Oli Kay’s journey to Commercial Specialist, Internal Customers started when he joined JM's Graduate Programme. He sat down to tell us all about his experience during the programme and how it has helped shape his career.
After studying chemical engineering at university, I wanted to remain in the chemical industry. I wasn’t entirely sure what direction to take when I left; all I knew was I didn’t want to be a typical chemical engineer. The JM Graduate Programme offered me the chance to work at three different sites, in three different roles. This allowed me the freedom to explore a number of different career paths, without committing more than a year to each or being tied down to one job description.
The programme certainly provides positive exposure. Senior management are aware of your work, and the programme offers a platform to impress them so you can progress faster in your career. During my experience, I’ve learnt that you get back what you put in. Meetings with my mentor to discuss my personal challenges and development goals were hugely beneficial and insightful. Personally, I found it more useful to have a mentor within a different functional unit (rather than in my direct reporting line), as I could seek unbiased advice, but that’s not to say this would be best for everyone.
The opportunity to work abroad was a big plus for me. I love travelling and visiting new places, so getting the chance to live in the Netherlands was a huge incentive. While adjusting to a new job and country wasn’t necessarily the easiest period, my year in Maastricht was one of the most enjoyable experiences of the programme because I absolutely loved the culture and city.
One of the most challenging aspects is adjusting to a new rotation. Coming out of my first placement I felt I’d really proved my worth, and to go back to square one again was difficult. However, it develops you into a more adaptive and rounded employee. I found the best way to cope with this was by maintaining a good work-life balance and maximising the use of my holiday allowance. Reaching out to other graduates and getting to know them outside of work was also helpful; often you’ll find that they are in the same position as you.
I’d advise all new graduates to be patient; the programme isn’t about achieving straight away. Take time to understand the business and get to know those around you - your achievements will follow. In the long term, your value to JM will show as a result of building a strong network within the company. At the same time, don’t be afraid to challenge your objectives. If you think you're capable of more, voice your opinion. At first, managers might not know what you’re capable of, so it’s down to you to positively influence their expectations.