Blake Weeks
Junior, Finance
Aurora, CO
I started at CU-Boulder as an integrative physiology major and was part of the pre-professional program for medicine. In my freshman year, I decided to make the switch to finance. I didn’t see myself in medicine because it didn’t fit my personality. I love interacting with people–-and in medicine, you interact, but not at a relationship level. In high school, I was a member of DECA and was the state champion. So, I figured I’d follow what I’m good at and finance always felt natural to me.
I went to the CU-Boulder career fair in the midst of figuring out my change in major, and I met someone from Northwestern Mutual; it sounded like a great opportunity to be a part of a top 10 internship in the nation. It is a really solid company and I thought it would be good for my resume. It is a senior-level internship, and I wasn’t going to apply, as I was only a freshman at the time. I was talking to the Director of Development at Northwestern Mutual about what I needed to do and learn in order be a solid candidate for the internship in the future. I learned that it may be more difficult for me than it is for college seniors, since they have learned more, tend to have more mature networks, and are more experienced when it comes to internships (many of them having done other internships in the past), but I think my perseverance helps a lot. I was given the opportunity to start the internship as a sophomore. I live by the motto that nothing is worth having or worth doing unless it requires effort, hard work and difficulty.
I am a College Financial Representative. As a college student, I am creating a book of business. I do a lot of the same things that full-time financial representatives do. I already have 10 full clients ranging from college-aged to people in their 60s. I like that Northwestern Mutual is a one-stop shop, which offers savings, investment and insurance plans. It all starts with picking up the phone– during the summer, I made 200 calls a week, which leads to scheduling around 25 to 30 meetings, and from there, I take people through the process of identifying how I can be of assistance and establishing myself as a resource to them personally, professionally and financially. Out of 100 people I know, I might schedule 30 initial meetings, and out of those, I might have 10 new clients. In the end, it becomes a numbers game.
When I was in the recruiting phase, I took a personality test that helped me figure out if the position made sense for me and if I was right for the position. After that, I went through numerous interviews with current staff in Denver, Boulder and the Denver Tech Center. After I was hired and I passed my Life, Accident and Health licensing exam, I started learning about the different products and how each product brings benefit to a specific person. We did a week-long intensive training in Denver, where I took in as much information as I could. I also learned how to call people and how to network. Now that I am in the position, there is continual coaching on a weekly basis. I sit with the Director of Development and learn more about strategy and products. It is more refined training, with an individual focus. I also get to sit with my individual mentor to talk about specific cases, numbers and to get advice. This industry is constantly evolving and people have so many options, so I have to know the best way to help. I’m continually working alongside my mentors out in the field and in meetings, as they are my business partners. I am able to work with anyone in the company from the College Unit Directors to the Managing Directors. It really is a family and everyone is here to support you and help you succeed. When I am meeting with potential clients, I can choose to go alone or if it is something more complicated, I can bring in a mentor.
I have an entrepreneurial mindset, so I am attracted to being in control of my own projects and business. The number of people that I have met through my position also amazes me. In broadening your social circle, you can find a connection to people somewhere. I love that it is totally hands-on and that I am in the field learning from others. This is a top 10 internship and people respect that. Northwestern Mutual also paid for me to get my license in life and health insurance. I am currently working on my Series 7 Exam (about securities), which Northwestern Mutual will sponsor as well.
That is definitely an opportunity that I see myself taking advantage of for as long as I can. It would be tough to leave something I like and a culture where everyone is so supporting. The culture really is a family. With this position I get actual experience in the field and have knowledge that 99% of people in the country don’t have. Even if I decided to leave, I have a base and skills that I can take to another position as well as my life in general.
As a high school junior, I was looking at Pepperdine and UCLA. My mom encouraged me to check out an in-state school as well. I had not been here before, and I instantly fell in love with the campus and the people. I also liked that CU-Boulder was well-known and respected and had everything to offer. I decided to apply here my junior year of high school. I am paying for part of my own school, and it is easier to do that with an in-state tuition. I also received one of the CU-Boulder Esteemed Scholarships, which was a big plus. Hopefully, through the success of my internship, I can pay for college and graduate debt free.
I continue to push myself to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. You are not going to grow if you’re not willing to say yes to opportunities just because they seem difficult or out of your comfort zone. You need courage to take the plunge. My career right now is based on the courage to pick up the phone and make a call. I sit down to meet with people who range from making $10 per hour to $800,000 per year. I think courage is the biggest thing, but learning to make connections and networking to get to know people you wouldn’t otherwise meet is very important as well. It may not always be what you know, but also who you know that offers you the next opportunity to better yourself and your future.