Northwestern Mutual

Karen Dry

Read how Karen used her biggest professional setback as a springboard to success — and became a Northwestern Mutual financial representative faster than anyone believed possible.

Karen Dry

Karen Dry is not your typical financial representative. In fact, given a professional résumé that includes managing a small hotel, growing a printing company from three to 300 employees and running an interior design firm with multi-million dollar contracts around the globe, you might say she’s one of a kind. If anything, she understands what it takes to succeed and how to overcome adversity through sheer perseverance. It’s a life skill she’s been applying since 2009 at Northwestern Mutual, where her track record for success is helping clients succeed as well.

Rapid Riser

While the adage “slow and steady wins the race” usually proves true, Karen Dry is a notable exception. Motivated by an entrepreneurial spirit and a drive to succeed, she’s risen quickly through the ranks to become a top performer. Within weeks of interviewing in 2009, she passed her exam and was on a fast track to building a solid team and a substantial client base. And she still has the pedal to the metal.

In Her Own Words

Making a Difference

For me, the moment of truth comes just before I walk through a prospect’s door for the very first time. When you imagine walking through the same door at some point in the future to deliver a claim, the factfinding becomes very personal. You realize if you don’t do your homework and ask the right questions, people can suffer. That’s powerful motivation to do the best job possible.

Career Rewards/Challenges

There’s no doubt that money is one of the perks of this business. If you’re willing to work hard, it can be very lucrative. Aside from this, there’s the flexibility to work when I want, as hard as I want. I was an entrepreneur before this because it allowed me to raise my kids and work family into the mix. I get the same freedom here and like the fact that I’m in control of my success.

Sometimes just doing the right things to administer a benefit provides tremendous solace for clients and their families. I recall helping one client, who had brain cancer, get his financials in order. He even gave me a to-do list. At his funeral, it was a little astonishing to have family, friends and complete strangers come up and thank me for the job I had done to put them in a good financial place. It’s comforting to know you’ve helped people get through times like these.

I came into this business late, after my biggest professional setback. It was the first time I had experienced such a loss — going from $10 million in interior design contracts to a negative cash flow practically overnight when the Great Recession hit. Needless to say, with three kids in college and major debt accumulating, it was devastating; and the thought of moving on was overwhelming. Fortunately, my brother, a rep for over 15 years, recommended Northwestern Mutual, and within weeks I was working. I had to roll up my sleeves and put my nose to the grindstone to finish the training and pass my exam as fast as I did, but I did it. Overcoming this challenge is one of my proudest accomplishments.

Career Advice

The sooner you embrace the culture and the process, the faster you’ll succeed in this business. Soak up as much as you can, and take advantage of all of the resources Northwestern Mutual has to offer. You can do it if you’re motivated, whether it’s the money or something else that drives you.

While some may see it as a challenge to be a woman in a predominantly male industry, I think it’s an advantage. For most women, we tend to be inquisitive by nature and can ask the uncomfortable questions in a way that gets clients to open up more. I call it “peeling back the layers of the onion,” and it’s a skill that helps us to learn more about our clients, their needs and how we can take care of them.

Learn More About Karen Dry

To learn more about Karen Dry, visit her website