with the idea of completing a trainee program, says the head of the mentoring program in the university’s career service.
Most of the offers are designed for the business sector. Graduates from engineering or mechanical engineering also have the opportunity with trainee programs to further their business administration – and thus prepare for management positions. “Large publishing houses are now also offering management trainee positions for humanities and social scientists,” says Pflaum. This is also a good option for career changers.
“Job profiles are becoming more and more complex, while courses of study are still very generalistic and theory-intensive”, says Oliver Meywirth, managing director of the recruitment agency Capitalheads, which specializes in young professionals. For many companies it is difficult to find the right candidates. That is why it makes sense to train the graduates themselves through trainee programs.
In general, the offers can be divided into subject-specific and general traineeships, explains Meywirth. “With some, you look at the individual departments of a company across the board, while with others you get to grips with a topic and a department in more depth started. “
Trainee in a large corporation or in a small company?
From large corporations to small businesses – the choice of programs is huge. “In medium-sized companies you work much more closely with management, you get a deeper insight into the company,” says student advisor Pflaum. In a large corporation, it is more likely that you will stay in a certain area of the company.
Personnel consultant Meywirth also advocates giving smaller companies a chance. The program is often a bit slimmed down for medium-sized companies. But this can also have advantages for young professionals: “You can take on responsibility earlier and are often thrown into the deep end, while as a trainee in a large company you sometimes find yourself in a somewhat protected space,” says Meywirth.
Less wages for trainees than for direct entrants
For the opportunities that a trainee program brings, young professionals often forego a higher salary. “The pay is usually below that for direct entrants, sometimes even significantly,” says Capitalheads CEO Meywirth. “Because for a company, the costs for a trainee can be up to 100,000 euros per year.” However, the cost-intensive programs are designed to take on the young professionals afterwards.
According to a survey conducted by the Staufenbiel-Institut career portal in 2017 among 297 companies, more than half of the trainees start with an annual salary of less than 40,000 euros. For comparison: for direct entrants, it is only 31 percent. Eleven percent of the trainees receive 50,000 euros or more per year, with direct entrants the rate is more than twice as high at 25 percent.
So if you are already sure what the dream job should look like – for example a career in controlling – a direct entry can pay off more financially. If that doesn’t work, he can still think about a trainee program.
No binding rules for trainee programs
Student advisor Pflaum considers both paths to be equally valuable for the further course of his career. But it is worthwhile to take a close look at what the offers look like and what the chances of being taken over are. “It is important that the trainee program is a full-fledged position and not an internship,” says Pflaum. According to the Staufenbiel Institute, one should be suspicious of offers under twelve and over 24 months.
Employee representatives also emphasize how crucial it is to look at the small print. “There is currently no legal framework for trainees. Unfortunately, companies have a lot of freedom in how they design the programs, ”says Michael Schmitzer. He heads the department for employees / IT / students at IG Metall. “Are remuneration, expenses and travel expenses properly regulated? Is there a thematic plan and are the areas of work precisely focused? ”If these details are transparent, everything is fine, says the unionist.
This is how the application for a trainee program works
Anyone who decides on a trainee program has to be prepared for a demanding selection process. “The competition is fierce, and the selection process is correspondingly complex,” says HR consultant Meywirth. “The companies know: if a candidate does this to himself, he also has a real interest in the company.”
While small companies often select the trainees via a classic job interview, one to two-day assessment centers are the rule in large companies to examine the candidates. There, companies can take a close look at the candidates in various situations. In order to even make it there, the application has to be flawless, says Meywirth.
“Companies notice whether someone is writing a series application or has really dealt with the company,” says the personnel consultant. The tests often also focus on the candidates’ soft skills. “How does the applicant react to new colleagues? How does he work in a team? These are the things that HR managers pay attention to, ”explains Meywirth. There are also discussions with the future superiors.
After the intensive screening, the decision is often made very quickly. “Companies know that time is an important factor when it comes to applications.” Because most university graduates do not apply to just one company. Many would like to get into the job as quickly as possible. “That’s why they often take the first offer right away.”
This article was first published in October 2019.