National Life, Norwich team up for rewarding internships

During his junior year at Norwich University, Steven Gilmore took an internship with the National Life Group.

He loved it so much that he took another position this year. “It’s one of the best experiences I’ve had throughout college because it’s so hands on and you get to apply what you’ve learned.”

Gilmore said he expected his internship at National Life will help him get a job after graduating from Norwich this May.

According to a 2010 study by Gault, Leach, and Duey, undergraduate internships lead to “significantly more full-time opportunities.” Today, many universities, Norwich included, provide devoted internship coordinators, for whom helping students get internships is their primary responsibility.

“I teach students how to find, and secure internships,” said Norwich Internship Coordinator James Graves. He meets one on one with students and also “establishes ongoing relationships,” with employers.

The National Life Group in Montpelier is one of the companies that Norwich has had a good relationship with, providing students with a broad range of experiences and also paying the interns. “It’s a partnership,” Graves said.

According to Ross Sneyd, a communications specialist at National Life, 18 Norwich students have interned with National Life since 2008, and five of those were in the last year and a half.

Sneyd added that the company typically takes on about 35 interns during their summer sessions alone.

Graves said he is trying to spread the word about the valuable internship experiences at National Life, because some of the slots have gone unfilled.

National Life’s program “exposes students to top management,” and allows them to work on “meaningful projects,” Graves explained.

Gilmore agrees. He said his first internship, with National Life’s financial risk management team, was incredibly beneficial.

The 22-year-old business management major was given a lot of responsibility during his first internship as part of a team whose job it was to “make sure everything was running smoothly” throughout the company.

For Gilmore, a native of Norton, Mass., this meant running random tests for various “controls that were set up to protect the company.” While he gained work experience and practical applications for what he’d learned at Norwich, Gilmore also got paid, receiving $12.65 per hour.

This year, he is working with National Life’s Insurance branch, resolving technical issues with customer data entry. National Life Group is a diversified family of financial service companies providing life insurance, annuities and investment products, and is one of Vermont’s largest employers with around 900 employees.

National Life deals, for the most part, with agencies and organizations, not individual customers, according to Gilmore. He said there are multiple avenues through which agents get their information back to National Life.

That means, from a technical perspective, “a lot of things can go wrong,” Gilmore said.

The department where Gilmore currently works is in charge of fixing whatever goes wrong with customer data entry, another critical task which National Life trusts interns like Gilmore to do.

“It’s great to have that experience on your resume and great to have experience in the field,” Gilmore said.

According to Graves, internships are a good choice for anyone and everyone. They help to “find out if a career is right for you,” he said.

“Students are in charge of their own learning through learning contracts,” he added, meaning that students like Gilmore actually get college credit for their internship work.

Graves said that increasingly, employers are expecting candidates to have done at least one internship, and internships can even turn into full time jobs.

“Sixty-three percent of paid interns are offered a job at the company they intern with,” Graves said. There are currently 11 majors at Norwich that include internship courses that provide credit, he said. Despite the excellent opportunities National Life offers, Graves said there have been open slots in the past few years that were not taken by Norwich students.

Applications for National Life and other internships are available through the Career Development Center located on the second floor of the Wise Campus Center, just past the Cadet Cash Card and Center for Civic Engagement offices.

National Life has put out that it will be taking on 20 interns this summer, and the online application is available now.

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