Monthly Archives: March 2014

Five Easy Steps To Disney Networking

As a Disney pro wannabe, I’m really impressed by anyone who currently works in public relations for the company. These professionals don’t merely serve as my idols; they are my mentors who help open doors to new ideas and experiences. Would you like to find some Disney gurus too? Yes? Then there’s one word you need to know: networking.

According to businessdictionary.com, networking is “creating a group of acquaintances and associates and keeping it active through regular communication for mutual benefit.” I know that seems like a tall order, so I’ve decided to simplify it a bit. Here are my five easy steps to Disney networking.

Donald Step One

Step 1: Research
First, you have to find Disney employees who work in an area you’re interested in. There are a few places to look, but a good place to start is LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a social networking site for professionals; you can search names, companies, positions and more. If you search something like “Disney zoologist,” a few LinkedIn members pop up as animal keepers at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

If you’re a PR major like me, you have it a bit easier. I start by visiting any of Disney’s official newsrooms. More often than not, a media relations professional will be listed as a contact at the bottom of press releases. Not only do press releases give you contact names, they also typically provide other contact information like email addresses and phone numbers.

Step 2: Reach Out
Now that you’ve found a few Disney employees you’re interested in networking with, it’s time to reach out to them. I always like to start out with an email requesting an informational interview either in person or over the phone. What’s an informational interview? It’s a chance for you to pick a professional’s brain about anything relating to her job or industry. (We’ll get into more of that in Step 3.)

In your initial email, you want to be professional, but don’t forget to be yourself. I like to introduce myself, write about where I go to school and what I’m studying, and write about why I wanted to talk to the Disney pro. Also, always give the professionals an out on the informational interview so you don’t sound too presumptuous. For example, say, “I know you are very, very busy at Disney, but I was wondering if you had a few minutes to talk to me over the phone in the next couple of weeks.”

Your biggest advantage is being a student. Work it, and don’t be afraid to reach out!

Step 3: Interview
So here’s your big chance! You’ve gotten in contact with a Disney professional, and you’re one step closer to adding her to your network. Now’s your chance to really wow her. Ask her about her work, her college career, her career aspirations, anything you’re interested in learning about her life. But don’t forget to ask for advice, too. I commonly ask professionals what I should specialize in (media relations, social media, event planning, etc.) and whether they think grad school is worthwhile for a PR major. You can learn a lot from these Disney pros, so ask away!

Step 4: Thank
If you are ever in contact with a Disney pro for any reason, say, “thank you.” Whether it’s an email or written note, always leave the professional with a good impression. She is taking time out of her day to talk to you or respond to your emails, so you can take time to write a quick “thank you.”

Step 5: Keep In Touch
Once you’ve finished your big interview and have written your thank you note, you don’t want to fall off the face of the planet. You want to be fresh in the mind of the Disney pro…You never know; she might hear about a job opening and recommend you!

Here are a few ways you can keep in touch with your new Disney mentor:

  • Interact with her on social media (LinkedIn, Twitter)
  • Send her holiday cards
  • Share interesting blog posts with her
  • Email her a question every couple of months

And that’s it! Those are my five easy steps to Disney networking! If you want to view a presentation about networking produced by Disney, visit the Heroes Work Here Disney site.

Disney pros are really, very nice. After all, they were students once, too. So go forth and network! It could just help you land your first job at Disney.

If you want to read a little bit about what I learned from my informational interview with former Disney pro David Gill, check out Leaving the Company.

Leaving Your University: Four Things To Check Before You Do the Disney College Program

When I participated in the Disney College Program (DCP) last year, I used the DCP website to guide me through a lot of my program-related questions about packing, check-in and housing. That was great; I really needed guidance for that sort of stuff. But I had a really hard time figuring out what I needed to work out with my own university before I left. There’s no guidebook for those sorts of things, so I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to get everything ready.

I thought I’d share with you some of the things I had to think about and work out before I left for the DCP.

Kent State Disney

Information Sessions

If your college offers information sessions about the DCP, make sure you attend! Not only are you able to hear from DCP alumni at your university, you are also able to meet an actual Disney recruiter. If you haven’t applied yet, it’s a great opportunity to pick the recruiter’s brain about what he or she looks for in a DCP hopeful. If you have applied and have been accepted, it’s a great opportunity to ask alumni for any packing, housing and transitioning tips.

Financial Aid/Scholarships

I am at Kent State University on scholarship, and I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t lose that money when I did the DCP. I went in and talked to my financial aid advisor several times both before and after I applied. My university’s financial aid policy says that students must attend school full time for an entire academic year in order to keep their scholarships. For me, that meant I had to take at least 24 credit hours a year. I took some summer classes to supplement my fall classes to reach that number before I left. If you receive financial aid, make sure you have this discussion with your financial aid advisor so you don’t lose your scholarships.

Disney Courses

Disney offers a wide variety of collegiate courses, and I really recommend taking at least one of them during your DCP. Before you sign up for a Disney class willy-nilly, do a little research. Chances are, if people from your university have done the DCP before, your university may have a list of transient credits you can earn. Transient credits are classes you take at another learning institution that are equivalent to classes at your home university. For example, Kent State allows students to take Disney Communications in the place of Introduction to Human Communications. Make sure you double check that transient credit list first, though. I accidentally took Disney Corporate Communications instead of Disney Communications, and it caused a mini crisis I could have avoided if I was more careful when registering.

Here’s the kicker: Disney classes are only $10, and you are provided with a binder, notebook, pens and any other learning materials your professor decides to hand out. Let me repeat: A class at Disney – something you could get credit toward graduation for at your own university – only costs $10. Let’s break down the math here: According to the Kent State website, one undergraduate in-state credit hour costs $447. Introduction to Human Communications is a three-credit-hour class. If you took Introduction to Human Communication at Kent State, it would cost you $1,341. If you take Disney Communication during your DCP instead, you’ll only pay $10. That’s less than one percent of the price at Kent State. So what am I saying? Take a class at Disney!

Additional Credit Opportunities

Sometimes your university will give you credit for participating in the DCP without taking classes. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to count the DCP as my official internship for my major, but I found a loop hole so that I could still receive credit; I asked my Honors College advisor if I could count my experience as an honors credit. Sure, I had to write a three-page paper about my work, but it was well worth it for a much-needed opportunity for credit.