Northwestern Mutual announced plans this week to recruit more than 5,000 finance professionals in 2012–the life insurance company’s largest recruiting effort in its 155-year history.

The Milwaukee-based company seeks 2,400 financial representatives and 3,000 financial representative interns. Significantly, against a backdrop of high U.S. unemployment along with a shortage of job creation, Northwestern Mutual expects that more than 50% of the new financial representatives will be career changers.

One in three Northwestern Mutual interns convert to becoming full-time employees, and 45% of field leaders started out as interns, according to a company spokesperson.

“We’re seeing an uptick in energized professionals who are looking for new opportunities to grow in their professional lives and who are immediately attracted to the opportunity to work with an industry leader,” said Steven C. Mannebach, vice president of field growth and development, in a statement. “These career changers are motivated by the rewards, both personally and professionally, of helping people shape and execute plans to realize their life goals.”

Northwestern Mutual’s representatives work with clients to build financial security plans that include solutions for protection and growth. Plans can include any combination of life, disability, long-term care, annuities and investments such as mutual funds. Representatives also address  areas such as estate planning, succession planning, retirement solutions and trust services.

In 2011, Northwestern Mutual recruited more than 2,200 financial representatives, representing a 55% increase over its results five years prior, according to a story in AdvisorOne sister publication LifeHealthPro.