Monthly Archives: February 2014

Leaving the Company: A Former Ambassador’s Disney Story

There are a lot of cast members out there who love working for Disney so much that they would never, ever leave. So why would someone voluntarily leave the most magical company on earth?

David GillMeet David Gill. You might recognize him from his time as a Disneyland Resort Ambassador. I had the pleasure of speaking with David about his experience in public relations and his reasoning behind leaving The Walt Disney Company.

David’s Disney Story

David started his Disney career working in food and beverage at Disneyland. A few years later, he heard about the Disneyland Resort Ambassador Program in which Disneyland cast members are selected to act as “media representative[s] and as official host[s] to Resort guests.” He applied and was selected as a 2008 Disneyland Resort Ambassador.

Throughout his year of service as an Ambassador, David became more interested in public relations – something he never anticipated.

“I liked it so much I wanted to look into PR jobs,” he said. “It just goes to show that your life may not turn out to be exactly what you’re expecting. I have a degree in business, and I always thought I’d go into finance.”

In 2009, David transitioned into a behind-the-scenes role at Disneyland, working in media relations. He eventually landed a position as a senior social media and video communications specialist for The Walt Disney Company as a whole.

David’s Transition

After a few years in a corporate role at Disney, David said he wanted a chance to advance his career in the public relations industry.

“I wanted to focus more on the big picture instead of just social media and video,” he said. At the time, he didn’t feel like he could make that career move at Disney.

David currently serves as the Senior PR and Communications Manager at Silverado, a healthcare company dedicated primarily to assisted living communities across the U.S. He said the work culture is very different than Disney’s, but he’s enjoying his new responsibilities.

“The transition from Disney to Silverado was interesting,” David said. “There are similarities between the two companies, but they are definitely different — one a large, established company with a rich history, and another a fast-growing company the began just 18 years ago but has had phenomenal success.”

David said that perhaps he will return to Disney in the future in a more senior capacity, but for now he is looking forward to tackling new and exciting public relations challenges at Silverado.

David’s Advice

It’s okay to step away from the Mouse for a little while to gain more experience. David isn’t the first Disney veteran who’s told me that, either. People become so passionate about the company that they don’t concern themselves with growing as professionals. David said it’s important to grow your skill set, especially if you want to move up in the ranks at Disney. Sometimes that’s best accomplished working at another organization.

As a public relations professional, David also knows the value of networking. His biggest piece of advice to college students is to reach out to professionals and set up a time to talk to them in person or over the phone.

“It’s incredibly smart to reach out to people,” David said. “Maybe six people called me a year when I worked at Disney, which isn’t a whole lot. I remember those six people who took that initiative when someone asks me if I can recommend someone to fill a job opening. Keep talking to people and get your name out there.”

To read more about David and his experience working for Disney, read his interview on Mouse Clubhouse. Follow David on Twitter @davidpgill.

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DCP Campus Reps: Disney’s Brand Ambassadors

I created a podcast with Chase, author of Chasing Reel Reviews, where we shared our thoughts about the Lego brand ambassadors program and how it compares to the Disney College Program’s Campus Rep Program.

Are you a Campus Rep? Leave a comment about YOUR experience as a Disney brand ambassador!

Five Companies You Didn’t Know Were Owned By Disney

When people think about The Walt Disney Company, they think of two things: movies and theme parks. And that’s great! Walt Disney Studios and Walt Disney Parks and Resorts are two of the company’s biggest assets. But Disney is much, much bigger than that.

Thanks to some smart business acquisitions, Disney now owns and operates some of the biggest brand names in entertainment. Working for Disney is no longer just for animators or engineers; it’s for journalists, historians, zoologists and more.

Don’t believe me? Read on to see the top five companies you may not have known were owned by Disney.

The American Broadcasting Company (ABC)
Good Morning America (Creative Commons)Ever wonder why ABC gets away with using Disney characters and plot lines in its hit show “Once Upon A Time”? It’s because Disney is running the show behind the scenes. ABC is an American media company that offers both news and entertainment programming. From “Good Morning America” to “Dancing with the Stars,” Disney has been financing the entertainment franchise since its acquisition in 1996.

Disney didn’t stop with television at ABC, either. Do you remember “The Proposal” with Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds? How about “The Social Network” with Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake? Those were ABC movies.

If you’re interested in working in the entertainment industry with Disney, consider searching for a career at ABC.

ESPN
Are you a huge sports fanatic? Do you love the Walt Disney Company? Well, you’re in luck; when Disney acquired ABC, it also acquired ESPN. In case you aren’t familiar with ESPN, it is a sports broadcasting network that covers everything from professional football to professional poker. ESPN is the ideal place to work in the sports broadcast industry, so make sure you check out any employment opportunities at ESPN.

Marvel Entertainment
There’s a reason superhero movies are making a comeback, and it’s partially because Disney bought Marvel, a company that produces everything from superhero films to comic books to action figures, in 2009 for more than $4 billion. It was a smart move by Disney, too; according to examiner.com, “The Avengers,” Marvel’s 2012 box office sensation, brought in more than $1.2 million to the company, making it Disney’s biggest hit in history.

Want to work with Iron Man and Thor on a daily basis? Consider working for Disney at Marvel.

LucasfilmYoda (Creative Commons)
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…Okay, so it was not so long ago and not far, far away. It was 2011 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios when George Lucas, founder of Lucasfilm, told Disney CEO Bob Iger that he was considering retirement and was interested in selling his company. By 2012, the deal was done and Disney officially acquired the studio that produced such classic films as “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones.”

According to Scified, Disney plans to create a new Star Wars sequel – Star Wars Episode VII – that will be released in 2015. Want to be a part of this new era of light sabers and Wookiees? A Disney career might just be for you.

A+E Networks
Even though Disney didn’t completely acquire A+E Networks, it does own 50 percent of the company, sharing it with the Hearst Corporation. A+E is another entertainment powerhouse, home to more 10 cable television channels. These channels include:

  • A&E
  • History
  • Lifetime
  • LMN

If you work with A+E Network, you won’t officially be working for Disney, but you’ll still kind of be part of the Disney family.

Visit the Disney Careers website to search for positions that are currently open.

Disney College Program Application Tips

The Disney College Program (DCP) application process can seem a little daunting. You have to fill out the application, pass the web-based interview, then pass the phone interview. Each step of the process tells Disney something very specific about you and what you will bring to the company if you are selected for the program.

After going through this process myself and having friends who have experienced both success and failure in applying for the DCP, I’m going to offer you some tips for your application process.

Be yourself.
ChloeThe DCP isn’t for everyone. Do some soul-searching and make sure you’re 100 percent committed to moving to Florida or California for a semester to work full-time in a Disney park. Can you smile for hours at a time? If someone starts yelling at you because something happened that was out of your control, can you keep your cool? The application process, especially the web-based interview, will ask these kinds of questions to make sure you are ready for the pressure that comes with working for Disney.

Be curious.
Research! Read up on the different roles offered to college program participants. Explore blogs, vlogs and websites that talk about the DCP experience. This will help you decide if the program and its different roles are right for you. My favorite place to poke around for information was the DCP website itself.

If you make it to the phone interview, don’t be afraid to use the recruiter as a resource. Nothing is worse than being asked, “Do you have any questions for me?” and having no questions prepared. I asked my recruiter, “Did you do the Disney College Program?” Once she confirmed that she had, I asked, “Can you tell me about your experience? What advice do you have for me if I get in?” To be honest, most of my interview was my recruiter telling me about her experience and offering me advice. She even told me that one of her roommates attended the university I currently attend. Those kinds of connections can only be made if you’re curious about your recruiter and her Disney experience.

Be timely.
If you’re serious about wanting to participate in the DCP, don’t wait to apply! The sooner you apply, the more you show the recruiters that you’re really interested and the better the chance you will get the role you want. On the other hand, don’t rush your application. Yes, you want to submit it within the first few days, but make sure all of your previous experience is included and everything is spelled correctly. As the official Disney College Internships and Programs blog says, you should treat this like any other job application.

Be honest.
Just like the DCP itself isn’t for everyone, some roles aren’t for everyone. If you don’t think you can stomach cleaning toilets at Disney for a semester, don’t say you have “high interest” in becoming a custodian on the program. Some people say that you should say you have “high interest” for all roles to ensure you’ll get in. I disagree. I put “no interest” for a lot of roles I knew I would never be able to handle, and I got in just fine. Plus, if you do end up in a role you’re uncomfortable with, you won’t enjoy the program as much.

Be passionate.Dan
This tip is mostly regarding the phone interview. When the recruiter calls, don’t just tell her facts you think she wants to hear. Don’t be afraid to sound excited. Tell her stories. Are you passionate about being a Jungle Cruise Skipper because you had an amazing experience on that ride once? Tell the recruiter that story. If she asks about your experience enforcing a safety rule, tell her about the time you took your kid brother swimming and had to keep him out of the deep end. Try to be as confident and as comfortable as you can be with the recruiter. I tried to pretend that my recruiter was my favorite college professor, and I was just dropping by her office to talk to her.

Be thankful.
Always, always say “thank you” anytime you talk to someone from Disney. Thank your recruiter during your phone interview, and send a follow-up “thank you” email to her the next day. It really goes a long way. Also, it doesn’t hurt to remember your recruiter even after you’ve been accepted. Send another email thanking her for giving you the opportunity. I even went as far as sending my recruiter a holiday card a year later.

Well, that’s all my advice. Remember, Walt Disney once said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” It’s in your hands now! Apply today!

Here’s a list of some of my favorite application tips blogs and vlogs. Enjoy, and good luck!

Blog: Disney College Program: Applications and Acceptances
Blog: Application and Interviewing!
Vlog: Top 10 Tips For Applying to the Disney College Program
Blog: Disney College Program Tip #1: Web-Based Interview

Top 10 Reasons To Apply For The Disney College Program

Name TagsWorking for The Walt Disney Company was the best experience of my life. Last spring, I participated in the Disney College Program, a program that allows college students or recent college graduates to intern at Walt Disney World or Disneyland as frontline employees. I was a character attendant in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and the semester I spent there changed my life.

Applications for the Fall 2014 Disney College Program have been posted, and I encourage anyone who is interested in a career with The Walt Disney Company to consider participating. Here are the top 10 reasons I think you, as a college student, should apply.

10. You get to work for Mickey Mouse.
I mean, come on. How many people get to say that?

9. You get to experience some awesome seasonal celebrations.
Ever been to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party? Have you seen The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Hollywood Studios? What about Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade? The Candlelight Processional at Epcot? If you apply for the Fall or Fall Advantage program, you can see it all!

8. You get to see what happens behind-the-scenes at Walt Disney World or Disneyland.
Did you know there are tunnels beneath Magic Kingdom? You could see those with your own eyes.

7. You get free access to Disney Parks.
Have a day off of work? Chill out at Magic Kingdom. Or Animal Kingdom. Or Hollywood Studios. Or Epcot.

6. You receive college credit for the classes you take through Disney.
Ask your advisor to see a list of transient credits you could earn by studying in Disney. Disney classes only cost $10, a whole lot cheaper than taking a class at your own university. When I did the Disney College Program, I took Corporate Communications and received three credit hours toward my graduation.

5. You can put a unique experience on your resume.
Even though you’ll only be a frontline employee in the parks and resorts, you can say you worked in a Fortune 100 Company and have observed the way it successfully runs its business.

4. You can network with professionals in a Fortune 100 Company.
During my college program, I went to a panel discussion about social media and marketing. When I was there, I networked with several marketing professionals that work in the parks and resorts who then helped me network with the digital media manager for Disney On Broadway. Disney Theatrical Group public relations is my dream job, and I was able to set up a tour of Disney’s New York City offices after my program ended.

3. You get to make magic for other people and thus experience magic yourself.
One time, I asked a group of teenagers some Disney trivia questions to help make their wait time to meet Pooh, Tigger and Eeyore faster. By the time they got to the front of the line, they not only asked the characters to sign their autograph books, they asked me to sign as well. You can experience something like that, too.

2. You make lifelong friends. Roommates
I still talk to my DCP roommates and friends on a daily basis. One is a performer at Walt Disney World, one is a Photopass Photographer at Disneyland, and several are back at their colleges across the country.

1. Your life will be changed.
You can’t help but be changed by the magic of Disney, the amazing guests and your fantastic fellow Cast Members.

But don’t take my word for it. Watch Kenny’s Work Hard Play Hard documentary about the Disney College Program to help you decide if you should apply.

Have you ever participated in the Disney College Program? Share why you think college students should apply in the comments below.