Alumni Connection Provides Allegheny Students With Financial Services Career Opportunities
As 2020 drew to a close, Annemarie Murphy, a 1991 Allegheny College graduate, knew she needed some versatile and talented student interns to help handle increased loan activity at First Bank of the Lake, where she is the executive vice president and president of Small Business Administration lending.
She reached out to Jim Fitch, Allegheny’s director of Career Education, in late December asking for help in recruiting students interested in careers in the financial services industry.
It couldn’t have worked out better.
Career Education posted the internships on the Handshake online service and, using social media, encouraged Allegheny students to apply for the internships. Now, in the spring of 2021, two of those Allegheny interns are in line to be offered full-time employment at First Bank of the Lake after graduation in May, and three other students will remain in their positions through the summer.
“We had over 400 applications through the LinkedIn application for the paid intern positions and hired all of the Allegheny students who applied,” said Murphy. “We have interns from small colleges, large universities, Ivy League schools and international students. The Allegheny students have all risen to the occasion, excelled and been noticed.”
First Bank of the Lake is a small community bank headquartered in Osage Beach, Missouri. It is different from other community banks in that First Bank of the Lake is affiliated through common ownership with a mission-based venture capital/private equity firm called Advantage Capital. The main focus of the bank is lending through the Small Business Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture guaranteed loan programs.
Murphy lives in Greenville, South Carolina, and oversees the loan operation center from there. Most of her 80-plus employees work remotely out of their home offices, including the Allegheny interns, Murphy said.
The interns are all assigned to federal Paycheck Protection Program roles that include customer service, underwriting, error resolution and helping with closing documents, Murphy said. They do most of their work through supervised Zoom links, she added.
Savannah Hunt, a senior economics major and Chinese language minor, is among the Allegheny interns at First Bank of the Lake.
“During my time interning at the bank, it has been incredibly fulfilling work, especially during the pandemic,” said Hunt. “I have been able to improve my critical thinking and computer and communication skills by working in all areas of the loan process. My internship has shown me what working in a professional environment is like and set a high standard for a strong organizational culture. This extremely rewarding experience has helped shape my post-graduation professional goals, and I truly encourage future Allegheny students to consider interning with Allegheny alumni because they want to help us succeed.”
Brandon Bolling is a junior, majoring in environmental science and sustainability with a minor in energy and society. Bolling said that he has gained a substantial amount of experience in a short time with First Bank of the Lake, and he plans to continue his internship into the summer.
“I am not an economics or finance major so I was nervous going into the internship, but the team was so helpful in guiding the interns along that it didn’t matter,” Bolling said. “I have been able to take part in the underwriting of hundreds of Paycheck Protection Program loans that directly aided small businesses. It is extremely rewarding work, and I don’t know of any other internship that would be so understanding in working around my school schedule. I am extremely grateful that Annemarie saw the potential in me to be a good fit with their bank.”
Allegheny’s Career Education staff vets employers who would like to post jobs, internships and events on campus through Handshake. When the staff identifies an employer as having Allegheny alumni working for them, they are flagged as “AC Connected.” That designation helps to alert students that there is someone they can reach out to as a connection within the organization, Fitch said.
“Several of the alumni ask us to let them know if students apply for the internships, which is what Annemarie did,” Fitch added. “We ask students to let us know so that we can let the alumni know; this often results in our students’ applications getting a closer look than they may have otherwise.”
Career Education publicizes the “AC Connected” opportunities on campus through My Allegheny, social media, the “This Week in Econ” newsletter, targeted email and, most recently, ads placed in The Campus newspaper.
“Our alumni are incredibly generous in posting positions such as the First Bank of the Lake internships on Handshake and alerting us to their recruiting needs,” Fitch said. “Without the alumni connection, the five students who landed these paid opportunities would most likely never have heard of the internships, nor received the consideration that they did as candidates.
“This is just one more data point that underscores our message that the vast majority of people are landing jobs through some form of personal connection. Currently, 335 of the nearly 1,800 employers who are posting jobs at Allegheny College on Handshake are alumni connected. Their generosity is something that I am grateful for every day.”
Added Murphy: “Our affiliate company is made up of many Ivy League alumni and they all know Allegheny now. Both of our organizations will continue to look for great talent coming out of Allegheny in the future.”