I have always felt restless. When I handed in my thesis I still needed time to explore, think through and understand what was really my career path. I had a couple of internships but…
What did I want to be when I grew up? Was there something I was 100% sure would be the perfect career path for me? Not really but there was one thing I certainly knew: I wanted to challenge myself, go beyond my comfort zone, travel and learn something new every day. This is how I discovered the possibility of applying for a graduate programme. These trainee programmes are offered by many companies and allow graduates to work in different parts of the organization with assignments in periods that vary from 6 to 8 months.
So I started looking and amongst all the applications there was one that shone a little brighter and that was how I got into the LEGO Graduate Programme. Yes. So the journey started with me packing my life in a suitcase and moving to Denmark where I started as 1 out of 7 graduates in the 1,5-year programme.
The rules were simple. Every 6 months, you get the chance to experience a new department of your preference and will be re-assigned to a different project. 3 rotations. It has been almost 3 years since that first day in the LEGO HQ and now I can finally look back at those thoughts, fears, and doubts I wish someone would have talked me out of earlier. So why should you choose (or not) a graduate program:
1. Be ready to get surprised by yourself
I told myself numerous times “I will never be a technical engineer, it´s simply not me!” but then I ended up in the R&D Engineering department of the packing factory in Czech Republic for 6 months. And you re-evaluate your beliefs and you have to find strengths you didn´t think you had. Be ready to be amazed by your determination, you never know where it will take you;
2. Choose a company you're fond of
One of the main challenges in a graduate programme is that you get exposed to very different areas in the organization. You get a great understanding of the business and it is valuable if you´re planning to stay in the same company for a long time. Otherwise, your experience will appear very scattered if observed from the outside.
The company in which you´re doing the graduate programme will consider it very valuable that you have gotten these broad insights and this career path could become an internal fast track. So be aware of which company you´re applying for. Choose wisely and then commit.
3. Flexibility is the key
During the interview when they ask about flexibility we all reply “Of course!” but then facts are different. You will be notified one month in advance that your next destination is Hong Kong or Brazil or France or another random dot on the planet. Are you ready for this? It takes energy to pack your life every 6 months, restart from scratch, keep a balance in your personal life and still work hard on your dream. Are you really as flexible as you think you are?
4. Working abroad is not the same as studying abroad
Yes, you might end up in a very cool location but you might also end up somewhere you never expected. Such as in Denmark´s countryside.
When you work in a new country you still go through a honeymoon phase with your host country but you are not surrounded by people in the same situation. The vast majority of your colleagues will be locals for whom you´re “only” someone visiting for 6 months. You will need to push quite hard to get through that first barrier.
I am still working for LEGO, now as a Senior Consultant in the Marketing Organization in Portfolio Management. After 3 years in the company, I can definitely say that the first year strongly shaped me as a person and gave me that understanding of the business that would have been impossible to acquire anywhere else in the organization in such a short time.
A long winter in Denmark learning about portfolio management, an unexpected spring in Prague challenging myself in a technical team and a deep dive into Asia working with the engineering department in Hong Kong. It has been hard. And fun. And stressful. And fulfilling.
Would I redo it all over again? Definitely. What about you?
User story by Chiara Tepsich