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College internships: A win-win for life insurance and 20-somethings

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Economic recovery or not, there are still a lot of recent college grads who cannot seem to find full-time, career-oriented jobs.

A recent Gallup survey found that fewer young adults have full-time jobs this year compared to the last three years. Only 43.6 percent of people aged 18 to 29 worked full time in June 2013, down from 47 percent in June 2012.

Gallup Chief Economist Dennis Jacobe says employers are being cautious in hiring new employees and, in doing so, are opting for older, more experienced workers. Employers are also hiring more part-time workers in an effort to circumvent pending PPACA requirements. Under the law, employers with 50 or more workers have to provide health insurance for any employee working 30 or more hours a week. Having part-time employees working less than that can exempt companies from this requirement.

As young college grads continue to struggle to find full-time work, the life insurance industry remains in desperate need of an infusion of young talent. Can’t we find a feasible way to get these two groups together?

I remember talking about this problem last year at the Million Dollar Round Table annual meeting in Anaheim, Calif., to Don White Jr., CLU, ChFC, AEP. White lamented the fact that the industry has traditionally done a very poor job of advancing life insurance sales as a career and wondered how many recent grads with finance degrees were complaining they couldn’t find a job.

“We hear this all the time,” White said. “Why aren’t we, at every single college campus, promoting this career? I don’t understand it. I just don’t get it.” White’s comments were part of my six-part series last year on threats to the independent distribution channel. The graying producer workforce is a primary threat.

At least it is heartening to see the college grad recruiting efforts of some carriers are still going strong. In a recent alumni e-newsletter I received from the University of Wyoming Alumni Association, I was glad to see an item in there promoting Northwestern Mutual internship opportunities.

Since 1967, Northwestern Mutual has offered college students the opportunity to step into a career in financial services while they are still attending college. Upon completing requirements to obtain the state life and health insurance license and a one-week training course, college financial representatives begin to seek out clients. The interns are provided with weekly mentoring meetings, product and leadership training, and joint work opportunities to attend client meetings with veteran financial advisors. Because of this, Northwestern Mutual’s internship has been voted one of the U.S.’s “Top 10 Internships” every year since 1997 by the Vault Guide to Internships.

“Our goal for every one of our college reps is to provide them with the best professional experience they have had to this point in their lives. That way, they can apply everything they have learned to their future career, whether that is with our company or a different career,” says Jesse Jorgensen, director of development for the Northern Colorado/Southern Wyoming region.

The item in my alumni e-newsletter went on to provide testimonials from former interns who have gone on to successful careers in the insurance and financial services industry, and listed seven Wyoming grads now working full-time for Northwestern Mutual.

See also: Recruiting not a challenge for Northwestern Mutual

One particularly noteworthy individual in my region who took advantage of Northwestern Mutual’s college internship program several years back was Patrick Ireland, who is now thriving as the managing director of Northwestern Mutual’s Broomfield, Colo., branch, 14 years after becoming known as “The Boy in the Window” when he was shot during the Columbine High School shootings in 1999.

“I didn’t really know what I wanted to do then,” Ireland said in an interview earlier this year with Life Insurance Selling’s Managing Editor Corey Dahl. “I just knew I needed an internship and that I wanted to have a good experience. But as soon as I got a taste of what this career is like, I really enjoyed it. The people, the culture, the relationships — that’s what really drew me back to be a full-time financial representative.”

See also: Q&A video with Patrick Ireland

See also: A victor, not a victim

In January, Northwestern Mutual announced its most ambitious recruiting effort in the company’s 156-year history. The company is aiming to add 5,500 financial professionals — including both financial representatives and interns — in 2013. (Check out one of Northwestern Mutual’s “Day in the Life” YouTube videos.)

In 2012, the company surpassed its recruiting goal of 5,000 financial professionals, making it the second consecutive year that Northwestern Mutual has announced all-time highs for recruiting.

It’s not just recent college grads that Northwestern Mutual has its eye on. The company expects more than half of its new 2013 recruits to be career changers — professionals who believe they have reached the ceiling in their current occupation and are looking for an opportunity to grow.

While I’m happy to see experienced people trying life insurance as an “encore career,” it is particularly heartening to hear about the college recruiting efforts. In an industry where anyone under 60 is looked at as young, we can use all the twentysomethings we can get.

For more from Brian Anderson, see:

Banks are big in Latin America life insurance distribution

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