How Graduate Development Programs Can Help Develop Your Career


After graduation, the job search begins. For some grads, this means poring over listings and job openings trying to match your skill set to a job description, but for others, the matchmaking can be done for them.

In “graduate development programs” new graduates get the chance to find out what they’re good at in different departments of a company and build their own career based on a combination of their skill set, their interests, and business need.

In this way, graduate development programs allow students to focus on finding the industry and company that they want to work for, not the specific job they want to fill.

What are graduate development programs?

Graduate development programs, also known as graduate leadership programs, are an opportunity to learn. These programs take in recent grads at the undergraduate and graduate level and essentially invite them to sample different department and work areas of the company to help determine where suites their taste and where they bring the most flavour.

“These programs have become increasingly popular over time and have started appearing in industries and companies that have not typically offered such an opportunity,” says Queen’s University career counsellor Julia Blackstock.

Who has graduate development programs?

This type of training program requires a lot of time and resources. Therefore, these graduate development and leadership programs are typically found in larger companies, ones aiming to retain graduates for the long-term rather than just hire them to fill a specific position.

New grad development programs are available in industries such as business, government and sometimes even in the non-for-profit sector (although opportunities in this sector are frequently are not always paid).

For example, specialty chemicals Johnson Matthey hires recent graduates for their International Development Programme which offers “a robust, comprehensive and enjoyable foundation for any career.” Graduates in this program get responsibility early on and can start building their own roles by matching their unique skills to their interests and get the training that they need to succeed.

Other graduate development programs include:

Every program is different, so make sure you do your research to find out which industry, company and program is the best bet for your career!

Why are graduate development programs a good idea?

If you want the chance to experience different jobs in your field, work in a variety of departments and get the training you need to rise up the ranks, graduate development programs can be a great option.

Companies match individuals with the right job for them based on their abilities and interests to ensure that you want to stay within the company. These programs are typically found in companies that are stable enough to think about your job as more of long-term career, building a future within their organization. Therefore, these programs provide an unparalleled opportunity to learn the ins and outs of the different jobs in your field, as well as get trained and job-ready.

Graduate development and leadership programs are exactly what they sound like: the opportunity to help you develop your skills further and potentially put you on track for leadership positions down the road.

“What I like about them is the fact that there’s a learning period and clear learning outcomes,” Julia says. “Even if you’re contributing right away there’s a sense of having either formal or informal mentors and opportunities to keep learning.”

How can you make the most of a graduate development program?

Though graduate development programs allow you to test the waters a bit, it’s important to have an idea of what type of job you want once you take the plunge. Julia advises students to go into these programs with some interest and goals at the outset because “a good leadership program will help you work with those as much as possible.”

She also recommends you indicate your skill set to your employer early on so that the program can either build on your existing abilities or fill in areas where you are lacking experience.

Most importantly, Julia says, when you’re in one of these programs you need to flexible. When you’re trying to get as much training as possible in a short amount of time, companies do their best to accommodate everyone, but being willing to change things up a bit can be helpful and much appreciated by employers.