Spring of 2016 I participated in the Disney College Program. It was one of the most rewarding experience I’ve ever been part of – it also pushed me to my limits and made me take a step back and really look at myself. During my four months working at the Walt Disney World Resort I had the opportunity to work at the front desk at both Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter resorts and I also worked food and beverage at All-Star Music. I took away so many magical (and some not-so-magical) memories from my time working for Disney, but there are five that really stick out the most. Here are my top five ways the Disney College Program set me up for future career success:
Resume Booster – I’ll go ahead and state the obvious first. Having The Walt Disney Resort on your resume really sticks out. When I got home from my program I went job shopping. Every single position I applied for called me in for an interview, two of which weren’t necessarily hiring at the time. The first question I was always asked was “Tell me about Disney!” All but one offered me a position. Recruiters and hiring managers know that Disney has world class training and want to talk to you. The Walt Disney Company is a Fortune 500 Company, so having Disney on your resume will put you ahead of other applicants.
Customer Service Training - Disney is top notch with their training programs. They are very thorough and make sure you understand everything before the throw you out there on your own. I feel like I spent a good 1/3 of my program training. How to handle guest complaints is something I had to learn how to do at both the hotel and at food and beverage. Instead of reading into their emotions of why they’re upset, read into the facts of why they’re upset. Fix the facts and that will fix the emotions. There are also some small things I’ve had to do during my program that have stuck. I probably will also always do the “Disney Point” now and draw a small Mickey instead of a X to show guests where to sign. I have gotten really good and starting a conversation out of nothing with people. I can turn a comment about a guest’s Splash Mountain t-shirt into a 20-minute conversation about the the ride, the park it’s in, and other great suggestions for the guest.
Networking – I learned to how network like a boss while I was at Disney! They tell you from the start to talk to everyone you can and take every opportunity you can. My leaders and coordinators (Disney lingo for managers and supervisors) were there to help with this all the time. Want to train in the pizza delivery department? They can help you get on a shadow shift and get started in training. Not only are the leader’s good connections, so are fellow cast members. I know people from literally all around the world. I had other cast members from China, Australia, and Puerto Rico to name a few. You can never have enough connections, even if it’s simply being friends on Facebook, because you never know if they can help in the future.
Flexibility & Teamwork – I’m going to be frank with you. Working for Disney can be hard. Hours are long and sometimes unfavorable. 98% of my shifts were closing shifts. I had to learn how to adapt to schedule changes and location transfers at the drop of a hat. I sometimes wasn’t able to do the fun experiences, tours, and parties that were offered because I was working so much. On the flip side working that much meant I became very close with my other cast members. We learned how to work with each other so that our shift went as smoothly as possible. We worked together when we would close and clean our stations. We would help each other out when needed. If we were having a particularly hard shift, we would lift each other up. We would do random sing-alongs to help push through that last hour and a half of our shift. We would recognize each other and tell our leaders what they did to deserve special recognition. I think the teamwork is one of the most important things I took home with me.
Learn about myself – I know, it’s cheesy but it’s true! Being thrown into a living situation with five other girls that I have never met before taught me a lot about myself. I learned how to communicate with different personality types. I learned how to problem solve and find a common ground so that six women are happy. I learned how to compromise. I learned that I do not ever want to live in a two-bedroom apartment with five women packed in.
My advice to students (specifically hospitality students) that want to do the Disney College Program would to be really look into it. All the promotion stuff you see online makes the college program makes it look super magical and easy. Yes, it is magical, but you are working full time and it is hard work. If you absolutely need the credit in order to graduate, find another internship because you sign a contract with Disney saying they have the right to move you to any position they want at any time. If you don’t need it for school and don’t really care where you work, then go for it! I don’t regret my time here at all! This has been the most rewarding experience I have ever done. I have made lifelong friends, some of which I’ve done a “reunion” with a year later, and so many great memories.