Insurance Sales and Administration

Darionne M. Williams
Emphasis Area
Business Administration

Darionne Williams developed skills in insurance sales while enhancing her customer service and administration experience at Farmers Insurance.

How did you get your internship?

I tried the traditional way to get an internship: search and search online for postings, tailor my resume, submit the application, and I got a couple calls, even some interviews. However, I asked questions about day-to-day expectations and company culture, and I did my research only to learn those positions weren’t for me. I remembered Stephanie Springer (the Applied Humanities Internship Director) saying that one of the best internships she had was one she created for herself by calling companies and proposing the idea. So, I did the same thing. I talked to an insurance agent for Farmers Insurance close to where I live, and we proposed the idea to the owning agent. I gave him my resume and my short little elevator pitch, and he agreed to the internship!

What kind of work did you do throughout your internship experience?

During my internship, I had a lot of independence collaborating with my mentor, the producing agent. I was happy to organize the office as well as get the filing system back on track. I also completed payment reconciliations for checks that were mailed or dropped off at the office. This required going to the bank and depositing the checks, bringing the receipts back and attaching them to the payment ledgers, which is critical for auditing purposes. I also tried to generate sales within the small business community by creating a list of small businesses, their contact information, and then my communications with them. It is very difficult to get owners on the phone so I am developing an email system that the office can use to generate sales electronically. I completed an audit of all the clients who transferred to that owning agent and followed up on the ones that hadn’t gone through. I also helped audit the expenses of the business itself when a discrepancy came up and the owning agent needed to compare his records with the office’s management company. Finally, I helped with getting information from clients who called or came in to get quotes for insurance.

What new skills did you develop or enhance in this internship?

During this internship I developed a skill for sales. I’ve never held a sales position before, so this was very new. I learned that I don’t like to push things onto people and prefer a more laid-back sales approach, which is why I am developing an email system to generate commercial insurance sales. I used my customer service skills but also developed my interpersonal skills by working with two people who have very different personalities from each other. I practiced my self-starter skills because insurance is sometimes busy, sometimes not, so you have to be productive on those slow days which I had quite a few. I also practiced and developed skills in data entry, organization, collaboration, written and verbal communication, accounts receivables, auditing, and many more.

What was the most significant contribution you made?

I would say the biggest contribution of my internship was thinking of and developing new systems to put in place to improve efficiency in the office. One job I was tasked with was to try to generate commercial insurance sales. They recommended I drive to the local businesses and try to talk to the owners and leave business cards. On two different days, not one of the businesses’ owners were available and I’m pretty sure a cashier threw away the business card as I walked away. So, I started calling the businesses but realized I needed to keep track of who I spoke to, so I created a google sheet that I shared with the agents. Again, the owners were either not in or were too busy. It wasn’t until one owner actually talked to me and said that it would be really helpful if I could send her an email because during the day, she’s very busy but at night she has more time to review such things. This is where I got the idea to start locating business email addresses and adding them to the google sheet and create a template for the agents to email out to businesses. This is a system I will help implement when I get my own Farmers email address in a few weeks.

How was the internship related to your Applied Humanities degree?

The faculty in the Department of Public and Applied Humanities teach students how to help and support people of all backgrounds. Insurance is the same. You have to know how to talk to different types of people, whether it’s different age groups, ethnicities, socioeconomic status, etc. everyone’s needs are not the same. The Applied Humanities degree did an amazing job developing my interpersonal, intercultural, and language skills that were certainly utilized within this internship. I’m also a Business Administration emphasis and the courses for that came in handy when dealing with payment reconciliations and sales related tasks. 

How has your internship experience influenced your plans for your future?

Initially, I completed this internship in hopes of learning about the insurance industry and owning a small business because I am still figuring out what I would want to do in the future when my kids are off to elementary school. I learned that the insurance business has different parts including sales, customer service, and business operations. I like the customer service and business operations parts, but I can also use innovative ways to generate sales. I know I didn’t want to get a full-time job away from home after graduation but I wanted to generate income for my family so I pitched the idea of working remotely to my mentor. I am excited that she loved the idea and I am currently studying to take the Arizona insurance exams to obtain my license. I am glad I found an employer who supports working parents, a flexible position that will allow me to have the work life balance that I desired, and a job that I know I will enjoy since I tried it out as an intern first.

What advice do you have for other students as they search for their internship?

My first piece of advice to students is if you can’t find that perfect position, create it! Most small business owners need the extra help and don’t have the time to create internship positions and look for students willing to apply. If you love an industry, look for a small business owner and shoot that elevator pitch. You never know where it could lead! My next piece of advice is to not give up on finding the right path for yourself. Try interning for more than one business or industry because you don’t know what you don’t know. You might find your passion in an unexpected place.