Can an Internship Ignite a Lifelong Career?
How two professionals found powerful career paths as interns
“If I hadn’t participated in Northwestern Mutual’s internship program, I would probably be locked up in a dusty law office right now,” said Blue-Francis. “The program was so well structured that it fit in perfectly with my classes. Like an entrepreneur, I could customize my schedule and build my own business.”
Now a Northwestern Mutual financial representative, Blue-Francis, a native of Louisiana, noticed that there were few people who looked like her when she began her financial services career. And for her, that distinction ignited opportunities for career growth.
“About 90 percent of my clients are African-American and I have found the demand for trusted financial guidance is growing among our demographic,” she said. “It is hugely rewarding to be able to connect to my community and make a difference to those who might not have considered financial planning before.”
As one of Vault’s Top 10 Internships in America for the past 15 consecutive years, Northwestern Mutual’s internship program has long recognized the value and importance of providing real-world experience to financial representative interns. Almost 50 percent of the company’s field leadership, including managing partners and managing directors, began their Northwestern Mutual career as an intern.
Kevin Chadwick, a Northwestern Mutual managing director in Texas, is living proof of the powerful program. He leads an office of 50 professionals, including financial representatives, interns and staff.
“I never dreamed an internship would take me as far as it has,” said Chadwick. “As a financial representative intern, I had the ability to be in business for myself, but not by myself,” said Chadwick. “I teamed up with veteran field representatives and worked directly with clients to create a lasting impact in their lives.”
According to a recent Northwestern Mutual survey[i], more than half of African-Americans (58 percent) consider themselves to be “disciplined” or “highly disciplined” in their financial planning habits, but one out of four (27 percent) do not believe they are adequately financially prepared to live to age 85.
“Many African-Americans feel disciplined in their planning habits, which is great,” said Chadwick, “but there is still room for us to spread the word on the importance of secure financial plans for ourselves and future generations. Early in my internship training, I was told to ‘make an impact, not an impression’ and that is what I strive to do, every day, for my clients.”
Enormous Opportunities for Interns
Blue-Francis and Chadwick both embraced the benefits of a Northwestern Mutual internship: a flexible schedule, training, mentoring, and the opportunity for awards and recognition. Post-graduation, both launched successful financial services careers by utilizing the lessons gained from their internship experience.
Northwestern Mutual is looking to recruit more than 3,000 financial representative interns in 2012, the largest recruitment effort in the company’s 155-year history. The program, now in its 45th year, provides interns with a chance to test drive the financial representative career by allowing interns the opportunity to work hands-on with clients to develop financial plans and set future goals.
“Many clients work with the same financial representative for 30 or more years,” said Blue-Francis, “so many life-long client relationships can be formed during that critical internship time.”
Foundation for a Stronger Community
A career with Northwestern Mutual is about more than just serving clients. It’s also about having the work/life flexibility to serve the larger community. The company’s commitment to improve communities through volunteerism is another reason the Northwestern Mutual career stands apart from others. Blue-Francis gives back by honing her financial services knowledge and funneling it back into her community.
“I feel blessed to be able to teach financial literacy to students at the same high school I graduated from,” Blue-Francis said. “As a volunteer teacher in the Junior Achievement course, I am able to educate a younger generation on the importance of basic planning. Many of the students have never encountered these conversations before and providing them this knowledge gives them a head start toward future goals.”
Chadwick is equally passionate about community organizations and finds coaching youth sports helps him provide strong groundwork for a healthy future generation.
“In this career, you always want to assure your clients you’ll be there for them,” Chadwick said, “and the same is true for young people who may not have a constant positive influence in their lives. If you demonstrate your strength and resolve to be a positive influence, there is no limit to what they can achieve.”
What Others Say About Northwestern Mutual
- Vault: One of the “Top 10 Internships in America in 2011”
- FORTUNE magazine: One of the “World’s Most Admired Companies” in its industry in 2012
- Diversity Employers magazine: One of the “Top 100 Employers for the Class of 2012”
- Ratings agencies: Maintains the highest financial strength ratings awarded to any life insurer by all four of the major credit rating agencies.[ii]
- SNL Financial: Expects to pay nearly $5 billion in permanent life insurance dividends in 2012, more than the next two competitors combined. The company has paid dividends every year since 1872.[iii]
[i] Northwestern Mutual sponsored a series of studies to evaluate the state of financial planning among African-American college graduates and their progress toward reaching long-term financial goals. Independent research firm Ipsos conducted the online survey of 250 African-Americans aged 25 or older between June 5 and June 11, 2012 via a systematic random sample of U.S. adults. Results were weighted as needed to U.S. Census proportions for age, gender, marital status, household size, region and household income. A full methodology is available on request.
[ii] Moody’s Investors Service Aaa, 10/2011; A.M. Best Company A++, 4/2012; Fitch Ratings AAA (highest), 6/2012; Standard & Poor’s AA+), 6/2012. Ratings are subject to change.
[iii] SNL Financial, 2011. Dividends are reviewed annually, subject to change and not guaranteed.