Submitted by: Shenneth Dove-Morse

Name: Joanna Cole
Title: Director of Campus Selection
Company: Northwestern Mutual

cole joanna. 2011

Q: Can you briefly describe what you do at Northwestern Mutual?
A: I’ve been working for Northwestern Mutual for over five years.  When I first started with the company, I worked on recruitment for our internship program, full time positions, and did behind-the-scenes paperwork.  As the company evolved, I started working with Northwestern Mutual’s Managing Partner, Stephen Guinan, to grow the programs.  I realized I was more suited to have a singular focus, and transitioned to running recruiting for the internship program for Eastern Pennsylvania between our four offices.  I am based out of our office in King of Prussia.  We have three districts: Scranton, Lehigh Valley and Lancaster.  Another colleague now does recruiting for full time positions.  We also now have a recruiting coordinator who has become my go-to person help with marketing and other tasks.

Q: I noticed that you began your career as a teacher.   How did you transition from teaching to a career as a financial services recruiter?
A: I come from a family of teachers: my Mom and other family members teach.  People tend to go down the same career path as their family, and I did that though I didn’t initially think of myself as a teacher.  I taught preschool for two years after I graduated from Shippensburg University.  Over time, I felt that I was missing something professionally while going into the classroom every day though I cherished my time with the kids. 

I knew someone at Northwestern Mutual who asked me if I would be interested in working for the company.  I believe that when opportunities come your way, you shouldn’t turn them down.  So, I went into the company thinking it would be an opportunity to practice and improve upon my communications skills, but I fell in love with the company’s mission.  My role with Northwestern Mutual still has a teaching aspect to it.  I went from teaching 5-year-olds to teaching college students about our internship program and recruiting them.

Earlier today at a recruiting event, an intern asked me, “Hey, do you remember me? I met you last year; I did an internship with Northwestern Mutual and loved it.  I am so grateful for the opportunity.”  I told the intern that his statement made my day.  I knew that professionally, I had to do something I am passionate about and feel like I’m helping people.  I want to make sure our interns are getting exposure to allow them to be set on a path to figure out what they want to do within Northwestern Mutual or elsewhere.  I want interns to grow and mature as professionals while in our program.

Q: What advice would you offer college students or young professionals who may want to work in your field?
A: My advice would be:

  1. You don’t ever want to burn bridges.  You don’t know how someone could be a resource to you in the future or how you could be a resource to them.
  2. Be mindful of The Six Degrees of Separation.  Between LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and all of the other social media sites, we are so much more connected to each other than ever before.  It’s more like Three Degrees of Separation than six.
  3. Always act like someone is watching you so you make the right decisions.  It takes a long time to build a professional reputation, but one action is all it takes to tear it down.
  4. Network yourself.  I’ve obtained my past two professional roles through people in my network.  A lot of people today get their jobs through their network.  You can’t be fake about it though.  You have to do genuine relationship building within your community.  Personal recommendations go farther than anything else in this environment.

Q: What do you enjoy most about living in Philadelphia?  Feel free to name more than one thing.
A: I live in Center City.  I had never been to Philadelphia until college when I visited friends from the city while in school.   Living in Philadelphia challenges and educates me.  The city has so much to offer for every type of person.  Philly has great restaurants, sports, art, food festivals, and museums among other things.  I enjoy taking runs over the Ben Franklin Bridge and to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  Philadelphians have so much passion for everything they do.  It’s hard not to fall in love with the city.   

Q: What has been your favorite YPN event so far and why?
A: From what I’ve observed, the YPN here is more structured and active than you will find in other places.  This makes YPN a great asset to young professionals in the city.  My favorite YPN event was a networking event I attended over a year ago which featured one of the main developers of the Philadelphia International Airport.  I love travel and learning about how things are built, so I found the discussion at that event fascinating.  Philadelphia’s airport is at a crossroads because we are a city that is growing, but geographically, there isn’t room for the airport to grow along with the city at this point.  The developer discussed this issue along with proposed options for what the airport could do in the future to solve this problem.

Q: YPN has a professional development bookshelf. Is there a book that you are currently reading or have read in the past that you would recommend?
A: I recommend the book, Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy  by John Gordon, which is a quick read.  The book’s concept is really cool because it shows people how to appreciate what they have.  The author talks about personal experiences which led him to come to the realization that his negative thinking was attracting negative outcomes into his life.  He described people we’ve all confronted at some point who are perpetually negative (energy vampires) and how to change that type of behavior is not ideal.  Don’t be that person who when asked how they are doing will always have a negative answer or complaint.  I definitely agree with the book that negativity attracts negative things and positivity attracts positive things.  The book can definitely shed some light on how readers can become more positive.

Q: Tell me about one of your unexpected hobbies, talents or skills that would surprise most YPN members.
A: I think people would be surprised to know that one of my hobbies is scrapbooking.  I love giving scrapbooks, collages and other mementos as gifts.  I’m always taking pictures.  It’s my way of showing the people in my life that I love and appreciate them.