Internship proves an Allfirst-class experience

Andrew George

The summer is often the time for undergrads to get that foot in the door by working as an intern. Internships can be valuable in two ways. First, an internship allows a student to find out firsthand what it is like to work in a professional environment. Secondly, an internship can function as a taste of a specific profession. A student can decide after completing an internship if that is the direction on which he wants to focus his studies.

I was fortunate enough to have such an experience this summer at Allfirst Bank in Lancaster, Pa. My job at Allfirst was actually an entry level position, but for the short time I worked there, it was considered an internship. Allfirst hired me to fill in for an employee who was going to be on maternity leave for the summer; I was expected to be able to do the majority of the work for the full-time position within four weeks.

The bank hired me as a Portfolio Manager, Grade 1 for its business banking office. It sounds like an impressive title, but means nothing to most people. In simpler terms, I was a credit analyst, whose task was to analyze financial statements and prepare internal bank documents approving money lending to middle- sized businesses. Because of the conditions of my employment, I was expected to be versed enough in the position within a month to be able to keep the paperwork flowing and loans generated. The first week was intimidating to say the least.

I accepted the position with very little information regarding the type of work I would be doing for the next 15 weeks. I found out specifically what the job entailed the first day I showed up for work. The worker I was filling in for over the summer worked alongside me for the first few weeks, so I picked up all the job responsibilities through an apprenticeship style learning experience. After watching and taking notes on how to use the different computer programs and how to prepare the various loan documents, I would attempt to redo what I had just watched. By the end of the second week, I was actually able to do most of the critical work by myself. As a learning experience, my internship was incredible.

Putting aside learning the job responsibilities, the internship showed me how to interact with professionals, all of whom were at least 10 years my senior. One of the most difficult aspects of working after college is calling your boss by her first name after spending the last 15 years calling teachers and professors by Mister, Missus. or Doctor. Along with this, I learned the importance of effective communication. With no work experience in banking, I needed to be able to effectively talk to my co-workers to clarify the work assigned to me. Finally, I learned about cubicle culture. Working in a cubicle is very different then sitting alone in the library. There are constant distractions from co-workers, a constant flow of paperwork and little privacy. After finishing my internship, I had a better understanding of what to expect from an entry-level position.

My internship at Allfirst also allowed me to experience the various departments and areas of expertise that a bank has. Up until I started working at Allfirst, the only things I knew about banking were ATMs and savings accounts. Lending money to businesses is one of the main goals of all banks. I learned very much about the mechanics of lending money since it was specifically part of my job responsibilities. Through my interaction with my co-workers, I also learned how new customers are found and the level of attention required to retain the customers. At the end of the summer, I had seen enough to know that commercial lending was not what I wanted to do with my life. With the internship, I have an advantage in deciding what I want to do after college.

The sheer volume of the material that I had to understand and be able to analyze was more than any class that I have taken at Villanova. Despite this, my education definitely prepared me for working at the bank.

My accounting classes gave me the background necessary to accept the internship position. Even with only two semesters of basic accounting, I had the fundamental knowledge needed to function on my own in the office. The ability to understand the various financial statements was an essential aspect of the internship.

The various group projects I did at the University also helped me during the summer. I never worked alone during my tenure at Allfirst. Every project involved at least one other co-worker. Without Villanova, I would not have been able to handle the jobs I was given.