February 28, 2013
No matter where you are on the career ladder, becoming a top performer in your company is a prestigious achievement. But Zach Shanahan says it's especially sweet when you do so in your second month with a company- as an intern.
The senior finance student from Tolland, CT, completed an internship last summer with American Income Life, an insurance company that offers supplemental benefits to working families. His internship evaluation read:
"Our company has an international magazine to recognize top agents. In Zach's 2nd month, he was already spotlighted as one of the best agents internationally."
"I got in the magazine before my manager did. He loved it. He was proud," said Shanahan. He said it was an exciting payoff for a lot of hard work.
"I worked seven days a week. 70-80 hours per week. The environment in the office was unlike anything I had ever seen, it was so competitive. Teams of reps compete against other teams to see who can get the most sales each week. My third week out, I did what they call 'hitting the wall'- selling at least $8,000 of life insurance in one week. I actually sold $9,000. That's when I was 34th in the entire company," he said. But his performance was excellent throughout the entire internship.
"In my first two months, I sold $33,000 of insurance and collected hundreds of referrals,
which is a big thing in sales," he said.
Shanahan trained at the agency headquarters in Pittsburgh for about three weeks before beginning at the company's Morgantown office. For the internship, Zach worked to provide benefits for local union members and associations throughout West Virginia, including the towns of Buckhannon, Elkins, Bridgeport, Clarksburg and Fairmont.
AIL representatives are known for developing long-term relationships with clients and meeting them where they are most comfortable- their own home. Shanahan said that the one to two hour in-home visits were intimidating at first and often came with challenges.
"Sometimes people no showed, or right when you stepped in the door they would tell you that they had no intention to buy. But two hours later, they might reconsider," he said. Traveling the state to make in-home visits was a truly valuable experience for Shanahan.
"I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do, and then I had this sales internship last summer and I loved it. It definitely helped with my people skills," he said.
"My favorite part was the 'Don't sell, serve' Ideology. I worked with coal miners, construction workers, and oil riggers. These are dangerous fields. I loved helping these families, helping them figure out the insurance that they needed. I became friends with some of them, some still text and call me," he said.
Shanahan says his internship experiences have provided a deeper context for some of the courses he has taken at B&E.
"I really enjoyed Dr. Terry Rose's life insurance class. I knew some about it already (from the internship) but it kept expanding my knowledge," he said. He also felt the skills he learned were very helpful when participating in the World Collegiate Sales Open, where he competed through to the third round of competition, and in the inaugural internal sales competition of the WVU Professional Sales Institute.
Shanahan is also involved on campus as a brother of the Kappa Sigma fraternity, where he served as rush chair for a year and a half. Last semester, he and his fraternity brothers had over 100 hours each of community service, including a twelve-hour zumba marathon at the waterfront for breast cancer awareness.
Shanahan, who will graduate in May 2013, hasn't fully decided on a career path yet. However, he has decided to keep his options open.
"I would like to do sales or something in finance in a big city," he said.