My Internship with… Northwestern Mutual

As we’ve been doing for post-Bethel careers (and study abroad), we’ll occasionally highlight History majors at Bethel who are in the middle of or recently completed internships. Today we meet our second intern: Alex Bolt (’13), who has spent this summer with a branch of Northwestern Mutual, a leading insurance and financial services provider.

1. Why’d you decide to major in History, and at what point did you make that decision?

I decided to major in History during my freshman year at Crown College because I thought that if I’m going to be studying something for four years and possibly move into that career field, I better make sure I find something that is interesting to me and something that I enjoy learning about.

2. It can often be challenging to transfer to a new university. As someone who started their college studies at another school, what advice do you have for new transfer students at Bethel?

I would advise people to make sure that their credits transfer over to the new school before making any kind of commitment. Also, it can be pretty tough to get to know a lot of people when you have transferred, so make it a priority to get involved in clubs and organizations because they honestly do make a lot of difference in how someone’s social life goes at college.

3. You’ve had an interesting internship this summer. Can you talk about what you’ve been doing, and how you arranged the internship?

I’m doing an internship at The Columns Resource Group of Northwestern Mutual this summer as a Financial Representative. Basically, I help people build financial security for themselves and their families in a three-step process. First, I recommend different products like life insurance, disability income insurance and long term care insurance to help protect clients’ finances against the risk of dying too soon or becoming sick or disabled. Next, once we have a solid foundation for our clients, we move into the wealth accumulation phase where we help clients build up some funds to put toward things like retirement funding and college savings accounts (529 plans). Lastly, success in the wealth accumulation phase creates the need to preserve and distribute what our clients have built up. There are many different products, strategies, and tips that we can give to our clients, but as an intern, I am only licensed to sell life insurance, disability income insurance and long term care insurance. There is a significant sales aspect to the internship but we are focused on building and maintaining a relationship and adding value to the person before we recommend any products.

I got the internship at a job fair that the Bethel Career Services Department [recently renamed the Office of Career Development and Calling] told me about. I talked to the people at the Northwestern Mutual booth just because I heard that they had a great internship program but never expected to hear back from them because I was a History major with a mediocre resume. But a few days later, I got a call from them.

4. Would you encourage other students to look for internships? Any advice on how to set them up?

I would absolutely encourage students to look for internships; it makes a world of difference in the search for a good job. Internships give you experience, knowledge and something to put on a resume that looks good. For setting up good internship opportunities, I would take advantage of any opportunities like job fairs or networking meetings. Talk to your friends about their jobs/internships, talk to your parents about their companies, talk to your friend’s parents about what they do, etc. Networking is huge.

5. Do you expect to continue in this field after you graduate from Bethel? What draws you to that career?

I would love to pursue this career field after school because helping people financially is a very clear-cut, concrete way to serve people and everybody needs that kind of help. One thing that I have taken away from my internship is that even the wealthiest people that I’ve talked to need help with financial planning. The internship has actually helped me out a lot already. I went into my bank yesterday, struck up a conversation with the banker, and at the end of it, he told me to give him a call about a job after I was done with the internship. So no matter what career field you go into, doing an internship will take you to the next level in the job search.

6. People don’t often associate “History major” with careers in financial services… Why would you recommend majoring in a field like History (as opposed to Business) to students who want to work in that sector?

To people looking for a career in financial services, I would definitely recommend getting some business classes under their belt, but that’s not necessary from my experience. Getting a job is all about how prepared you are for the interview (always wear a suit), how you present yourself and how good your people skills are.

The cool thing about being a History major is that you get a real understanding of human nature, and the ability to relate to someone person-to-person is a lot more valuable than just being good with numbers and having a knowledge of the business world. That being said, business education is invaluable if you are planning on going into financial services, but not necessary. If you are going into any kind of sales career in financial services or anything where you are interacting with customers, you have to have great people skills and the in-depth understanding of human nature that comes with a History degree.

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