Career profile: where my E.ON graduate job has taken me

E.On not only offered history graduate Thomas Timothy a marketing graduate job but also helped him set up his own business. He shares his experiences.
My application for E.ON included a numerical aptitude test. The last time I had had to work out percentages was in GCSE maths!

My initial plan was to study medicine and become a doctor; I was interested in science and wanted to tailor my work to an individual’s needs. However, I soon realised that medicine was less personal than I anticipated and more about pattern recognition. Uncertain of what exactly I wanted to do next, I switched to a degree that did not have a defined career at the end of it and would allow me to keep my options open: history.

Moving from history to a marketing job

Studying history helped to develop my communication skills and, specifically, my ability to form an argument. After graduating, I took a year out to be part of a cycling team and think through various career options. Marketing interested me because of its focus on keeping the customer at the centre of everything and it seemed to me to be an industry that could benefit people’s lives.

Not wanting to make the same mistake I had made with medicine, I used my involvement with the cycling team to see if the day-to-day work of marketing would suit me. This included liaising with sponsors and managing the team’s website and social media accounts. Once I was certain of the career I wanted to pursue, I started a postgraduate course in marketing at Durham University.

Narrowing down choices

My approach to choosing employers was fairly practical. I was keen to see how marketing affected an entire business over time, so chose not to work for an agency and move from campaign to campaign. Looking through careers websites and publications such as The Guardian UK 300, I created a shortlist of employers that interested me, considering whether their values aligned with my own, for instance.

Despite my final shortlist featuring over 40 organisations, E.ON stood out for a number of reasons. Not only were they actively making an effort to become more ecologically and environmentally friendly, I also saw that they respected their employees and clients and that I’d be able to maintain a work/life balance. The graduate programme itself was attractive for giving a comprehensive overview of the different forms of marketing, such as marketing communications and digital marketing, as well as including an international placement. It also didn’t hurt that it paid very well.

Test tips and assessment assistance

There is so much competition for graduate jobs that it’s important to practise for interviews and aptitude tests. My application for E.ON included a numerical aptitude test. The last time I had had to work out percentages was in GCSE maths, so practice tests helped to refresh my memory and made it so I wasn’t going into tests completely blind and falling at the first hurdle. Following a short telephone interview, I was invited to an assessment centre.

The assessment centre stood out to me because it seemed to be trying to get the best out of the candidates rather than attempting to trip them up. The night before I was able to speak to some current graduates, which put me at ease, and even in assessments, such as during group exercises, we were able to ask questions. At assessment centres I’d advise that you demonstrate that you know about the employer. Nobody’s going to expect you to recite an organisation’s annual turnover, but you should be able to speak about major competitors and have an understanding of the industry.

Starting out and starting up

Having not worked for a large organisation before, my first priority after starting at E.ON was getting to understand the workings of the business. I came to understand why things might take longer than I thought they would and the fact that, as a graduate, I may have a bit more flexibility and take more risks than I expected.

I became interested in applying for E.ON’s internal start-up accelerator programme, where the organisation would support a business idea, as long as you could show that doing so would add value to yourself and the company. I presented my business idea to a group of 40 board members and, while it wasn’t easy, I never felt that the fact I was a graduate was an obstacle. The same ethos I saw at the assessment centre was present even at the higher levels of the business and I knew that if it didn’t work out, I could go back to my old job, having benefited from the lessons that I’d learned.

Directing the future

Currently I am a director of Novo, a subsidiary of E.ON that creates products that allow customers to exert greater control over their energy usage. Although my path has diverged from the graduate programme, I’m still able to draw on my marketing skills. Being part of a fairly small and agile company, I’m able to completely take on board customers’ feedback to create a product that they would actually want to buy. We’re also expanding into Spain, where E.ON does not currently have a presence, in order to sell to customers there. Overall, I’m incredibly proud of everything I’ve managed to achieve since joining E.ON. I’m using my marketing skills to do work that I enjoy and think is worthwhile.

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