Finding a graduate programme that offers real responsibility

Grads Corner
13 January 2017 | Grads Corner | Guest Author

Matthew Cordiner, Graduate Brand Ambassador at Chivas Brothers, talks about his first two years as a grad and offers advice on how to pick the right graduate programme for building a long-term career

People say you should find a job where you wake up every day looking forward to the day ahead. But as a new graduate about to enter the world of work, selecting the right career path can be a daunting experience. Graduate programmes offer a great opportunity to gain invaluable experience in industry, but it’s important to select a scheme that allows you to take charge of your career and gives you real responsibility from day one.

I’ve just completed my second year on Chivas Brothers’ International Graduate programme and it’s been a great learning experience. Chivas Brothers is the Scotch whisky and premium gin business of Pernod Ricard and its graduate programme sets you on an international career path with the opportunity to be posted to any number of continents around the world from North and South America to Europe, Africa and Asia. It has been designed to provide a solid foundation in the FMCG drinks industry, with the potential to develop into a lifelong career with the company.

As a long time fan of Chivas Brothers, having worked at The Glenlivet Distillery during my summer holidays at university, I jumped at the opportunity to become a Brand Ambassador to help inspire and engage people about their brands. The portfolio is world renowned with Chivas Regal, Ballantine’s and Beefeater all possessing so much great heritage – I really enjoy being able to share this with both customers and those in the trade. The diversity of the role was particularly attractive with plenty of opportunities to be really creative and challenge myself. It isn’t often that graduates are given the opportunity to work not only internationally but also as a valued member of the team, across a number of major projects.

Graduate programme 101

So, what’s my advice for other graduates in a similar position to me two years ago? I think there are three main factors to keep at the forefront of your mind when choosing the right programme for you.

1. What is your end game?

Research, research, research! It is essential to know where your graduate programme will take you at the end – and what you’ll actually get out of it from one day to the next. By joining a graduate programme that offers real world skills and experience in the area you want to develop, you can understand how to really take control of your career.

One of my best examples of this is when I was working on the launch of the Chivas Regal Ultis to the off trade in Miami during my second year as a grad. The launch was held at a private lounge in an executive airport where invitees enjoyed a whisky mentoring session at a VIP pop-up bar and a short helicopter ride over South Beach and back. As well as hosting guests for whisky mentoring sessions during the day itself, I had a large role in the organisation of the event, including the venue branding and layout, stock orders, working with chefs for food pairings, staffing and organising the bar as well as the days’ cocktail menu.

It was a great feeling to have the marketing team put so much trust in me as a graduate and my ability to work as a Brand Ambassador. The fact that my day-to-day activities were an instrumental part of major marketing projects helped grow my knowledge and management skills far beyond my expectations.

2. Look for the opportunity to travel

Being able to undertake my graduate programme in another country and market has been an incredibly valuable experience. Learning to engage with people from a different culture and background has provided me with an education that cannot be gained from any amount of study. It has taught me to be adaptive and flexible, particularly when considering how the local culture and legal systems can impact business practice. It’s great that I can now take this education and insight and apply it anywhere in the world, in any market.

Ultimately, travel broadens the mind and forces you to operate outside of your comfort zone. I was able to expand my knowledge and understanding of the drinks industry on a global scale and I know this will put me in good stead for the future. I have been armed with a great set of skills that will set me above and beyond other graduates and propel me into an exciting career where I can continue to make genuine contributions to the company.

3. Lastly, and most importantly, do something you love

Find a job and industry that you enjoy and feel passionate about. People always say you should find a job where you get up every day looking forward to the day ahead. That’s how I feel as a Brand Ambassador, because whisky is something I love. My job is to learn about it, taste it, then share my knowledge with others. What’s not to enjoy?

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