Hello, my name is Anastasia Anastopoulos ’19 and I am from Saint Charles, Illinois. This fall I will be going into my senior year and I am a double major in marketing and management with a minor in sociology.
I am currently a college financial representative for Northwestern Mutual, working out of the Naperville, Illinois office. Northwestern Mutual’s college financial representative internship is currently ranked #5 in the Vault Guide to Top Internships. The company was founded in 1857 and has grown to more than 10,000 employees, of which 100 are interns! The overarching mission of Northwestern Mutual is, “to impact lives and build secure futures.” Everything we do aligns with the five core values of the company; abundance, integrity, loyalty, growth, and culture.
In the Naperville office, I am one of 11 summer interns from both small and large schools, public and private, pursuing degrees in a multitude of areas within the business field. As an intern, we have certain weekly expectations we must meet to ensure we are using our time in an efficient manner and making the most out of the internship experience.
In a given week we must have three joint work meetings or four “Fact Finders,” make 200+ dials and earn 25+ activity points. Joint work is when an intern brings in a full-time advisor on a meeting to learn from them and utilize their expertise. During Fact Finders, we attempt to uncover clients’ financial needs and goals. To get those meetings we must call people, which is why we aim to make 200 dials to our friends, family, and acquaintances every week. With each meeting kept, activity points are earned and used to measure how many meetings we are keeping on the books and the number of referrals obtained, which are needed to help us grow our practice.
A typical workday is as follows:
- 7:30 a.m. (Get into the office)
- 8 a.m. (Development meeting)
- 9 to 10:30 a.m. (Phoning to book meetings for the upcoming week)
- 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Meetings with prospects)
- 1 to 1:30 p.m. (Lunch)
- 1:30 to 5 p.m. (Meetings with prospects)
Monday mornings start with a mentor meeting, a terrific way to kick off the work week! During this time, I have the opportunity to meet with an established financial advisor to develop and sharpen my sales skills. We cover a variety of topics and address real-world issues that I have come to face with, as well as build my clientele and practice.
Tuesday and Friday mornings start a little bit earlier, 7:45 a.m., with what we call RACE. These brief 30-minute meetings serve as an accountability tool to help me establish habits early on that will ensure success throughout my internship. This is a time to reflect on where I am in terms of meetings for the week, dials, and activity points. Based on where I am activity wise on Tuesday, I make a game plan for what I would like to achieve for the week. When we meet again on Friday, I review how my week went and what I can do to finish the week on a strong note.
What goals have you met so far? What goals do you still need to meet? Have you changed any of your goals?
As I hit the median point in my internship, I have come to find passion and joy in the meaningful work I am able to do every day. I have met the goal of passing the exam for my Life Producer license, which was a huge accomplishment for me. I’ve also gained more knowledge on the different types of life and health insurance products, helping me to grow my areas of expertise. I am currently working towards writing five life insurance policies and doing more joint work with advisors within my agency at other offices, both of which I hope to accomplish by the end of September. Initially I wanted to reach 10 life insurance policies but have since lowered it to five, to focus more on developing meaningful connections with each client.
How has your perception of the internship/organization changed since you started the internship?
When I first began the internship, I thought the organization’s primary goal for me as an intern was to sell as many life insurance policies as possible. The company is very focused on the numbers behind everything, how many meetings we keep each week, referrals we obtain, and activity points we earn. However, I have learned that the numbers are only a small part of what is expected of us. The real drive behind the numbers comes from impacting the lives of those who we meet with. It all goes back to the mission of the company, to impact lives and build secure financial futures.
What steps have you taken to address the challenges and disappointments that you identified in your early journal entries?
As I have come to face challenges and disappointments, I continue to take them in stride. I have had some difficulty passing my Accident and Health Producer licensing exam, however, I am staying on top of my studying and hoping to pass on my next attempt. As for any challenges that I come to face in the office, such as not booking enough meetings, struggling to get referrals, etc., I have been confiding in my mentor to see how he has faced similar challenges and continues to stay optimistic. Overall, keeping a positive attitude and always keeping the end goal of helping other in mind.
What is surprising you about this internship?
I am surprised at all the opportunities that I have been given to grow as a young business professional. From weekly mentor and development meetings and fundamental building workshops, I continue to learn something new each and every day. Coming in I was worried that I would be seen merely as an intern, but everyone in the office treats me as an equal and as business colleague, which has been very encouraging.
What have you contributed to the organization?
I have contributed to the organization by bringing new clients in as well as offering fresh ideas. I was one of two interns in my office who was a part of the June training class. Coming in a few weeks behind all of the other interns in the office made it very difficult to get acclimated. I let my supervisor know this when doing my mid-summer review and was able to help them improve the experience for years to come.
What have you done that has made your supervisor’s life easier?
I have made my supervisor’s life easier by being independent. When I receive feedback from my supervisor, I am able to go and implement it to grow myself and my business. With that, my supervisor does not have to be constantly monitoring me and can trust me to get the job done. This has helped him be able to focus his time on more pressing matters, knowing I am doing what I need to be doing.
What have you learned from the routine or boring parts of the internship?
I have learned that there will be days when the 5 a.m. wake-up call is not fun. But by getting up and going into work every day, I have the ability to change people’s lives. The people I meet with are there to set up a policy to fund their child’s future education, give themselves a security net for when they reach retirement, and plan if a tragedy were to hit them.
What do you think are your strongest attributes as an intern?
I believe my strongest attribute as an intern is my consistent perseverance. It can become very discouraging because for every acceptance there is five “no’s” that follow. No matter how many people tell me no on the phone, I continue to make dials knowing that someone will say yes. For every “yes” that I receive and meeting I have with them, the closer I am to helping them meet their financial needs and achieve their financial goals.
What surprises have you had?
As my time as an intern progresses, I have been surprised by how few people have any type of life insurance. Often times I am surprised to learn in a “Fact Finder” that a prospect has never held any type of life insurance or does not hold a proper amount. I am surprised at my ability to understand a prospect’s financial needs and goals and be able to formulate a plan alongside a full-time rep according to those needs and goals, something I never thought I would have the knowledge to be able to do.
In what ways do you feel like you can improve your performance?
I feel as though I can improve my performance by narrowing my focus on a specific demographic. To start, I was “Fact Finding” my friends who are around my age. However, I believe the key market in need of my services are married couples, ages 25-30, who are both employed and thinking about starting a family in the near future. These are the people who have at least one person who is depending on them and would benefit from some type of insurance, if a disability or death were to occur unexpectedly.
How are you reacting to a bad day or disappointment? How would you like to react?
When I have a bad day on the phones or a couple of my appointments cancel, I tend to take it personally. I get down and blame myself for maybe not trying my hardest or finding fault in things I could have done better. I would like to react to these disappointments in a more proactive way. Instead of getting caught up in the discouraging feeling, I’d like to adapt my mind to be more growth oriented. To analyze what occurred, why it happened, and what I can do next time to ensure it won’t happen again.
Is your personality a fit for this organization? Do you notice particular personality types working in this industry?
After working in this organization for about two months, I do not believe my reserved personality is a fit for this organization. I tend to be timid and take rejection personally. Within the role of a Financial Representative Intern we must phone, where rejection is a daily occurrence. What I have come to learn is that I cannot take the rejection personally. There may be many reasons behind the person refusing to meet. They could have had a bad experience previously, may be having an off day, or may just not be interested. I have come to find that in order to succeed in this business you must have the ability to remove yourself from the rejection. Disability insurance, life insurance, and long-term care are not easy topics for people to discuss, so sensitivity and understanding are crucial.