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How I got my graduate job in international business management at E.ON

Katherine looks back on a business graduate scheme that saw her making recommendations on a multi-million pound project and working in Tanzania.
My second placement in Tanzania was really, really fascinating.

My top careers tip is to understand what motivates you and to then ask yourself whether joining a particular graduate scheme, for example, would enable you to satisfy that motivating factor. I am driven by the desire to learn and to make improvements, and I’ve joined a place in which my motivating factors are met. E.ON puts a lot of energy – no pun intended – into training and facilitating your personal development. Once I joined, I also became aware that everyone here wants to make things better, both for customers and for the world around us.

Finding E.ON: choosing a graduate employer

I started my degree at the University of Manchester and completed it with The Open University. After graduating, I went travelling and it embedded for me that I wanted a career with an international element. I also knew I wanted a business-related career and a graduate scheme that would enable me to get broad experience before having to decide what to specialise in. E.ON’s international business management graduate programme seemed ideal because it included a placement abroad and offered flexibility to work across the business.

Being a skilled applicant: application and interview tips

A combination of factors helped me to get my job. Some were more heavily weighted than others but each on their own wouldn’t have been enough. I had a good degree. I had worked in other organisations and, while they weren’t high-flying jobs, they showed that I was comfortable in the world of work and that I’d developed transferable skills, such as relationship building and time management. I’d also volunteered as a fair trade ambassador, spending time in Ghana. It showed personal drive, a quality that is often desired by businesses.

In interviews you are often asked competency questions, which require you to provide examples of when you used specific skills. The more experiences you can draw on, the better. As long as they develop your skills, it doesn’t matter if they’re not 100% related to the job you are interviewing for. Bear in mind that your communication skills are really important in the workplace, especially in a large organisation. You may be brilliant at what you do, but it will be much harder to make things happen unless you build relationships, manage stakeholders and are credible.

Starting on the graduate programme

My graduate programme comprised four six-month placements. My first placement involved working as a business-to-business strategist, which aligned with the purpose of the scheme by supporting graduates to become strategically minded. I completed analysis and made recommendations on a multi-million pound business opportunity for the UK board to consider.

Working in Tanzania

My second placement was really, really fascinating. E.ON has a start-up initiative through which any employee can pitch a great idea to a start-up board. If the board believes in it, they will give you some start-up funding and a business mentor to help you develop it. Through this, an employee set up a micro-business, known as E.ON Off-Grid, to install solar-powered micro-grids in areas without access to the main grid.

I joined E.ON Off-Grid in a business development role on its Tanzanian projects. We identified suitable villages in Tanzania not connected to the grid and supplied micro-grids powered by solar energy. Some villagers wanted to start businesses – bars, hairdressers and so on – but didn’t have the machines or equipment. My job was to help them procure the machines, doing the necessary energy testing, creating pricing strategies and helping them decide how they wanted to pay for them.

Safety and our duty of care were paramount concerns because many villages were in remote locations and emergency medical care wasn’t in easy reach. We twinned with a charity to teach safe use and I created a graphical form of instructions with illustrations rather than words. I learned so much about how you can be blinded by your cultural assumptions. For example, I was going to create instructions with traffic light symbols to indicate danger, but our site manager pointed out that there were no traffic lights in the village!

Building my business knowledge

When I returned from Tanzania, I wanted to increase my operational knowledge and so my third placement was in a consultancy role in operational excellence. My final placement was in strategic solutions, where we helped local authorities better manage the energy usage and supply in their housing stocks. In these placements, I learned about how you can coach people and have the right conversations in order to facilitate change.

I am definitely pleased I chose this graduate programme: it has given me a breadth of knowledge and a network across the business. Scheme leads, with HR support, have ensured that graduates are given the experiences they need to develop. Alongside training courses about increasing personal effectiveness and understanding finance, I have also been on customer immersion experiences in which I met customers to better understand their needs. E.ON also funded my postgraduate diploma from Warwick Business School.

Katherine McAloon, who completed an international business management graduate programme with E.On
Katherine McAloon
Job title: 
Business lead support

2012–2014 Studied for, and graduated with, a degree in business studies from The Open University; volunteered as a fair trade ambassador.
2013–2014 Worked as an assistant housing officer for Sanctuary Housing Association.
2014–2015 Worked in a project support role for NHS Benchmarking. 
2015–2017 Completed E.ON’s graduate programme in international business management.
2016–2018 Completed a postgraduate diploma in applied management at Warwick Business School.
2017 Appointed to business lead support in residential transformation.

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