How Northwestern Mutual Transitions Interns to Full-Time Roles
by Phil Stott
Over the past few months, we've featured a number of pieces focusing on the internship program at Northwestern Mutual—a program that consistently emerges as one of the top internships in the country in our annual ranking. To date, we've looked at everything from how the firm creates the internship experience to how they reward interns, and what it's like to actually be an intern there.
For many, however, the true mark of a great internship isn't just the things you learn or the connections you make—it's the opportunity it gives you to launch a full career. In the first piece I wrote about Northwestern, I touched on the fact that the firm sees its internship program as one of its major talent pipelines—an opportunity to identify and train a generation of advisors who will go on to enjoy long, successful careers with the firm.
Accordingly, for this piece, I spoke to Kristan Herman, a current financial representative at the firm, about her experiences on the internship, and how she felt it had prepared her for the full-time role:
PS: How/when did you find out about the internship?
KH: January, 2009. I was talking with my classmates and one of them mentioned her dad had been with the company for over 30 years and it had a Top 10 internship in the nation.
PS: Did you do/consider any other internships? What made this one stand out?
KH: I did, but it was 2009 and there wasn’t an abundance of internships available in light of the recent economic meltdown. When I heard this was a top 10 internship in the nation, it immediately piqued my interest and I applied online.
PS: How did it help to prepare you for the full-time position?
KH: I knew exactly what to expect since, as an intern, I had almost the same duties and responsibilities as a full time rep. I got to work jointly with reps who had been there from 2 to 25 years and gained much insight from them on what the career was like.
PS: At what point did you realize that you would like to make the transition to the full-time role?
KH: During my senior year, I looked at other opportunities but none of them seemed to have the same potential for the independence of being my own boss, impact to really make a difference in the lives of my clients, and income that would be in direct proportion with the level of service I would provide. I’m also thankful for the leadership development I have received from my leaders, and know that I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for them.
PS: How has the experience since joining the firm full-time differed from the internship experience?
KH: As both an intern and a full time rep, you’re in business for yourself, but you’re not by yourself. We get to represent the best company in the industry with little to no start up costs, which is amazing. However, the longer you’re with the company, the more you feel like a business owner since the responsibility gradually falls on you to hire staff, pay rent, and do what is necessary to provide the leadership your clients need while continuing to expand and help more people.
PS: Do you think the experiences you have had would prepare you for other careers, or are they specific to this role/company?
KH: Since I was an intern, my experience with NM has helped developed me not only professionally, but also personally and financially. I have had former interns tell me that from this hands-on experience they have gained invaluable knowledge about personal finance, while also learning how to persevere through much resistance and overcome rejection daily.
PS: What was the biggest challenge you faced on the internship?
KH: People telling me that they’re all taken care of and don’t want to "waste my time" by meeting. However, I knew that if they would be willing to meet with an open mind, by leveraging the expertise of my joint work partners, there was almost always something we could bring to them that would be valuable for them to know.
PS: Was it difficult to balance the internship with school/other priorities?
KH: Yes, I went back after the summer to being a full time student-athlete, so I took a break in the fall semester and then picked it back up after the season was over. It was very helpful to know that the work I put into it was directly correlated with what I got out of it. I also learned the importance of having a vision and knowing your "Why" in order to stay motivated.
PS: What are the best and worst parts of life at the firm?
KH: I am continually challenged and get to grow personally and professionally. However, being challenged is not always comfortable. Often times, it’s actually uncomfortable. But through persevering, I have gotten places that I couldn’t get otherwise. And that’s rewarding.
This piece was sponsored by Northwestern Mutual.