At Tilburg University, I studied six years, in which I did the Bachelor Business Economics, a Master in Finance, several committees and finally a board year to end my student time. My name is Daan van Hulten and I was chairman of the board of Asset Strategy & Logistics in the year 2014-2015. Currently I am a management trainee at PostNL in the area of finance.
Why is a traineeship so popular among students?
These days you often hear people wanting to do a traineeship, but everyone has his/her own reasons. I will name some of the possible reasons, a lot of people are attracted to them, including me. Firstly, the expectation that it has been designed for graduated students, so you will be put into a position that suits you as recently graduated starter. Another reason is that you are allowed to switch functions and thus discover what it is you want to do. Some people focus on traineeships, because they expect to get a lot of coaching concerning management development. There are, of course, more reasons for choosing, but what the essence is of this article, is that it is important to know what you want and that not all companies have the same perspective on what a traineeship should offer. They can differ more than most students know, so when graduated…
Some of the words you associate with traineeships (leadership, switching positions, development possibilities) make a lot of students desperately wanting to apply for traineeships. This is understandable, but be careful. Companies know that nowadays almost everybody is looking for traineeships, and they use it to get in the spotlight. While there are a lot of traineeships out there, a lot of companies are trying to lift on the good name that is “traineeship”. Make sure you know that you get what you want. Some companies offer traineeships they have developed over a lot of years, including excellent trainings but other companies want to offer a traineeship to get the well educated university graduates, and make a program that more or less looks like an internship in which you are trained to be a junior (in whatever area).
Various kinds of traineeships
I have tried to acquire some knowledge on the types of traineeships, but as I said: these days there are so many traineeships that it is not clear what is and what is not a traineeship. Even the definition of a traineeship is unclear by this huge supply of traineeships. Nevertheless, I have four main categories. I have written this article to get people thinking on what they want (if they are looking for a traineeship as a possible first career step) and to start a discussion on the supply of traineeships and possible misuse of the word. Therefore, please comment on this article and share your knowledge!
- Management traineeship with specialization. This kind offers you to specialize in a certain area of study/expertise like finance, marketing, logistics, etc. and also invests in trainings and courses of an external provider so you can develop your leadership skills. This is because in every department, whether it is finance, marketing or logistics, managers are needed. It is thus focused on training specialized managers in positions at headquarters. (Examples of this kind: Unilever, Ahold, PostNL)
- Management traineeship, starting with operational management experience. These traineeships often include a function as manager of a team operational colleagues. Also, switching projects is linked to it and management trainings also get their place in the program. The main difference with the first category, is that your projects/functions are not specific to a certain area like finance, marketing, logistics, etc. so you won’t also get focus on learning to work in a specific area that matches your study background. However, as I said, you do get the possibility to lead a group of people in your first two years of working. The management is thus on operational level and I do not know whether you are trained to get a higher management function. (Examples of this kind: KLM, Alliander).
- Traineeship to get the skills of a starter. You probably won’t see it on their websites with this title, but there are also companies that call their function a traineeship, because they want graduates and want them to learn the skill set their colleagues already have. If you’re finished with the traineeship, you can for instance be a junior business controller (if you do a finance traineeship). To me, this seems rather strange, because you can also get this starters function when you start applying. You don’t need to have a two-year program to get to the point of being that junior.
- IT traineeships. These are also designed to train you to get the basic set of skills the company wants. However, these are specified to IT. They are designed to get you the skills on certain software (for instance SAP), and then after a few months you are sent to different companies to help them on their software projects. I believe this category is the one most differing from the expectations on traineeships from students described earlier. (There are also IT traineeships that are designed as category 1, so this is a big difference).
You will probably see that there are large differences in the points of view a company can take. Where the one company sees their trainees as the future (managers) of their company, others use it to get new starters on board. This also translates into a difference in valuation in how they see you, but also into the possibilities to develop yourself, and the employment conditions. I don’t know all the traineeships out there so again, please comment on this article and contribute to this discussion!
It’s a shame that the term “traineeship” is now so widely used that is has become shallow and empty. I hope I have helped you in filling in what kind of traineeship you want to do if you are thinking about doing one, and that the differences are clearer than when you started reading this. However, do keep in mind that the most important thing about your (first) job is that you like the culture and you feel good working there!