I’ve been on both sides of the coin. Having been an intern with The Walt Disney Company and working in Campus Recruitment for the last 13 years, the questions I get asked most from interns are…“How do I stay with the company? How do I get to that next step?”
I started my career with Disney the same way some of you have – I worked in quick-service food and beverage on the Disney College Program. Only difference is, I did it before most of you were born! In the summer of 1992, I landed an amazing opportunity to work for the best company in the world. I worked at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and quickly realized this was a company I wanted to work for after graduation.
Back then, if you wanted to come back, you could return to your old area on the program. That was…if they wanted you back. This leads into my first bit of advice – Work hard and do your best every day at whatever job you’re given. I remember in my interview for the Disney College Program, the recruiter asked me what types of roles I was interested in (there was no Role Checklist.) I’m sure quick-service food and beverage was not one of the roles I mentioned, but I made the most of that opportunity and had a lot of fun along the way. I know I never called in and if they needed me to stay late, I did. It must have made an impression on my managers since they let me come back a second summer, which eventually led to an internship in Guest Relations.
This leads to my second bit of advice – Have open communication with your supervisor/manager. Know what they think of your performance. In the “good ole’ days” we had formal evaluations on the program so you sort of knew where you stood. These days most areas do not. This is where I sometimes see a disconnect, and why interns may not move on with the company. As a recruiter, when I see a current or former intern apply for another role with the company, the first thing I do is reach out to their former area to get feedback. Sometimes the feedback is not positive and I don’t think the intern knows that. It is very difficult to get that second internship/opportunity with the company if your previous area doesn’t recommend you. Make sure you ask for feedback from your supervisor, and ask them if they would support you in another role. If they do, it’s a powerful tool and could give you that edge in our competitive landscape.
My last piece of advice – Timing is everything…be patient! I know it’s cliché but it’s the absolute truth. When I graduated from college I wanted to move back down to Orlando and work in Guest Relations again. I reached out to my manager and all they had were part-time opportunities. I took it and it wasn’t easy making ends meet that first year, but eventually a full-time opportunity opened up and I was on my way. If you’ve made that great impression and built that relationship with your manager, they are going to want to help you get to that next level. We want to retain our talented employees and cast members! You never know when that opportunity will come – rarely is it at the perfect time. There may be a detour that isn’t ideal, but if your desire is to work for this company…be patient…it’s worth it!