NJM’s Mitch Livingston shares how he leveraged his Rutgers degrees to find professional fulfillment
By Debbie Meyers
If you’re a full-time professional, you spend almost half your waking life at your job. Mitch Livingston’s philosophy about choosing and excelling at that job is simple: do what you love, love what you do. As president and CEO of NJM Insurance, Livingston RC’87, CLAW’90 feels good about coming to work every day. In his own words, he explains how he leveraged his undergraduate and graduate Rutgers education to find the perfect job for him—an ideal blend of economics and law, personal values and company mission, and work accomplishment and life fulfillment.
I’m a big school person
Coming out of Hunterdon Central High School [in Flemington, New Jersey], I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I chose Rutgers because I figured a big school with a lot of opportunities was a good place to start.
I’m a big school person and enjoy seeing different faces every day, so I was in a lot of clubs and took classes on different campuses since they all have such different feel and energy.
One of the first courses I took at Rutgers was microeconomics with Professor J. J. Seneca. He spoke to economics on a practical level, explaining the levers available to maintain a well-functioning economy and the economy’s role in maintaining and improving lives. He really sold me on economics.
I figured going to law school with an economics degree would help me in the future. I began and ended my law school search with Rutgers, based once again on quality and affordability, and enrolled in Rutgers Camden School of Law in 1987.
After graduation in 1990, I worked in the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office. New Jersey had recently passed major auto insurance reform under Governor Florio, so I worked long hours in state and federal courts all over New Jersey, defending the reforms.
Everything isn’t about the bottom line
I leveraged that experience a few years later to move into private practice, helping insurance companies navigate New Jersey regulations and litigating on their behalf. I ultimately became a partner with the firm. It was there that I was introduced to NJM.
Since I’ve been with the company, we’ve expanded geographically into the surrounding states—Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maryland, Ohio, Delaware, and New York. We’re trying to bring the NJM value proposition to more people since what we add is different than what other [insurance companies] offer—mainly personal service, really spending that extra time and adding that value.
Back in 1913, a group of manufacturers formed NJM to, essentially, try to self-insure. In other words, the company was started by policyholders, for policyholders. And that singular focus has not changed. NJM has returned dividends to New Jersey policyholders every year since 1918.
So, I feel good about coming to work because everything isn’t about the bottom line. We’re trying to help people each and every day. And that message resonates across all our 2,500 employees—everyone is doing something they feel good about when they come to work.
You’d better love what you do
Yes, finding a corporate culture that resonates with who you are is important. At the end of the day, when you agree with the values of a purpose-driven organization, you will further its interest and your own at the same time.
We have a proud history of supporting educational initiatives that empower underserved students and provide access to higher education. The Rutgers Future Scholars program has a proven track record of meeting this need, and we are pleased to contribute as part of our core value of supporting the communities we serve.
Everyone has to define work-life balance for themselves. No matter what, you’re going to spend most of your adult life working at something, so you’d better love what you do.
And I love what I’m doing. I love the company’s culture. I like who I’m working with. When you learn to work with people and enjoy giving other people opportunities by delegating, you free up time to do other things. Then work-life balance takes care of itself.
What I Know Now features prominent alumni reflecting on their careers and their time at Rutgers while offering their insights and advice to current students and recent grads. They focus on life lessons—identifying what’s important and maintaining a healthy balance. And, of course, finding personal success.