Leadership development programs are being established around the country as companies invest in the new generation of leadership. These programs are diverse – they offer specific workshops, classes, site visits, and sometimes even a Masters degree. As varied as these programs can be, each one focuses on the personal and professional development of each employee.
Why do Leadership Development Programs exist?
Employers recognize the importance of developing their employees. According to Carolyn Barton of TJX, their number one goal is talent development: “Our agenda now is to recruit talent, develop it, and identify the best track for our entry-level employees.” TJX has been a supporter of early talent development – their merchandising development program has been in place for over 20 years.
Leadership Development Programs often expose students to multiple departments and areas of the company. The Optum LDP includes two rotations on a specific track. General Electric has several different leadership programs in almost every function of the company, including engineering, manufacturing, IT, HR, and finance. The LDP at General Electric is built around a rotation program – depending on the program, an employee can complete 3-4 rotations in two years. According to Erica Wotzak of GE, LDPs are crucial for building well-rounded leadership: “We find a lot of value in allowing people to see different parts of the company. It positions the employee and the employer to place them in a role where are interested and where they excel.”
Why is this better than an entry-level position?
“So many people switch positions throughout their career,” said Stephen Uram of Optum. “[In an LDP], you have the opportunity to understand where you fit best and where your strengths lie.” The LDP at Optum invests in new employees through mentorship, knowledge sharing, and exposure to senior leadership.
As a participant in a Leadership Development Program, employees can see every side of the company. According to Katie Maillet from Constant Contact, “students in our programs want to explore the company before they decide what they like. They finish the year with a good understanding of the organization as a whole and how they contribute to it.” Because of the exposure to multiple sides of the company, participation in a LDP will better position you for leadership positions.
Another benefit of a LDP is the network you can establish. “It’s a balance,” says Stephen Uram. “You have the camaraderie of a group of peers in your age group as well as access to senior leadership.” In a Leadership Development Program, you are placed into a community of peers, which allows you to grow your network and exchange knowledge. For example, “With the [TJX] Merchandising Program, you join a large organization with lots of people who are in the same stage of life. It’s about connecting and finding your community a little more easily within an organization.”
How do I make myself a more attractive candidate for a LDP?
To start, try to meet with an alum who has completed the program. According to Carolyn Barton, “this shows, from a recruiter standpoint, a bit more drive and ambition.” Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone or send a LinkedIn request to hear firsthand about their experience in the program.
If you find a LDP early you like early in your college career, apply for an internship or co-op at that company. At GE, “students with meaningful job and internship experience on and off-campus are strong candidates for our programs.”
Finally, Katie Maillet says, “make yourself a well-rounded human being.” Pursue your interests outside of the classroom – teach, contribute to Hackathons, lead a club. These extra things make you stand out to recruiters, so make them known on your resume. According to Stephen Uram, the most important part is having a diverse set of experiences you can draw upon during the application process, and understanding how to adapt and market your skills to new situations and new industries.
How do I learn more about LDPs?
To learn more about the Leadership Development Programs at TJX, GE, Sun Life Financial, Optum, and Constant Contact, come to Cultuvating Leadership: Leadership Development Program Panel and Networking Night tomorrow, October 7th in the Visitor’s Center from 6-8PM.
Lindsey Sampson is a junior International Affairs major with minors in Social Entrepreneurship and Writing. She enjoys writing about Millennials in the workplace and social media as a marketing tool. Follow her blog here and tweet her @lindseygsampson.