Trainee: duration, salary, offers – everything to start your career


DThe last exam is passed, the master thesis submitted. And now? Not all graduates can or want to go directly into their desired profession – and are therefore looking for a way there.

An option is a trainee position. A survey of the job portal Stepstone (part of Axel Springer's WORLD) shows among 4,000 employees from 2018: Half (51 percent) of companies with more than 1,000 employees offer such an entry. After all, among the companies with fewer than 100 employees, one in four (25 percent).

In a trainee program, the junior staff must first orient themselves and get to know different departments of a company within one to two years. In addition, many companies promise a personal mentor, networking evenings with the board or stays abroad. That sounds attractive. But not for everyone is such a career entry the right thing, and not every program is serious. What graduates need to know.

Choice of trainee program: Subject-specific or general?

For job seekers who are unsure of the area in which they would like to work, a trainee position can be a good starting point. This is how you see a lot and can orientate yourself for two more years if you pay in full, explains Stephan Pflaum, who accompanies students on their way to their first job at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich. One out of every four people who come to him for career counseling is thinking about going through a trainee program, says the head of the mentoring program at the university's Career Service.

Although a large part of the offers is designed for the business sector. Graduates from engineering or mechanical engineering, too, have the opportunity to further their business education with trainee programs – and thus prepare for management positions. "Large publishing houses now also offer traineeships in the management field for humanities and social scientists," says Pflaum. Also for newcomers this is a good option.

"Job profiles are becoming more and more complex, while degree programs continue to be very generalistic and theory-intensive," says Oliver Meywirth, executive director of recruitment specialist Capitalheads. For many companies it would be difficult to find suitable candidates. Therefore, it would be useful to train the graduates themselves through trainee programs.

In general, the offers can be subdivided into subject-specific and general traineeships, explains Meywirth. "For some, you look at the individual departments of a company while at the same time you are more deeply involved in a topic and department." A not insignificant advantage for the participants: "Many board members and executives have trainees themselves started. "

Traineeship in a large corporation or in a small company?

From large corporations to small businesses – the choice of programs is huge. "In medium-sized companies, you work much closer together with the management, you get deeper insights into the company," says student advisor Pflaum. In a large corporation, it could rather happen that you stay in a specific division.

Personnel consultant Meywirth also advocates giving smaller companies a chance. Although the program is often slimmed down a bit by medium-sized companies. But this can also have advantages for young professionals: "One can take responsibility earlier and is often thrown into the cold water, while a trainee in a large company is partially in a somewhat protected space," says Meywirth.

Less salary for trainees than for direct entrants

For the opportunities that come with a trainee program, career starters often forego a higher salary. "The pay is usually below that for direct entrants, sometimes even significantly," says Capitalheads CEO Meywirth. "For a company, the costs for a trainee can amount to up to 100,000 euros per year." However, the cost-intensive programs are designed to take over the new entrants.

Everything about the CV

The CV is especially important to convince HR. He should start with the contact details

Anyone who is fired should give the reason in his CV

Those who call reading as hobby should be prepared for a demand

Reading, football, gardening

The CV contains more running text than the dot-point German CV

According to a survey of the career portal Staufenbiel-Institut from 2017 among 297 companies, more than half of the trainees enter the market with less than 40,000 euros in annual salary. By comparison, among direct entrants, there are only 31 percent. Eleven percent of the trainees receive 50,000 euros or more a year, with the direct entrants, the rate of 25 percent more than twice as high.

So if you are already sure what the dream job should look like – for example, a career in controlling – for a direct start can pay off financially stronger. If that does not work, he can still think about a trainee program.

No binding rules for trainee programs

Student adviser Pflaum considers both paths equally valuable for the further career path. But it would be worthwhile to look closely at what the offers look like and what the chances of taking over are. "It is important that the trainee program is a full-fledged job and not an internship," says Pflaum. According to the Staufenbiel Institute, one should be suspicious of offers under twelve and over 24 months.

Employee representatives also emphasize how crucial a look into the fine print is. "There is no legal framework for trainees so far. Unfortunately, companies have great freedom in how they shape the programs, "says Michael Schmitzer. He heads the department of employees / IT / students at IG Metall. "Are fees, expenses and travel costs properly regulated? Is there a thematic plan and are the work areas exactly focused? "If these details are transparent, everything is fine, says the trade unionist.

This is how the application for a trainee program runs

Those who decide on a trainee program sometimes have to adapt to a demanding selection process. "The competition is great and the selection procedures are correspondingly complex," says personnel consultant Meywirth. "Companies know that if a candidate does that, they also have a real interest in the business."

While small firms often select trainees through a classic job interview, one-to-two-day assessment centers are the rule for large companies to test candidates. There the companies can look at the candidates in different situations. In order to make it there, the application must be flawless, says Meywirth.

Everything about the assessment center

"Companies notice whether someone writes a series application or has really dealt with the company," said the personnel consultant. The tests often also deal with the soft skills of the candidates. "How does the candidate react to new colleagues? How does he work in a team? These are the things HR professionals are looking for, "explains Meywirth. There are also discussions with future superiors.

After the intensive screening, the decision often falls quite fast. "Companies know that time is an important factor in their applications." Because most university graduates do not just apply to a company. Many want to get into the job as quickly as possible. "That's why they often accept the first offer."

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