Chances are, on your first day of your Disney Internship, you will hear lots of buzzwords thrown around, namely ‘networking’; see also ‘coffee chat’ and ‘meet and greet’. My guess is you’ll hear it about 238 times in your first week, give or take a few. You’ll hear it at orientation, from your managers, from your peers, and from the campus team (people like me!). For anyone looking to extend past their internship, networking is the number one piece of advice you are bound to receive.
While this is all great and wonderful (who doesn’t love advice?) this particular tidbit is slightly problematic. Mostly because after telling you incessantly to network and meet with others in the company, no one really goes into detail beyond that, at least in my own experience. My first few meet and greets as an intern were awkward, uncomfortable and didn’t result in a valuable relationship. Over the years, I have learned a few things about what to do (and NOT to do!) when it comes to growing your professional network.
What TO do:
- Start with what you know.
When you first start with the company, chances are you only know a few people – a handful of interns from orientation, your manager, and maybe a few others on your team. These people make up your initial network. They are the ones that will start you off on your new adventure and propel you forward. Use them as resources and ask them about their ‘Disney Story’ and how they got into their current role. And most importantly, at the end, ask if there is anyone else they recommend you meeting with.
- Show up with questions prepared.
The worst thing you can do is show up to meet a new colleague and not know who they are or what their title is. Use your resources like LinkedIn and Rostr. These tools will give you some insights as to who they are and what interests them. Here are questions I always ask when meeting someone:
- How long have you been with the company?
- Did you always want to work in [insert department]
- What was your favorite role at Disney so far?As the conversation continues, more questions will appear organically. Make sure you have a notebook with you!
- Send a thank you email after meeting
Having a quick coffee is great, but if the dialogue doesn’t continue on after you say your goodbyes, there is no point. Thank them for their time, keep in touch, and most importantly, ask if there are others they recommend you meeting with. More often than not, leaders will set up meet and greets for you, but you need to ask and start the conversation so that they are aware.
What NOT to do:
- Do not blindly email people
The Walt Disney Company is a wonderful place to meet others and to learn about different positions, but no one likes being emailed out of the blue without any previous introductions. This is where your previous connections come into play. It always helps to mention others you have networked with. Here is how I reach out to others within the company:Dear [Name],I hope this email finds you well. [Insert brief summary of who you are/ what you are interested in]. I spoke with [previous connection] last week about his current role, and he mentioned that you would be a great person for me to contact. If you have time, I would love to discuss your job title over coffee or via phone.Keeping the conversation short and sweet is key. Make sure they know the purpose and what you are looking for. Depending on who you are networking with, it can’t hurt to include your resume as well. Oftentimes, resumes are a great starting point for conversations.
- Do not ignore your current responsibilities
It’s easy to get caught up in the whirlpool of meet and greets; one leads to another, which leads to another, which leads to lunch, which leads to being away from your desk for hours a day. When all is said and done, you have been hired to do a specific job, and to neglect that in favor of networking won’t help you in the long run. Instead, have a conversation with your leader about who you have been meeting with. This opens the door for a candid conversation about your long term goals.
- Do not get discouraged
In your time at Disney, you will meet with dozens of people. This doesn’t necessarily mean a full time gig is going to be handed to you, but don’t let that discourage you. Connections (if done right) extend past your internship. Keep in contact with those you have met with- let them know when you apply to positions or when you have accomplishments in your career path. No, don’t bombard them with emails, but do your due diligence in making sure that you are top of mind.