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Intern Experience: Kristen Oelke & The Society of Singers

What’s your degree program and would you recommend an internship opportunity to others who may not be on the same degree path? How has your internship benefited you and your college experience, and how would the internship experience benefit other students across all varied areas of studies?
My degree is Music Business. For the work I did, the only other department that I would recommend this internship to would be the vocal department. Simply for the fact that Society of Singers is an organization for singers in financial need. So they would be able to benefit directly from this and they would be able to meet a lot of people that might be able to get them jobs in the future.

Above: Debbie Sandridge (right) introduces Miller London (left) and Kristen Oelke to Quincy Jones (center).

How and why did you pick Society of Singers (SOS) for your internship?
Well originally I was planning on going to New York for my internship, however Debbie had suggested this option and gave me details on what my tasks would include, so wanting to get all the experience as possible, I picked the option that would allow me to gain as much as possible. That was Society of Singers; Debbie was my front “man” in this one. I never even wanted to go to L.A but she sure proved me wrong.

As a student of McNally Smith, what helped you obtain your internship (the Career Center’s involvement, different classes, your knowledgeable background, etc.)?
During the internship I was taking Business communications and it could have not been more perfect. That class gave me more tools and skills then any other class I have taken at McNally. I was able to apply what I was learning in the class with my job at Society of Singers. The Career Center was obviously a huge part of the internship process, Debbie met with me several times, got to know me enough to give me several options of things I might be interested in, or things she knew I would be good at (even things I never would have considered). With resume help and confidence to dive into this opportunity head first, Debbie and the others within the Career Center helped me take the next steps in my career goals.

Once you attained your internship how did you prepare for the experience?

It came so quick. I had about a month (give or take) to figure out my game plan. Between packing up my apartment, making travel arrangements, budgeting money, and saying good-bye to my friends and family I was starting to get very excited. I honestly didn’t really have enough time to get worried or overwhelmed. I had too much to do to think about those things. I also contacted Society of Singers several times to ask general questions, work attire, directions, hours, and anything else that they would need from me in order to perform at my best.

While interning, what type of first impressions did you get and were your expectations met? How then did your relations in the office evolve and how were your expectations exceeded?
When I first began work, I had several things I needed to do on a daily basis. These daily tasks had gone unattended for rather long, so a good amount of time I spent was reorganizing and getting the office back to a systematic order. In the beginning the internship was not what I expected, I had a good amount of down time and felt it hard to stay focused and driven in a position that I wasn’t being challenged. However talking to the other employees of Society of Singers, they told me to just wait because the storm was coming. And “Wow” were they right! When the ball got rolling I felt I hardly had time to breathe, and I loved it! The gala event exceeded what I expected it to be and it was the most rewarding feeling knowing that I helped put this extravagant event together. Looking back even in the down time I had at the office and the tedious filing I did day after day, I learned something new every time I set foot in that office. If I were given the option to do it all over again, I would take it.

When speaking of your goals, how does your internship play a role? (What did you have in mind going into your internship, how did your goals evolve while interning, and what are you striving for now?)
In my opinion you need experience to exceed in anything. It doesn’t matter if you are a waitress at a bar, or a CEO of a huge record label, you need experience to perform at your best. I looked at this internship as an opportunity to gain experience in the industry. If I was interviewing myself and I saw on the resume that this person went to Los Angeles for four months to gain experience and helped plan this gala event, at the age of 20, I would be pleased. Stepping out of a comfort zone is very hard for a lot of people (especially my age) and I can now say I did that, and it was hard but it made me that much closer to my goals and dreams. Now because I have gotten a taste of what that is like, I only want it more. The next big step for myself would be to do another internship within the next year, but on the east coast.

How would you describe the success you achieved through your internship? How did you utilized the knowledge you had going into your internship and what did you do to adapt to your environment?
I learned how to think on my feet and how to anticipate what I would be asked to do at any given time. I went into the internship with the ability to work very well under pressure, I think that was one of the main skills I used in performing my job well. Making sure not only that I had all of my tasks done, but also making sure my co-workers were not forgetting anything and to remind them of important steps that needed to be completed in order to have the best event ever.

Do you find yourself now, thinking about what you could have done differently? How can what you’ve learned help other anxious interns and those who have yet to explore internship opportunities?

Remaining focused on everything, regardless of how small or big a task was. If I’m not feeling challenged enough in what I’m doing I tend to lose motivation. That would be the best advice I could give to a new intern; to remain focused on everything and not lose motivation. That is what I wanted to change about what I did. Other then that I was extremely pleased with my performance.

What was your favorite/most memorable part of your internship?
Seeing it all come together, everything good and bad was totally rewarded by seeing what I was apart of.

What now and what’s next? Where do you see yourself one to three years from now?
I would like to have at least one more internship on my resume. Something just as challenging and rewarding, if I have already done that after three years then I should be done with school (or pretty close to my degree) and already working for either a venue, managing a band, radio station, label, record store, ect, anything that will give me the most diversity in any area of the music industry.

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