Internship Leads to Career and Possible Business Ownership


By Stuart Esrock, Ph.D.

Tina Nguyen is moving rapidly on a career path to own an insurance agency.  But when she first started an internship with a local insurance office, that idea never crossed her mind. 


Nguyen was a Marketing major at UofL with a minor in Management.  She had no real idea what she wanted to do with her degree when she found an insurance sales internship through a marketing class in the College of Business. Nguyen quickly found her footing working for Adam Waldner’s local State Farm agency. “I really liked how I was allowed to shadow people who were actually doing the job so I could see what it would be like. I liked that even though I was the intern, I was a front-line person and had a hand involved with the business because they allowed me to do the prospecting side to sales. I learned a lot from it, from learning to talk to people, to connecting and building a trust relationship with customers.”

Working as an intern with Waldner and his wife Megan Imel (a UofL BA in Communication/BFA in Studio Art, class of 2011), Nguyen finally found what she had been looking for. “I came to the realization during the internship that this sales role was for me and I did see myself making a career out of it.”

And when Megan Imel decided to open her own State Farm agency, she offered a job to Nguyen. Imel said, “Tina’s work ethic was leaps and bounds beyond any other intern or recent grad that I had interacted with. She came in each day ready to work, and when she was done with the tasks that we asked of her, she asked for us to assign more. She also had a great attitude when it came to being coached.”

Imel said that Nguyen’s internship was a major factor in her hiring decision.  Now, both Imel and her husband make most of their hires for full-time staff from interns who learn about the details and regulations of the business during their experience and then can hit the ground running as they start full-time work.  So, while Imel is a proponent of internships for that reason, she also looks at the internship experience from another perspective.  “I think internships are a great way for people to find out if they do NOT want to stay in certain industries after college. It’s a good way to try out careers without becoming the dreaded ‘job hopper,’ that employers sometimes steer clear of.”

So, Tina Nguyen graduated from UofL in December, 2019 after completing the internship and immediately started her first job. Now only two years later, she is on the fast track in the insurance industry. “My career plan moving forward is to own my own State Farm office in the next 5 years or so.” 

While not all internship positions like Tina Nguyen’s lead to full-time jobs and the possibility of your own business, there are many other reasons why you should think now about doing an internship this spring or summer. More information about internships can be found on the University Career Center website.  You should also talk with your program’s internship coordinator about possible opportunities and academic credit. And if you really want to get a jump on things now, look at some current internship position listings/opportunities on the UofL Handshake career management platform.