Merit Eickhoff, Fitness fanatic, horizon expander, rock in stormy seas for friends and family. Business and management student, future-oriented, goal-focused, made for HR, networking superstar. Corporate Student International Management, Bertelsmann, Gütersloh.
"I want to leave my footprint"
"It’s important to me that projects carry my signature and that I’ve made a difference", says Merit Eickhoff, explaining what motivates her. "Winning someone over to do something that I find exciting myself is what makes projects exciting for me. In my view, success is when you have set your own goal and achieved it – although it’s not always about the fact that you have achieved it, but how you did that!"
Merit Eickhoff is currently completing a dual studies program with Bertelsmann. Together with twenty other students from the company, she is in her third year of the course in International Management, studying towards a BA in economics and business administration. The degree program involves an in-house apprenticeship as an industrial clerk, working in various departments within Bertelsmann, and a theoretical component at the Bertelsmann Berufskolleg in collaboration with the University of Applied Sciences for Economics and Management in Essen.
Merit has just been contributing her ideas at the Ethics & Compliance Department at Bertelsmann’s Corporate Center. Within the context of Responsibility and Compliance, the emphasis is on legislation, regulations and directives, with a view to fostering a corporate culture where people from all kinds of backgrounds feel welcome.
For Merit, working on compliance-risk analysis, whistle-blower systems and compliance communication has become part of her daily routine. The focus here is on avoiding legal risks and their consequences.
"My colleagues in the department appreciate that we dual-study students bring in fresh blood and a new approach, so we can help them rethink and streamline some of their existing processes."
Merit likes to spend her free time with a good book: "I’m crazy about reading. Whenever I go on vacation, I always have a good book with me so I can really relax. I also like going for a run or swimming. On the other hand, every time I have been at the university a lot and reading all day anyway, then I prefer to just sit in front of the TV and watch a series or a movie." At the moment she has had to put reading on the back burner as she finishes up her studies.
The course runs for a total of three and a half years, with the apprenticeship part being completed in the first two years. "At the end of our third year, we’re all traveling to Berkeley in California for a summer school, where we will take part in the course program there and also take some exams", says Merit. "We also have the opportunity to take courses there that aren’t necessarily related to economics or business management. So we can broaden our horizon and expand our field of knowledge. For example, I will be taking a course on conflict management, because it’s something I’m very interested in." And, of course, the self-confessed fitness fanatic is also looking forward to going for a run on Pacific Beach.
Once Merit returns from her studies abroad, it will be time to work on her bachelor thesis. "I’m currently leaning toward staying in human resources and perhaps focusing on HR strategy. That also fits with my bachelor thesis, which I will be writing on employer branding." She’s already drafted an outline for it. "As a little girl I always wanted to be a wedding planner and I often watched that movie on DVD. When I think about it, it all still fits somehow. With employer branding, you build networks and organize events to bring people together. That is my dream job, and a wedding planner actually does pretty much the same thing. It’s just that now it’s in the context of HR and talent acquisition."
Her studies and the insights she has gained working within the Bertelsmann Group have helped Merit tremendously in her decision to go into HR.
"In the almost four years I’ve been here now, I have worked at eleven different departments in total – which is quite something!"
"It’s perfectly normal, though, since Bertelsmann has this rotation system, where you change department every three months, so you get to know different parts of the company. After that, you have a pretty good idea what you like doing and what you don’t." Merit really enjoyed the rotation and has learned a lot in the process: "What was especially rewarding for me was not only to get to know a lot of different fields and subject areas, but also to be able to work together with so many different people. I had to work my way into various teams and build up contacts to be able to manage things well", she says, "and that’s exactly what I find so fascinating about human resources: You’re always working with people." A natural networker, Merit really thrives on communication. But she also liked the fact that there are few standard workflows, since each person is different.
After completing her degree, Merit definitely wants to stay with Bertelsmann. "I’d really like to continue working within the HR department here", she says. It’s where she feels most comfortable. "The environment here is very warm and friendly, very much like a family. It’s a nice place to work and you’re made to feel really welcome."
Later on she would also like to go on to do a master’s degree. "I definitely want to do that to gain a stronger theoretical footing in this field. There is so much more to learn. In principle, however, I think it’s important to keep in touch with the company that has provided your training and has given so much. I have found nice colleagues here and supervisors who are always there to help me move forward." Bertelsmann therefore holds a special importance for Merit: "Even if I was to leave the company one day, it will never completely disappear from my life. It will always be a part of me."