How a First-Gen Student Gained Valuable Experience Interning with Athene
Athene USA is proud to offer a comprehensive, fast-paced intern program for the next generation of talent in the financial services industry — all right here in Greater Des Moines (DSM). Members of the 2023 Athene internship class were asked to share their experience and why a Des Moines-based company was the place they chose to spend their summer.
Jordan Anderson, who shares his experience below, is a senior at the University of Iowa and a first-generation student. Over the last four years, he applied to college and found an internship all while navigating unforeseen challenges and obstacles of being a first-gen student.
As a first-generation student, the biggest challenges I had were some of the things that would appear simple to most, starting with the college application process. I knew I needed the right education to gain important professional experience, including internships. I quickly learned the challenge wasn’t just the application process, but even “smaller” tasks including finding a dorm and adapting to a new living environment. I did not have a family figure to ask questions, which added a level of uncertainty and nerves. I knew I had to start small, and after taking a few baby steps and researching how to even begin the process, I was fortunate enough to find resources from my high school and the university. A feeling of relief washed over me, and I knew I could reach my goals.
After freshman year, I continued to face new challenges including housing off campus — I was learning how to communicate with landlords and the various documentation needed to sign a lease. Many of these experiences were new to all college students, but I had the added challenge of navigating without previous knowledge to learn from friends and family. Not to mention the reason I was there; academic adjustment was a priority, but luckily one of the easier obstacles. I have always been prepared and excelled in school. I would say all my struggles resided more around college life.
Over time, the adjustment to school became easier and my priorities shifted. When I was searching for internships, the biggest obstacle I faced was figuring out who to look at and where to look. The job search can be overwhelming with too many options, and I didn’t know where to start. I had an idea of what I wanted to do, but I was unsure on how to find the right connections. Being a first-generation student, I had to pave my own path. Luckily, I heard about Athene through students and professors, and I knew I needed to apply.
After hearing amazing things about the company, I dove headfirst into the application. The interview process was seamless, which in turn showed their dedication toward recruiting diverse, young talent. I knew being a first-generation student wasn't going to limit my opportunities within the business. I was honored to be offered an internship position for summer 2022, and I enjoyed it so much I came back in 2023.
One of my favorite things about Athene was the opportunity to change teams when I returned for my second internship. Experience and flexibility are important to me because I value variety, especially during my college years. I am proud to say I created my own professional foundation through these experiences.
At the beginning, the process was daunting. I knew the first step was college but then all the decisions to follow were going to present new challenges and obstacles. Getting the right internship was a priority, on top of getting good grades and meeting new people. I wanted to have a full experience even though my background was different than most students I sat next to in my classes.
I attribute my success to the support system I had along the way. In high school, I was lucky enough to be in a program that helped educate me on the college process — from FAFSA and scholarships to all the documentation I needed to complete my application. The program also took us on college visits, so we were able to see the different Iowa campuses. This was such a great program, and it was nice to have that support in my corner.
As I completed my internship, being involved in community events helped me stay engaged with other college-aged students and connect to community leaders and executives. I attended several DSM Intern Connection events throughout the summer, obtaining the Community Leadership Certificate for attending.
Although all first-generation experiences differ, I was fortunate to be provided with some incredible opportunities. I faced each new challenge with the mindset that I could accomplish any goals I set. I developed mental resiliency that I will take with me through my next endeavors.
If you’re interested in an internship with Athene during summer 2024, learn more at athene.com/internships.
Job opportunities and career resources are abundant in Greater Des Moines (DSM). Whether you're looking to find an internship, a job, develop professionally or grow as a student, we have the resources to help you thrive.