10 Reasons to Consider Starting Your Career in a Rotational Program

There are many excellent ways to launch your career. Whether you gravitate toward graduate studies, internships, contract work or looking for that first full-time, long term role—know that there are many paths that lead to a similar destination.

I highly recommend seeking the advice from your mentors, networking with people who have embarked on different career paths, and really doing your research as you begin to hone in on which route you’d like to take.

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One great option for soon-to-be or recent grads is a rotational program. These types of programs offer opportunities to work in multiple roles for a period of time, before moving onto another role within the same company.

How similar or different each of the roles within the program are will depend on the company, and some companies even have these programs set up in different “streams” such as Operations or Commercial streams.

Now reflecting on my journey in a rotational program, I realize there were many inherent components of this experience that really drove my development and enabled me to build a large professional network in a short period of time.

I have summarized below 10 reasons that you may consider starting your career in a rotational program.

  1. Narrow it Down

Are you somebody who loves it all? Perhaps you loved every course you’ve taken at university, every stream of business you’ve been exposed to, and you just can’t choose what you want to do for the rest of your life.

The good news is, you don’t have to! Rotational program or not, where you launch your career is not where you have to stay. A rotational program can make it easier to experience multiple roles in a short period of time so you can discover where your passions and your strengths intersect.

2. Apply Your Knowledge

While I personally loved academia, I also couldn’t wait to get out into the “real world” and apply what I had learned in my classes.

Rotational programs are a great way to experience on-the-job learning and to put your textbook knowledge to the test. Not only do these programs lead to intense learning just by design, but also due the additional training and development often provided to employees in the program.

3. Gain Perspective

Regardless of the structure of the specific rotational program and how different each of the roles you experience are, it is very likely that you will, at some point, gain a different perspective that you otherwise wouldn’t have been exposed to. For example, you could gain perspective through understanding:

  • Different Functions Within the Organization
  • Client vs. Vendor Relationships
  • Vendor vs. Buyer Relationships
  • Externally focused vs. Internally focused

4. Experience Different Leadership Styles

Between the multiple bosses you’ll have in a short number of years, the “2-ups” you’ll work with, and the department heads and senior leadership members you’ll cross paths with, a rotational program is a fantastic opportunity to learn from a variety of leadership styles.

You can learn what you appreciate in a leader (and equally as important, what you don’t appreciate) and consciously decide what kind of a leader you want to be from the very onset of your career

5. Network

Working on several teams in just a few years is a great way to build a network of professional contacts, mentors, and friends. Not only will you have the people directly on your team, but you’ll have an extended network of cross-functional colleagues with institutional knowledge you may not be exposed to had you gone a more traditional, siloed career path.

6. Grow

Nothing demands growth quite like steep learning curve after steep learning curve and constantly being challenged by new processes, ambiguity, and on-the-job skill development!

With an open mind and a deep-rooted curiosity about your business, you will grow with each new role more than you ever could have imagined. You will be challenged, tested, and will inevitably mess things up sometimes… but you will have so many opportunities to learn from your mistakes and those learnings will serve you well for years to come.

7. Fast Track

While not always a guarantee (although in some programs, it is), ascension through the organization can be enhanced by starting in a rotational program. Your internal network and knowledge of different areas of the business will be a huge asset as you look to progress in your career.

Your breadth of experience can also enable you to adapt to fill a variety of roles rather than be pigeonholed and waiting for a certain opportunity to arise.

8. Develop Soft Skills

In order to successfully navigate your way through programs like this, it will inherently require you to develop many soft skills such as critical thinking, adaptability, efficiency, time management, interpersonal communication, and personal accountability to name a few.

Each new role will require you to “level up” and demand a better version of yourself.

9. Train

Of course! The job itself. Depending on the function, you may very well be considered “in training” for the better portion of each of your roles. Having the chance to soak it all in and learn, whether organically or formally, from people around you is a great way to build a base of strong knowledge early in your career.

10. You Can Do Anything for One Year

Reason number 10 has a dual meaning in my eyes:

  1. You Can Do Anything! (within reason): rotational programs sometimes offer young professionals with relatively limited working experience the opportunity to fill a role they otherwise may not have been selected for. Their ability to demonstrate confidence that they can learn quickly and work diligently can really pay off if they have their sights set on a role typically held by someone with more experience.
  2. If you don’t like it: knowing that your time in a role is limited can be comforting if you feel like you’re really taking a chance. You truly can do anything for one year, and the low risk factor can encourage you to try something you never thought you would, even if just to have the experience. Who knows, sometimes happiness and fulfillment can be found where you least expect it!

And there you have it, 10 Reasons to Consider Starting Your Career in a Rotational Program.

If this sounds like something that may appeal to you, I encourage you to check out the many rotational programs available through Food & Beverage companies.

These programs tend to accept students that are either just about to graduate, or have recently graduated. I recommend starting to apply at the very beginning of your last year of studies as there is typically a lot of recruiting underway in that fall season. Have your resume reviewed professionally to set yourself up for success as you hit those career fairs and start this next chapter in your professional life.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to reach out to people who have gone through these programs—more often than not they are delighted to share their experience and answer any questions you may have.

Author: Stefanie Davenport

Stefanie is a graduate from the University of Guelph with a Bachelors degree in Nutritional and Nutraceutical Science. After completing a 3 year rotational leadership program in sales & marketing, she is now focused on building a career in marketing and continuing to grow as a leader in the competitive CPG industry.

Given her background in personal training, Stefanie is particularly interested in supplements and natural health products. She loves researching the latest trends and bringing innovative new products to life. Stefanie maintains her lifelong passion for fitness by working out, coaching CrossFit, and listening to health & wellness podcasts. 

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