Disney is big. I mean really big. In my nearly 24 years at The Walt Disney Company, I’ve often been asked for advice on how best to get your foot in the door, navigate the company, or even manage a career journey given the vast opportunities that come with working at The Happiest Place on Earth.
Rarely is it a short discussion. However, the obvious and simple truth is that we’re a people business, and that means your best path begins with connecting with people.
I discovered this truth when I participated in the Disney College Program at Walt Disney World® Resort in 1992. Unfortunately, even though I had an absolutely amazing experience in the program from a learning, living and earning perspective, it wasn’t until the end of my time in Florida that I realized I had not actually taken the time to connect with many people inside Disney.
I promised myself that would never happen again, so when I joined the program again in 1994, this time at Disneyland® Resort in California, I made it a point to engage with as many Disney folks as I could. I was hungry. Every fellow cast member I met, every leader, every trainer, all had their own personal story, and I found it fascinating.
It’s no different today. In my role as General Manager at Disney California Adventure Park, I have the honor of interacting with dozens of cast members every day. Each one of them is different and all have superpowers – I like to say that my real job is to discover what your superpower is, so that I can give you as many chances as possible to showcase it!
Which brings me back to the Disney College Program. As part of our executive team here at Disneyland Resort, I’m proud to share how important the program is to the resort. Our participants are a true talent pipeline for successful roles within The Walt Disney Company.
Just this week, I attended a College Program mixer in my area. These events are an opportunity for our participants to engage with leaders and executives so that we can get to know each other. They provide a setting that allows participants to share their desires for roles at Disney and ask advice and – you guessed it – hear each other’s stories.
Many of our executives routinely speak at program leadership classes and we even have a Disney College Program Advisory Council, chaired by four of our Vice Presidents. Our mission is to continue to enhance the program and implement strategies that lead to greater placement of participants into professional roles within the company. It’s a grand mission, to be sure, but the passion for this goal by the council members is apparent every time we meet. Indeed, I myself am a lucky member of the Advisory Council.
On the surface, we know your Disney College Program role may not seem like your ultimate dream job, but that’s okay. Use it as an opportunity to learn and grow; and of course, work extremely hard in your area and make connections with people throughout the resort. You just never know where those connections and your hard work will lead you.
The Disney College Program gave me my start here, and my story is not an uncommon one at Disney. I’ve had 13 roles in nearly 24 years, and not a day goes by that I don’t think about how I would certainly not be where I am today without having been a participant of one of the most highly regarded internship experiences in the industry.