How Great are Rotational Programs & Are They for You?

By: David Rossi

Each year, a new wave of ISE grads hit the work force. There are a variety of jobs out there that may or may not have much to do with what you learned in your ISE classes. The one thing each job should challenge you on is the way in which you analyze and solve problems. Ok, great. You can solve problems. Do you enjoy the types of problems you are solving? Does it make you get up every morning with a smile on your face? Or are you just happy to get a paycheck? These were all questions I asked myself before deciding on a job.

Before we get to my job selection, lets briefly backtrack. When I first started college, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I got some idea when I decided I wanted to be an industrial engineer. However, when I was in my last year of ISE, I still did not know what type of job I wanted.  I applied for jobs and interviewed with a wide range of companies. Some were in cool locations and others were in really interesting industries. Finally, I decided to work for a major consumer packed goods company who has an excellent supply chain leadership program. That sounds nice on paper. What does that really entail? I hope my experience thus far in the program can lend some insight to students on the job hunt or to those not sure what they want to do once they earn their degree.

For starters, each rotational program is not created equal. None that I have seen are the exact same. That doesn’t mean one is better than the other. It does mean that one program may be a better fit for you than another. Or a rotational program at all is not something you are too keen on. All of the programs will have you change roles after an extended period of time. Most of them will rotate you geographically. And some of them will even send you internationally for assignments. Rotational programs can be too long or too short. The individual rotations that make up the overall program length can even be too long or short too. You may not like the role you rotate into or where it is located. You may or may not enjoy the team you work with in one (or more) of your rotations.

To each of these points I say this… At the end of the day, the rotational program is designed to put you on the fast track to upper management. Each company does it differently. So you need to decide if the time commitment is worth it to you. Regardless of the time commitment, the experience gained and exposure within the company is priceless. Most likely, you will never have another opportunity to work in so many different jobs in such a short period of time. If you don’t like the role or where it is located, it is not permanent. You put your time in, gain great experience, and move on. Everyone, at some point in their life, will have to work with someone or a team who is less enjoyable than you wished for. This is a great opportunity to improve your ways of working with difficult people. It will also force you to find ways to keep a good professional relationship with them. Even if you do not particularly enjoy working in a rotation on on a team, everyone has objectives they are looking to meet. You will have to work together in order to meet them.One of the things I did not expect when I signed up for the program was how much I would learn about myself. You learn you strengths and weaknesses and are able to focus on improving your weaknesses. 

All in all, I can say I am glad I chose a leadership rotational program. I know I want to be upper management and I still do not know what I want to do yet. Rotational programs may not be for you. They appealed to me because I was not sure what type of job I wanted right out of school and I believe it will help me long term in my career. Plus, rotating to different job functions within the supply chain is allowing me to experience so many different things. At the end of the day, I will be able to chose the best fit for me. Thus, I will be waking up with a smile on my face because I enjoy what I do.