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Finding Your Place as an Intern

Young Professional Key Principles

October 18, 2021

Navigating your place as an intern can be hard. Carter Wadding, Athene sales intern, finds his way using three key principals:

  • Culture is about finding the right fit — not fitting in.
  • Your unique background and perspective is an asset — use it.
  • Soft skills ar¬¬e just an important as technical — fine-tune both.

It can be intimidating to start a new job, especially an internship. You are only at the company for a few months, and you want to make a good first impression knowing it may lead to a full-time job. You’re challenged to adapt to the culture, complete projects and get to know your co-workers and fellow interns in the timeline of 10 weeks.

As I look back on my internship at Athene, I realized my successful experience came down to three key principles that I believe any young professional could apply when navigating the search for internships or entry-level roles:

  1. Culture is about finding the right fit — not fitting in.
  2. Your unique background and perspective is an asset — use it.
  3. Soft skills are just an important as technical — fine-tune both.

Culture is About Finding the Right Fit — Not Fitting In

This process begins before the internship starts during the job-seeking phase. It is important to prioritize what you are looking for. For me, I knew I was interested in a job that was in the finance industry and was hoping to accept a position before spring semester, so I valued an early recruitment process. In addition, I knew I thrived in a fast-pace, competitive environment and when I interviewed with Athene, I realized our values aligned.

Through Athene, I had the opportunity to volunteer for Greater Des Moines Habitat for Humanity in a Greater Des Moines (DSM) neighborhood. This event allowed me to spend time with my fellow interns and support my community. Athene’s culture places an emphasis on giving back to the community and this mentality fits both my personality and my professional goals. Everyone will have different expectations and ways of living out the values of a company’s culture. But finding what is important to you and pursuing it through the lens of that culture is what can take your experience to the next level. Knowing this will make the interview process and internship more beneficial.

Your Unique Background + Perspective is an Asset — Use It

Although your major or area of study should not limit your options when searching for internship opportunities, it is important to consider how it may help you succeed. I’m studying finance but jumped at the opportunity to be a sales intern. I found that while my background in finance did not directly apply to my day-to-day tasks, it applied to the industry. Working in sales gave me a more holistic view of the industry, and I was able to actively apply the concepts I learned in school to navigate new situations.

Take annuities, for example. I’ve never learned how to sell an annuity during school — but I did learn the fundamentals of what an annuity is and its function. This simple background, while not focused on sales, helped me feel confident talking about Athene’s products and made me a better sales intern. You learn the most when you are challenged and, because I went outside my comfort zone, I gained valuable experience by stretching into a role that was outside of a traditional finance job.

Soft Skills Are Just as Important as Technical — Fine-Tune Both

This summer, I learned a lot of skills that applied to Athene and my job, but also learned many transferable skills that I plan to take with me into my senior year at Iowa State University and to future positions.

Three important skills I learned during my internship that I can apply in any professional situation include accountability, self-efficiency and honesty. Being accountable means doing your job to the best of your ability and abiding to agreed-upon expectations. Accountability goes hand in hand with self-efficiency. Employers value interns who are willing to think critically about possible resources and solutions before bringing a question to their leader. Being able to answer your own questions and suggest solutions instead of presenting problems shows independence and autonomy in the workplace.

Lastly, I learned how important it is to be honest. When I was on the phone with a producer, my goal was to be truthful and not hide facts to help figure out if Athene has the solution for the producer to suggest to the client. We were taught that sometimes Athene does not have the solution, and that is okay.

Overall, it can be intimidating starting a new position, but because I took the time to find a company that best fits me and my values, I was able to succeed beyond my everyday tasks. By being an active participant in my internship experience, I was able to own what I got out of the position and will be able to draw upon what I learned at Athene well beyond my summer internship.

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 Des Moines. Members of the 2021 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.

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.

Carter Wadding

Carter Wadding is a sales intern at Athene USA. He is a senior at Iowa State University studying Finance with an expected graduation of 2022.