Northwestern Mutual

Paul Steffen, CLU®, ChFC®

Follow Paul’s career path since his internship, including what he says was the most rewarding experience–leading a network office.

Paul Steffen

In His Own Words

As a finance major with an accounting minor, I never thought I’d be selling financial products, but Northwestern Mutual really impressed me. They had a very formal internship curriculum, they were very well organized, I liked the people I met with, and there was a way to get paid. I interned my entire senior year in college and went full time in the September after graduation.

The internship was great – I learned so much about myself, about the world of work; so much about communicating in a professional way to prospects and clients about their financial needs and issues. I learned it’s important to first seek to understand before being understood. And if I did what I was taught to do in training, people would listen to me.

Advice to Intern Candidates

The reason you should do this is that most internships out there are just jobs – file that, research this – but ours is an experiential internship. The purpose is to give each candidate an opportunity to test-drive the financial representative career. It’s not a simulation, it’s the real deal. Two things happen – first, you get to list relevant and real experience on your résumé, and it sets you apart from a lot of other smart people who may be competing for the same job. Second, if you learn you like this and have an aptitude for it, what a head start. It is a win-win – you get to try it and either decide it’s not for you and have a wonderful experience, or decide it is what you want to do and create a significant head start.

The Internship Experience

I’ll never forget calling on a man in his 60s who was a college professor. He was the first really mature person I had spent any time with. Going through the process, I found he had some needs, and I was stunned that he ended up buying from me. Finally, when I delivered the policy, I had to ask him why he would do something like this with me. He said, “This is probably a really good sale for you, right? And I’m an important client for you?” When I energetically agreed, he said, “I bought from you for two reasons: Number one, you did a good job; you answered my questions, and you earned this business. But more importantly, I know you are going to take good care of me.” He gave me a great gift – I walked out of there thinking I had something unique to offer.

Best Experience Since Joining Northwestern Mutual

There are multiple things. The highest honor I’ve received in this company is the opportunity to lead a network office – only 80 people do that in the entire company. To be responsible for a group of financial representatives, to attract people into this career and be responsible for their training, growth, and development is a very high honor. In some ways I am now doing the same job here in Milwaukee for the distribution system.

As a field person, I learned pretty quickly that I didn’t have to worry about this company, and that’s a big deal with so much abuse of the consumer by the financial sector. I took great comfort and found it to be frankly unique that we had this benevolent mutual company that would actually put the interests of the clients first. When you are making promises that have to last 50-60 years – it’s very comforting that you don’t have to worry about the company that stands behind those promises. I am very fortunate and very lucky – I could have ended up anywhere, but I ended up in a place where honor, character, and values matter.

The other thing is you are provided the opportunity to grow every day – the company has provided the venue for lifelong learning and career-long growth. Embedded in all of that are these lifelong relationships with people I never would have known or met if not for the way we interact, learn, and grow together.

Best Advice Received

You learn only when you listen. I learn nothing when I’m talking. This career really is about asking the great questions and keeping yourself quiet and in tune with answers to the point you know what makes people tick and what their issues and values are. Then, armed with all of that, how do you tailor something for them that can make a difference in their life?

Surprising Fact

I collect baseball memorabilia. I’m most proud that I have something signed by every living member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.