College Program Alumni Describe Their Experience In One Word

It’s that time of the year again! Disney is now recruiting for the Spring and Spring Advantage Disney College Program, where college students intern as front-line employees at the parks and resorts.

As an alumna, I can’t recommend the program highly enough. If I could describe my DCP experience in one word, it would be “sensational.” But don’t take my word for it.

Last week, I asked other members of the Disney Alumni Association to describe their Disney College Program experience in one word. Here’s what we came up with:

DCP Word Cloud

If you want an experience that’s magical, life-changing, unforgettable and more, apply for the Disney College Program today!

Disneyland PR Intern Dishes Out Tips For Future PIs

Southern California native Jessica Pineda is one of Disneyland’s Fall 2015 public relations professional interns. The other day, I asked her to share some of her advice and experiences with all of you. Read our Q&A below!

Full disclosure: Jesi was my roommate during my Disney College Program, and I’m crazy proud of her.

Jesi at D23

Q: Why did you decide to do a Professional Internship (PI)?
JP:
Like most of us, Disney stories have played a huge role in my life since childhood. As a frequent Disneyland guest growing up, the parks became my happy place. As I studied communications in school, I also began to appreciate Disney’s dedication to detail and storytelling—two things I truly value in my professional writing as well. Advancing my career as an aspiring public relations professional for a company I have connected with my whole life seemed like a perfect fit.

Q: What was the application process like?
JP:
It actually took me three tries to get a Professional Internship! The first time, I applied my freshman year with little experience to prepare me. Inevitably, I didn’t even get a phone screening. I applied for a few the following year (even made it all the way to the final round for one!) but ended up without an offer. However, I did not come out empty-handed. I received valuable feedback about how to grow a bit more before I could get a PI.

The third time around, I started preparing the semester before I applied! I printed out the job descriptions of the PI’s I was interested in applying for the following semester and sought opportunities to align my experience with the necessary skills. Once applications were out, I spend days perfecting my cover letter and resume!

After my general phone screening, I was asked to do several time-sensitive public relations writing samples. Then, I was asked to conduct Skype and in-person interviews.

A week and a half after final interviews, I was blessed to receive an offer! Phew. A lot happened in the two months between submitting my application and receiving an offer!

Q: How did your education and your various internships help prepare you for what you’re doing at Disneyland now?
JP:
I earned my bachelor’s degree in Communications + Public Relations, and everything I learned from writing basics and Associated Press Style to basic photography and public speaking have prepared me for my current role! It is absolutely important to have previous internship experience when applying for Professional Internships.

Getting experience outside the company helps you bring fresh perspective to the team and helps you practice similar tasks in a different setting! For example, some of my tasks include captioning photos, drafting press materials and helping with photo shoots—all things I had experience doing by the time I applied because of previous internships and extracurricular activities.

Q:How did participating Corporate Communications Groupin the Disney College Program impact your PI experience?
JP:
Participating in the Disney College Program is actually one of the reasons I chose to pursue Public Relations! The Corporate Communications collegiate course and offered by the Internships & Programs Education team opened my eyes to the industry, and I would not have even known about my internship if it wasn’t for that class.

The DCP also provided me with the opportunity to learn from leaders within the company that could serve as mentors and familiarize myself with the culture within Walt Disney Parks & Resorts. Having a working knowledge of Disney’s brand such as product offerings, proper nomenclature and current campaigns/projects are important to know.

I learned great resume writing tips, personal branding tips and more from the free Career Development Workshops held in Vista Way too! Those are extremely valuable resources I know a lot of CP participants pass up, but those tips help no matter where your future takes you.

Q: What’s your favorite part of your PI?
JP:
My favorite part of my Professional Internship program is the countless amount of growth opportunities I can take advantage of. Just within my role, my team allows me to delve into many different parts of PR, from writing and coding to photo/video shoots and planning tour itineraries. As a community, the Professional Internship Events team sets up speaker series, resume reviews, socials and a variety of other offerings throughout the season. There’s so much to learn in such little time!

Q: What is the most challenging part of your PI?
JP:
One of the most challenging parts of my Professional Internship so far has been coming to terms with the fact that because my career is only in its early stages, I will make mistakes. With the anxiety of graduating from college and how competitive these positions are, I falsely pressured myself into thinking I had to be the best and know how to do everything already. That is far from reality.

I have been blessed to have managers that challenge me but also help me when I am stuck and listen to me when I feel troubled. They don’t expect me to know everything. I have made plenty of mistakes during my internship, but the important thing is to learn from them.

Jesi & Jungle Cruise ElephantQ: What advice would you give someone who wants to apply for a PI in the future?
JP:
Be patient. It saves you so much unnecessary anxiety. There are many applicants, and recruiting interns is not super high on the priority list when teams have so many projects going on.

Have confidence. Don’t compare yourself to others. The application process can be scary, but know that you can bring unique talents and ideas to the table. Stand by that statement when making your case as to why you should be hired.

Get involved. Do what you love. Preparing for a job application starts long before you even think of drafting a cover letter or resume. Take classes, jobs and volunteer opportunities that can sharpen your skills and shape you into the perfect applicant for your dream role.

Be a “Yes Man.” Do not turn down an opportunity to go the extra mile if you have the time and effort to spare. Ever. Taking on extra responsibility not only exemplifies model work ethic but also gives you experience you may not have gained otherwise. Not to mention, it’s a great attitude to have as an intern. Accepting—and excelling—at even the not-so-glamorous assignments (with a positive attitude!) will make you a desirable team member and well-rounded professional. It really says something when you are the one who will gladly do a necessary task when everyone else shies away.

You Ain’t Never Had a Friend Like Me: How to Make Friends on the DCP

It’s time for another season of the Disney College Program! Some of the firstRoommate Best Friends Spring and Spring Advantage folks have checked in this week. Congratulations! Your DCP will be an amazing experience, and you’ll make friends that will last a lifetime.

As some of you know, my sister is participating in the Spring 2015 program, and she told me that some people are pretty worried about making friends. First off, let me say that it’s totally natural for you to feel that way. I was nervous myself! Turns out, I didn’t have to be. Here are some sure-fire ways to make friends on your College Program.

Be open to meeting new friends anywhere and everywhere.
Friends can pop up in the most unexpected places. I met three of my best friends on my DCP because I wasn’t paying attention to where I was walking, and I ran into one of them on my way to Traditions (Disney orientation). Literally. I ran into him. After apologizing profusely and introducing myself, we all sat together and chit chatted. And just like that, a friendship was born.

Spend the first few days really getting to know your roommates.
RoommatesYou won’t have access to the parks immediately, so take some time to bond with your roommates those first couple of days. My roommies did a whole bunch of things, from eating dinner at Rainforest Cafe to shopping at the Outlets, from staging a Traditions fashion show to watching Wishes from the beach of the Polynesian. Your roommates might just become your BFFs – literally, best friends forever.

Have an open door day at your apartment.
My roommates and I left our door open so our neighbors would feel free to come in and introduce themselves! We may or may not have bribed them with snacks, too. Thanks to our open door day, my roommates and I met our neighbor who joined us to watch our favorite show every week.

Be yourself around the people you’ll be working with.
The people who work at the same location as you know EXACTLY what you goBoat Dock through every day. They deal with the same guests, witness the same wacky and magical things…they get it. The team-like atmosphere at Disney really lends itself to building long-lasting friendships, so add to it by being personable and outgoing from the get-go. If you want to go the extra mile, plan group dinners or pot lucks. That’s what my location did, matching outfits and all.

Introduce yourself to the people in your classes.
This one is kind of a no-brainer, and your instructors will probably make you do it anyways. You’re spending quality time together every week, and you might be required to do a group project. Greet your classmates with a smile and a “Hi! My name is ______, and I’m working at _______,” and BOOM, automatic connection.

Be social at housing events.
Housing EventAttend the DCP housing events, and introduce yourself to the folks dancing by you, eating at your table, or waiting in line to see a character with you. You never know; you might just work right across from each other

Remember, there’s no wrong way to make friends. Go forth and prosper, new CPs!

Performers Seize the Day as Disney’s “Newsies” Cast Members

Two cast members of Disney’s award-winning hit Broadway musical “Newsies” visited Kent State University Nov. 7, 2014, to teach a master dance class and answer student questions about their professional performing experiences. Because I go to Kent State, I was able to sneak in and watch a little bit of the class and participate in the Q&A to ask the guys a little bit about their experience working for Disney.

Heimbrock teaches students a tap combination.

Heimbrock teaches students a tap combination.

Jeff Heimbrock, who plays Elmer, Spot Conlon and a member of the ensemble, and Chaz Wolcott, who plays Scab and a member of the ensemble, talked about how Disney differs from other performing arts companies.

“They’re a tight ship,” Heimbrock said. “You’re thinking, ‘Oh, I get to create this character, and I get to do this,’ and it’s like, ‘Alright, you go to (there’s a number line on the front of the stage) right six on this line, then left three on this line. The reading of this line is too this, that and blah, blah, blah.’ They know exactly what they want, but that’s ‘Book of Mormon’ and Disney which are both very, you know, corporate theatre.”

Heimbrock explained that smaller productions allow for more creativity on the part of the actor; he can make a character his own by making changes in the way he speaks or reacts to other characters. Disney has a very specific idea of what it wants each character to be, Heimbrock said. But Disney’s corporate theatre isn’t a bad thing.

“The good side of it is the corporate-ness of [Disney] makes it so we have sold out houses every week,” Wolcott said. “If you’re doing that fun, avant-garde downtown musical, it’s going to probably close in a month because no one’s coming. The creative things are fun for you, but you might not get paid anything or the show closes, whereas ‘Newsies’ is selling out in Cleveland. We may have a little less creativity, but we have a kind of selling machine on our hands which is fun for us.”

Wolcott looks on in his "Newsies" hat as Heimbrock teaches.

Wolcott looks on in his “Newsies” hat as Heimbrock teaches.

Wolcott said the “Newsies” fandom is also much more hands-on than that of other productions. Calling themselves “Fansies,” the show’s following is very active on social media.

“[Fansies] immediately comment on things,” Wolcott said. “Like last night, I posted a picture. I go to bed around 2 every night […] Some girl was like, ‘You should be asleep! You have a show tomorrow!’ They kind of invade. It’s cool, it’s nice, but you do definitely have to think about the things you post.”

Heimbrock later added that a Disney social media expert coached the cast about what the actors and actresses should and should not post to uphold the integrity of the show and its characters before they kicked off the tour in October.

At the end of the day, though, both Heimbrock and Wolcott said they are pleased with their experience working for Disney thus far. “They treat us very, very well,” Heimbrock said.

 

Disney College Program Application Tips 2.0

The application process for the Disney College Program can be STRESSFUL. Trust me, I know. I’ve been through it.

Now, a year and a half after I completed my Disney College Program, I’m watching my little sister try to navigate through the application, interviews and waiting. I posted some of the tips from my experience, but I think times are changing. Observing from an outsider’s point of view this time, here are my Disney College Program Application Tips 2.0.

MadisonUse your resources.
Do you know people who have done the Disney College Program before? TALK TO THEM! They’ve gone through it, so they know what it’s like. My sister asked me tons of questions while she was applying and before she interviewed. She also asked for tips from two of her friends who have done programs. If you don’t know anyone personally, ask bloggers. My email is always open to anyone interested in the DCP!

Keisha & KirkCHILL OUT about the phone interview.
Yes, you always want to do your research for any job interview, but you don’t have to go as far as writing out your answer to EVERY question. If you do that, you might sound like a robot in your interview, reciting what you wrote down earlier. You don’t have to go so far as to look up the questions, even. It’s a good idea to have a general idea of what roles you want to talk about, do a little research on those roles, and trust in your personality to shine through. Just smile, be yourself, and you’ll be fine.

Join Facebook groups AFTER you’ve been accepted.
I know, I know. That sounds weird. Why wouldn’t you want to be connected to a bunch of other people who are in the same boat as you as soon as possible? Because you’ll go crazy, that’s why. You’ll see what other people are doing and might try to copy them. Also, when other people start freaking out, it might rub off on you, too. That’s a no-go. Be yourself!

Look for roommates AFTER you’ve officially been accepted.
Trust me. You don’t want to be that person who counts his/her chickens before they hatch.

Go forth and prosper! I wish you all the best luck in your application process. Don’t forget to look at some of my other application tips!

“I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse.” – Walt Disney

Broadway Star Shares Disney Employment Dream At Tony Awards

Photo credit: Disney Theatrical Group

Photo credit: Disney Theatrical Group

Disney ain’t never had a friend like James Monroe Iglehart, the incredible actor who plays Genie in the Broadway adaptation of Aladdin. Iglehart professed his life-long desire to work for Disney as he accepted the 2014 Tony Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical.

“I want to thank Disney,” Iglehart said. “I love you. I’ve been wanting to work for you since I was 10 years old.”

In his speech, Iglehart also thanked Thomas Schumacher, president of Disney Theatrical Group; Casey Nicholaw, director-choreographer of Aladdin; “the late, great” Howard Ashman, lyricist for the Aladdin film; and Alan Menken,  composer of both the film and Broadway adaptations of Aladdin.

Personally, I’m psyched someone so talented who truly has a passion for working for Disney won a Tony. Rock on, Mr. Iglehart!

James Praise Dance

For more information about Iglehart and the Tony Awards, read Broadway World’s article about the Genie’s triumph.

Disney-isms That Stay With You After Your College Program

Are you ready for a huge wave of nostalgia? Today marks the one year anniversary since my last shift working for Disney as a College Program intern. I remember it like it was yesterday: I was hanging out with Baloo and King Louie in Camp Minnie Mickey at Animal Kingdom. I was determined to get through the day without crying, and I almost made it…until two of my friends showed up as the last guests of the day.

On the left is my friend Last daySally. She’s from Australia, and she was in entertainment. (Read about her most memorable magical moment here.) On the right is Tony, one of my fellow Animal Kingdom attendants. Like I said, I was totally NOT going to cry until Tony started singing the Mickey Mouse Club Alma Mater…Let’s just say my eyes weren’t dry at all that night, especially when I went to see Wishes at Magic Kingdom for the last time on my program.

So what’s the point to all of this? I wanted to share five Disney-isms that are still applicable to my everyday life in good old Akron, Ohio.

1. Safe D Begins With Me.
Trust me, you’ll never get that out of your head. It’s almost annoying how often I use crosswalks.

2. The two-finger point.
It’s impossible to point with one finger now. You’ve been brainwashed. Sorry.

3. When speaking to children, get on their level.
Always a good rule of thumb and great to remember if you’re teaching, babysitting or hanging out with young family members.

4. Offering to take a picture for someone struggling to take a selfie.
Look! There’s a couple in front of a ridiculous monument or local attraction. They look like they’re having a hard time fitting both themselves and the attraction in the photo. You look over, not wanting to get involved, but…”Hi folks! Would you like some help taking that picture?”

5. Code speak.
If you had access to radios at work, you know what I’m talking about. You’ll be 10-4ing and Code V-ing more than you’d like to admit.

What Disney-isms still speak to you after your DCP? Leave them in the comment section below!