By Makarand Gawande, Staff Writer
Demystifying leadership development programs (LDP) – PART II
This is our second article on the Rotational and Leadership Development Programs (LDPs). I am certainly not an expert, but just one of you who got into an LDP. I would like to share my experiences with a hope that it might benefit you in one way or the other.
As I indicated in my first article on this subject, such programs are an exceptional career option for graduate business students to prosper in an organization. However, these programs are really competitive, and one needs to work very smartly to get into such a program. From my experiences of going through two such interview processes, and getting selected into one, I can definitely say that one needs to be persistent, focused, and audacious. For me the “Mantra” for success was defining the programs I wanted to target, knowing my story well (past experiences in STAR format), and leveraging my past experiences. These aspects really facilitated me to get into the Sales and Marketing LDP of OMNOVA Solutions. While this is not the only mantra towards success, this can certainly be one of the approaches you may want to consider.
Define the target programs:
I believe this is the most important step, where you need to define and target a program /organization / industry that will allow you to utilize your talent and experience to make an impact in a meaningful way. As they say, well begun is half done! To give an example, I am a chemical engineer, and I worked in marketing and sales of renewable energy projects prior to Thunderbird. I am a career enhancer, and so wanted to continue my career in the realm of marketing and sales. My target industries were Chemical, Energy, Oil and Gas, and Pharmaceuticals. My target companies were BASF, DOW, OMNOVA, FMC etc. Note that if you are a career switcher, your target program would not be in-line with your prior job experiences. Also, I believe it is imperative to research and understand an organization’s culture, and how it aligns with your personal goals and values. Furthermore, it is really important to be well versed with industry trends and current happenings in the industry so as to demonstrate that you are cognizant of industry details, and genuinely interested in the program. If you are targeting a public company, the annual reports are a goldmine of such information.
Know your story well:
It is of paramount importance to know your past experiences and be able to articulate them well depending on the discussion. I used the STAR/TAR prep tool that CMC provided (it is available on CMC resources under interview prep tools and career toolbox). I delineated at least 15 different situations in the prep sheet following the STAR/TAR format, and that helped me immensely during all screening, informational, and behavioral interviews. I strongly believe that although the situations are from your own professional experiences, you sometimes tend to forget your accomplishments, and so you must take some time to consciously think and write down significant experiences. This really worked for me during my interview process, and I was able to crack all behavioral interviews. The situational questions could be related to demonstration of your ability to lead a team, ability to deal with complex and ambiguous situations, ability to handle conflict, ability to multitask, and so on.
Leverage your past experiences:
This is indeed a key element. You need to leverage your past experiences and demonstrate how your skills and experiences are in-line with the roles and responsibilities of the job you are pursuing, if you are a career enhancer. Also,
if you are a career switcher, you need to demonstrate how your skills are transferable to the job or industry you aspire to work in. I pitched my chemical engineering background, sales and marketing experiences, multilingual skills, and vast international experience aptly during my multiple interviews with OMNOVA, and demonstrated how these aspects can add value to their organization and how I can be a great asset to the LDP program.
To sum, LDPs are very rigorous programs that offer a multi-dimensional exposure. But I believe that you can be successful no matter how you enter in the professional world. If someone chooses an LDP, the benefits are broader and LDP provides the person the opportunity to quickly exhibit competence, make an impact on key business initiatives, and contribute to the success of the organization.
PS: CMC has a great resource on LDP. (TLE page > Careers > Resources > Document Library). You can find a consolidated list of LDP programs with links to the company career webpage.