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11Th April 2021

As a fresh graduate, it’s perfectly fine to spend some time figuring out your future

She studied at the University of Economics, but for a long time did not know where she would once want to work. Then she tried the ŠKODA AUTO Trainee program and landed in HR. Today, Alžběta Budinská leads the entire program and helps university graduates find their dream job, despite the Coronavirus pandemic.

 
“The media is very widespread these days, and closely linked to the development of advertising.” Do you know where this sentence comes from?

Of course I do! This is the introduction to my bachelor’s thesis. I wrote about the impact of advertising on children, I did not forget this message even after those seven years. However though I have mixed feelings about it.

Why is that?

I remember leaving my bachelor’s thesis to the last minute. I bet I wrote the sentence the day before the submission. It's my bad habit, which I haven't been able to eliminate yet. Possibly also because I have always gotten away with last minute catching up on tight deadlines. I definitely have to work on that.

Haven’t you improved in the last seven years?

Unfortunately, I have not. I think about everything honestly and for a long time, but when I have to write something, it’s already late when I sit down to do it. So far, thankfully, everything has always turned out fine, which to me is a small miracle. My boss will probably be very suprised when she reads this!

Alžběta Budinská

Alžběta Budinská

HR Specialist and Trainee Program Coordinator

She graduated from the Faculty of Business Administration at the University of Economics in Prague. “I've always been interested in marketing, but I wasn't sure if that was the right direction,” she says. Therefore, she was looking for graduate programs that would help her with deciding what she’d like to do. In the end, she chose the one in ŠKODA AUTO. “I tried working in several departments and found that HR is ideal for me. I like working with people, and even though I never thought I'd find my place here, I definitely wouldn't change.” Today she coordinates the entire Trainee program, shaping its agenda and direction. Besides, she takes care of recruitment activities or CSR events. “I'm an HR specialist and a Project manager,” she laughs.
Back to your bachelor’s thesis. You studied the impact of advertising on children, and your master´s thesis was on the influence of influencers. Why didn't you stay in marketing?

It's a bit paradoxical, but both working on both pieces of writing made me doubt the direction I had chosen. During the writing, it occurred to me that I do not think at all in terms of marketing or business, but rather about the psychological and ethical side of things. I realised that I was conflicted about supporting the mad consumerism we live in now. Even the supervisor of my master´s thesis warned me at the time not to forget that I was writing it for the marketing department.

And so, you ended up in HR.

But it took me a while to figure it out! After school, I didn't even know what I wanted to do. Eventually, I tried the Trainee program at ŠKODA AUTO, thanks to which I was able to try working in different departments. From Marketing to Production and Human resources. It was HR that excited about the most. I like working with people and helping to develop talent.

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What is the Trainee program?

It is a unique opportunity to start a career. The program lasts a year and is intended for university graduates who will be able to try working at various company departments through a system of rotations. The program has two branches.

Business Trainee program – A great choice for those who have studied economy or business at universities. You can look into the department of Marketing, HR, Strategy, Purchasing or After-sales. Experienced mentors will help you along the way. “We appreciate, among other things, good communication skills, team spirit and the ability to assert oneself – but always with humility,” says program leader Bětka Budinská.

Tech Trainee program – It is intended for graduates of technical universities. You will become part of teams in Development, Quality and Production, and you will work under the guidance of top experts on projects such as electromobility. This is exactly where ŠKODA AUTO sees the future of the automotive industry. “Great communication skills do not play such a role in technically oriented trainees, we rather evaluate the interest in the field, expertise and desire to work in a group during the admission procedure,” adds Bětka.

She tried the Trainee program herself, now she leads it. “I still remember our legendary parties. I'm from Prague, but Boleslav offers more than it may seem at first glance. Eventually, I moved here. Also, trainees are a great bunch, so you are never alone. I'm still in touch with our group. We always say: once a trainee, always a trainee!” Says Bětka Budinská.

You also develop talents in your free time. You work as an aerobics coach.

That's my next big passion. I did aerobics on a competitive level for years and in 2007 our team even won the world championship. Anyway, my training and an HR career have a lot in common.

For example?

In both cases, I have to be able to inspire enthusiasm, persevere and try to build a positive mood in the team, even when I do not feel the best on that day.

The first team you started training was your own. You completed with it for years, suddenly you found yourself in a superior position and coached your friends. Were you able to establish authority?

It was a huge challenge, but also an advantage. It helped that I knew each team member very well and could approach her accordingly. I knew right away who could seal the team, who was the tug, who could withstand harsh criticism, or who needed a lot of praise. And because the team worked well, we went from one success to another, and with a positive atmosphere in the team, so the authority naturally came with that. My role in the Trainee program had a similar trend: before I finished it, I became the coordinator and led the team I had been a part of until then. In both cases, the personal approach to individuals has worked well for me.

But while you coach mostly women in aerobics, most trainees are men.

That is true, and I must choose my approach accordingly. For boys, the biggest motivation is usually to win and feel good about themselves. At the same time, they do not speak in riddles and are more direct. Girls, on the other hand, appreciate the praise from the team, coach or leader, and sometimes they just indicate how they feel. Then, as a detective, I have to look for what's going on. Constantly motivating the team is a difficult task anyway. Especially when the team is constantly doing well and is used to winning. In terms of motivation, it is far easier to be catching up with someone and gradually rise to the top than to be the one who deflects the attacks of others. My priority is to make sure that the team does not feel pressured and maintains the joy and lightness it started with.

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What is the difference between a trainee and an intern?

Interns are university students. During their internship, they very often use the opportunity to cooperate with ŠKODA AUTO on their final thesis. Trainees, on the other hand, are already university graduates who are starting their careers, and Škoda treats them as internal employees with a full-time employment contract.” Interns, however, often become trainees. This is a good way to find your place in ŠKODA AUTO,” explains Bětka Budinská.

In the technically oriented branch of the Trainee program, boys make up the vast majority. What is the reason for that?

It is definitely about education and stereotypes. I experienced it myself ­– our math teacher at the high school kept telling me that calculations is not my strong field. I believed him. It wasn't until college that I realised that I was actually good at math, and I also enjoyed it. I believe that my case is certainly not unique.

Why are you now mainly looking for graduates of technically oriented schools?

It has to do with the direction of the whole brand. We want to adapt the program as much as possible to the positions that we want to fill at any given time. And because we at ŠKODA AUTO are now increasingly focusing on electromobility, we also need relevant experts. A new era is beginning and the generation that has already grown up in the digital age is now entering the labour market. Such topics are close to them. Young people bring new and unique views of the world and our projects. For example, they are not afraid to ask why something is done in a particular way. In short, they have enough confidence, good ideas and courage to move the company forward.

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What are the benefits of being a trainee?

Above all, you will get to know ŠKODA AUTO from all sides and try to work in various departments. In addition, you can look forward to financial rewards and various employee benefits from carsharing to possible operating car lease options. During the program, you will know what you enjoy the most and take on a specific position. “Such a procedure is very advantageous for individual departments. The trainees are well prepared for their work, during those twelve months they get to know Škoda from all angles and orient themselves well,” explains Bětka Budinská, coordinator of the Trainee program. “They understand the context and thinking of individual mentors who implement them through the program. Often, they also find that the possibilities for employment are far more varied than they imagined – and they take on a position that they did not know existed until recently.”

Do you manage to approach individual team members individually even now, when a large part of communication has moved to the online environment?

I admit that I suffer a little now. It is not possible to fully coach people online. And when it comes to trainees, I was always used to building an atmosphere of complete trust, the participants could come to me at any time and confide in anything. Of course, they still have this option today, but online relationships are much harder to build. We meet more often in a virtual environment, but the quality of the meetings is worse. Physical contact is irreplaceable. Supporting the team spirit is very challenging today, we can't go to teambuilding together and get to know each other properly as before. In addition, I tend to be quite sarcastic, which can sound bad on the phone or online. I had to cut back on this a little.

Did the coronavirus crisis bring anything positive to the Trainee program?

Definitely. The pandemic taught us a lot of new things. For example, that you don't always have to travel and meet in person – in terms of work, a virtual meeting or workshop is even more effective in some ways. In addition, trainees can also meet experts who have little time and would find it difficult to commute. Recently, we even took part in a big meetup of trainees from the entire Volkswagen company, from Germany to Spain. We can make such meetings better and more often now. Just put the meeting in the calendar and we can connect at any time, even with people from the other side of the world.

You talk openly about trying to figure out what to do for a long time. But for many young people, this uncertainty is the cause of anxiety. They feel that they should know clearly what they want and go for it.

I also felt bad when I was not sure what to do. This is mainly due to the pressure from others. After all, we have been asked what we would like to become one day since we were little, and a clear answer was expected. At the same time, it is perfectly fine not to know and try more options or directions. For me, a person who already knows exactly what they want to do at high school is like a unicorn. Equally unique and standing out. I'm twenty-nine, and only now have I started to profile myself properly. But most importantly – you have a lifetime for a full-time job, so why not prolong your youth a bit!

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