When Jaqilyn Graff ’18, a personal financial planning alumna at Cal State Fullerton’s Mihaylo College, interned with financial services firm Northwestern Mutual in Irvine in her junior year, she gained the skills and support she needed to prepare for a career in the financial advising industry.
In August 2018, after being named a top 15 intern at Northwestern, Graff began a full-time position with the company in West Los Angeles.
The December 2018 newsletter of the CFB Board Center for Financial Planning, an industry publication, featured Graff as their sponsor spotlight.
Graff discusses the impact of her internship and Mihaylo College education, along with her career objectives and advice for young professionals seeking intern opportunities.
What were the highlights of your Northwestern Mutual intern experience?
The biggest highlight about the Northwestern Mutual’s intern program was that we did the same things I do in my full-time role, it was just part-time since I was going to school.
They develop us to call on clients and potential clients and have us sit in meetings with senior advisors. We had the opportunity to build a clientele while we were still in school. All the licenses we needed were paid for. They are big on developing interns to be great advisors.
I enjoyed having an internship that wasn’t just printing, copying papers and getting coffee. This was my job during my last two years of school. I didn’t tell people “Hey, I have this internship,” but “I have this career I’m starting.”
Working in personal financial planning offers the opportunity to help others, but it can also be hard work and long hours. What is your day like?
It is getting to the office early and working late, with mornings and evenings spent doing administrative work, such as answering emails and preparing for meetings, since I don’t have my own assistant.
In the morning, we have an hour of development, helping us perfect ourselves on such things as how we are speaking to clients or what we know about various plans. Then there is an hour to 90 minutes of calling on potential clients and making the phone calls needed for the day.
From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., it is meeting one-on-one with clients, either for the first time and learning what they’ve done financially and what is important to them, or the second or third meeting in which we’re helping them implement a plan or reviewing a plan.
The last few hours are spent wrapping up the day and getting ready for tomorrow.
The biggest challenge is also the biggest high point: taking interpersonal risks to ask people to trust you and take a meeting with you. It takes a lot of courage to move people to action on their finances. But it is very rewarding, and your clients become your friends over time.
I have clients now who will send me messages on things going on in their lives, such as having a baby, and in a sense, I get to be part of their family.
You grew up in Victorville, about 100 miles from campus, and your father was a police officer for 32 years. Your family’s experience has played a central role in your desire to pursue personal financial planning and use the field to specifically assist first-responder families. How did this come about and what are your goals?
There was nothing to do in Victorville growing up. The cool thing to do was going to the movies or bowling alley. It is a drive-through town on the way to Las Vegas, so I left as soon as possible, moving first to Orange County, where I attended Mihaylo College.
I always knew I wanted to work in finance but didn’t know much about personal financial planning until I interned at Northwestern Mutual. But once I found out more, the field excited me.
My family could have benefited so much from having a conversation with a financial advisor early on. It became my personal goal to help families as much as possible since my family didn’t get the help we needed.
From my dad’s experience, I understand what first-responder families go through daily. I’ve set my sights on helping as many of those families as possible, and I currently specialize in this at Northwestern. I feel these families are underserved in their personal finances.
What was the high point of your Mihaylo College experience?
I was part of the certified financial planner (CFP) program under Finance Professor David Nanigian, and that was the best thing I could have done at Mihaylo College. I found out about the program when I first started at Northwestern Mutual and knew it would help so much because I could get my bachelor’s in finance while finishing the CFP courses that I needed to sit for the exams when I got out of school.
Most young professionals get their bachelor’s and then do the courses outside of school that they need for their CFP exam. This set me ahead of everyone in my age group in this career.
What is your advice for fellow students or recent alumni interested in finance internships?
Go for it and give it your 110%. I ended up being a Top 15 intern at Northwestern Mutual by taking it very seriously and giving it all my effort. You can’t do an internship or job halfway and expect to know if you’re good at it or like it. You have to put everything you have into it and decide if you like it.
Don’t just show up and kind of do the work. Work hard in your internship because that’s when you learn and grow.
For More on Personal Financial Planning
The Mihaylo College personal financial planning program is listed among Financial-Planning.com’s 102 schools for financial planning education. The program offers professional development and networking opportunities.