Shayla Mentner is a music business major at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. She has completed most of her major requirements and is now completing a few general education courses needed to graduate. She has had two summer internships, and she is currently looking for a new internship opportunity. This interview is a reflection on her internship experience as well as addressing the current COVID-19 pandemic concerns. The transcript of Shayla’s interview below has been edited and condensed.
Could you tell me a little bit on what life has been like for you over the past year?
I got a new job, so I don't work for Papa John's, where I used to do pizza delivery. Now I work for a nursing home, so that's a little different. But, other than that, I'm still just like doing school and working as much as I can to pay for those expenses. I'm kind of like done taking the specific classes for the Music Business major. Right now, the main like thing I'm concerned with is actually finding an internship. So, that's kind of the one thing that I've been keeping in the back of mind regarding like my academic program. The rest of it, I've just been completing my general classes.
Could you share your interest in the major and what brought you to this major?
I felt called to come here to do music. I'm from Eau Claire, Wisconsin and Eau Claire has a great music program, but they don't have a good music business program. I just really felt like I wanted to combine my love of music with like my love for connecting with people and interacting with people. I also wanted to find something that suited my love of event planning, so I really wanted something that would combine all of that. But I knew it had to be music because I've just loved it for as long as I can remember. I've been in choirs since it was an option in school. And I've been singing and playing piano ever since I could. I've just grown up around music. So, I decided to choose UW-Oshkosh because I think it's the only state school in Wisconsin that has a good program. So, it was just like really calling my name; that is what brought me to this major.
Can you share your internship experience?
I wanted to do some meaningful work over the summer, so I decided to seek internship opportunities on my own. This was over my freshman and sophomore summer. An internship is required your senior year summer in order to graduate, but there's no reason why you can't do more than one during your time in college. I was just eager for opportunities, so I sought it out on my own. My sophomore summer, I interned at the PR department for Ashley Furniture. They actually have a music festival, which I don't think a lot of people know. So, I worked to help plan the music festival which was something I was totally into. This was beneficial for me because I got a taste of working for a large corporation; a really large corporation. I got a sense of what it’s like to work in public relations which is something I'm really glad I got to do. I got a taste of that type of work, and I really liked it. So, that kind of directly related to all of my school experience. I'm really glad I stumbled upon that opportunity.
The previous summer, I worked for a smaller organization that had fewer employees. It was Country Jam, which is a country music festival in Eau Claire. That was a really different experience too. I got to do more hands-on stuff, including some PR stuff. You have to know how to relate to people. My two internships were very different experiences, but they're both experiences that I really enjoyed and that really related to most of my music business classes. I really felt like they directly contributed to my degree. I honestly could have taken them for credit if I wanted to, but I wasn't far enough in my degree to take them for my internship credit.
Is there anything about the internship that you would change?
I think for both of them I would have liked a little bit more feedback, especially at the end of the internship; some sort of exit interview or something of that nature would be nice. I would have thought they would have a more formalized procedure in place, but every place is different. I was given all these opportunities during the job, but then I wasn't really sure if I was doing everything right. The department was just so relaxed - they were the best people I could ask for. They were like, ‘’Oh, just do it, you know, you'll be fine. Don't worry.” And I was always asking questions because I just didn't want to do anything wrong. I didn't want to make a mistake that could have a lot of consequences because this is a huge music festival. You just don't want anything to go wrong. They were just so nice and so chill, but I kind of would have thrived on a little bit more feedback from my supervisor; maybe weekly check-ins.
What are the are the pros and cons for completing an internship?
There are a lot of pros to having an internship. They can be paid. A lot of people think that because it is an internship that you are working for free. But I personally would never work for free. I believe that, if I do a good job, I should get paid for it. Luckily, there's a lot of internships that are paid. And, you get this valuable transferable experience that's priceless, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't get paid. The experience is priceless. You should do what I did which is document it. Then you can use it for your job interviews.
The cons are that you are kind of like going into a job knowing that you're only going to be doing it for a small amount of time. You might just be doing some like menial tasks, which I didn't really mind because usually they are fun. Maybe it's my line of work in the music industry, where the menial tasks for a music festival are fun; going to the campgrounds and putting up flags and stuff like that. But, a menial task for somebody else—in a business internship for example—might be boring work like data entry.
What are some of the changes that have occurred in your life given the COVID-19 pandemic?
I am actually working a lot more because I'm in school a lot less. All my classes have stopped doing regular meetings, so basically I can do my schoolwork whenever I want now. It’s just that all your stuff is online and it's really kind of making it harder to learn because you feel like you're teaching yourself and it's just weird.
Also, I'm working a lot more because I do work in healthcare now. I'm not considering going into healthcare full-time. It’s just a temporary job until I move back to Eau Claire. But since I do work in healthcare, there's been increased need for us. So, with this, I'm working a lot more and then I'm still doing school, just kind of whenever I can. I'm working a lot more also because I lost half of my income which came from a few jobs through the university. I also made a lot of money playing piano for a few churches and a bunch of people privately at school. Now, they don't need me because they don't take lessons anymore. So, all of that income is gone too. Therefore, I've been trying to work more to supplement that. My income situation is screwed up, and I'm just spending a lot more time at home trying not to go to the store unless I need to.
How have you been coping like with the changes?
I'm Facetiming my family a lot because I just miss them. They live in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, so I miss them, and the distance is especially hard. My dad and I like to play cribbage together; he found this online version where we can play together. Sometimes, we will play that and then have a phone call at the same time. So, we'll do that. It helps to take care of the boredom for us both, because he was deemed not essential by his company, so he's working from home. He is stuck at home all day too.
The interviewer for this profile was Mary Dueñas, a Research Assistant at the Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.