Class of 2010
Internships look great on a resume, but according to Western senior, Nathan Donohue, they more importantly provide you with the hands-on experience that prepare you to do well once you land your first job position. Donohue describes his experience as an intern for Northwestern Mutual as the capstone to his education as a finance major- the opportunity to go beyond what he has learned in the classroom to mold it to real-word expectations and applications.
A native to the Pacific Northwest since the age of twelve, Donohue says he was grateful to grow up and attend school in Washington. As a graduate from Monroe High School in 2006, he decided upon Western not only for the credentials of the business school but also because he loves the outdoor, recreational activities surrounding the campus.
Donohue describes his interest for finance stemming from the multitude of variables that go into running the economy- everything from politics, to moral values, to normative expectations on the different exchanges of currencies. He says throughout his financial education, how intriguing it is to see how different Americans value companies and their own personal investments. However, the avenue within the field of finance he enjoys most is personal financial planning. "I want to fill in the gaps of misunderstanding for people about their investments and spending habits," says Donohue. According to Donohue, this interest is met by his internship with Northwestern Mutual.
It was through networking at the Career Services 2008 Fall Career Fair that Donohue landed his current internship. This was the first career fair he had attended at Western, and in hindsight, he wishes he had been better prepared for the recruiter interviews and resume checks. "There is a lot of psychology and planning that goes behind a formal resume and face-to-face interview," Donohue says. "The more prepared you are the better."
He reiterates the importance of dressing appropriately for an interview, as it makes an impression upon your future employer that you take your job seriously. His inspiration for professional attire is his internship boss, who even after years in the insurance field, continues to dress to the hilt in a suit and tie everyday to work. Beyond showing fashionable class, dressing properly illustrates you care about the professionalism of your job, Donohue explains.
While dressing the part helped Donohue present a professional appearance to his recruiters, it was his clear and organized responses to a series of interviews and an online questionnaire that ultimately landed his position as an interning insurance agent/financial broker for Northwestern Mutual.
A typical day for a finance intern like Donohue begins at 8 a.m., when he prepares his caseload of interviews and meetings for the day. This mostly involves setting up and confirming appointments with clients. From 10:30 a.m. to around 5:30 a.m., Donohue is out networking with his clients at places like the Bellingham Chamber of Commerce. "I try to spend as little time as possible in the office, and rather am out talking and working with people as a representative for my company," he explains.
Getting to hear people's financial stories and having the education to help them build solutions for their money problems is the highlight of these client interactions, Donohue says. "What I love most is the trust my clients place in me to take care of their finances." For example, I have a client in her 50s who trusts my judgment as to where to put her hard-earned retirement money. It is so great to see how I can responsibly impact someone's future."
While his academic major has provided him with the vocabulary and discourse to converse well in the financial arena, a lot of Donohue's skill success is a result of on-the-job training. He said qualities of a good intern are "self-motivation and drive." "You put into it what you get out of it," Donohue says about his internship. "You are the one pushing yourself to a higher standard, but you are also expected to a level of accountability." Donohue meets with his intern leader twice a week and experiences healthy, motivational competition between his fellow interns to keep business flowing.
But competition and teamwork is nothing new to Donohue, thanks to his background as an athlete. He participated as a member in Western's men's Crew team (06-07) and currently competes with the Western Body-Building and Strongman club. Learning how to motivate yourself and your teammates to perform well in competition carries over successfully into the workplace, Donohue explains. "To move up a weight or do a certain lift, one often has to do whatever it takes," he says. "Transferring this to the work environment, in order to get five more clients, there are certain equations you have make happen."
A few role models in his life, one including his mentor/intern boss, Paul Twedt, in part impacts Donohue's success as an intern and his career drive. "He [Twedt] is such an illustration of professionalism and a man that still loves what he does for a living even after years in the insurance and investment industry," Donohue commented about his boss. At first, Donohue was interested in the area of financial analysis. But after working with his mentor in his current internship, Donohue is now considering the financial advisory role because of the higher social interaction.
Currently his internship has him working shifts almost comparable to a fulltime employee for the company, Donohue says. He says he appreciates the generosity of Northwestern Mutual for both providing an environment that he still enjoys coming to work for and can see potentially growing with in the future.
Reflecting back upon his internship, Donohue says that above-and-beyond anything you can do, getting hands-on experience will give you the taste of your intended career field. "I do almost the exact thing my boss does," Donohue says. In regards to his internship with Northwestern Mutual, the company hires interns even outside the finance major. Therefore Donohue advises to other students: "Don't limit yourself based on your major at school- go for the position anyways if it interests you. Many times recruiters are more looking for people with outgoing personalities and passion. The rest can be taught."
Donohue's career philosophy for students is that opportunities are worth the shot- you just have to have faith in your own capabilities to rise to the challenges you meet with confidence, etiquette, pride and hard work. "Sky's the limit for those who want it" says this intern with a smile. For someone who is already an active recruiting member for his intern company, with the praise and proud recommendation of his boss, one could say Donohue is taking his own advice. -Interview By Jenna Hall
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