Interning at Disney: The Most Magical Internship of All?
By Clara Milligan and Matt Gwin
Meet Amanda White: She’s an intern at the Walt Disney Company in Orlando, Florida working in an internal capacity for cast communication. She’s a Linguistics and Strategic Communication double major at Miami University (OH) (and a Vocatio Career Hacks Spring ’17 participant), she has a knack for creative problem solving, and she recently started playing the guitar. Want to know how she makes the magic happen? Keep reading! But first, let’s get the important stuff out of the way:
Favorite Disney Movie?
Tangled. I strongly identify with Rapunzel. I had a big haircut my first semester of college and have really never looked back. I love her energy and excitement for life. Ratatouille is the Disney movie I’ve seen the most times. Every time I go home to visit we watch it. I know every single line of that movie.
I have a favorite show in every park and I actually have a favorite performer in every park. My favorite attraction is the Frozen Sing Along in Hollywood Studios, because I really like the puns and I really like to sing, and I really like fake snow when you’re in Florida.
Day in the Life
Every time I meet a cast member who asks what I do, I tell them that I am “a professional intern in communications with experience planning and integration, supporting park operations.”
In the Communications office we have a lot of different tools that we use. We have an email template, and we have training templates, for training documents that go out for operational leaders to distribute to cast members. And we create other [informational and training] documents for departments and clients. When a client want to send out a training document, we get to help recommend things for that. But most of the work we do is long term, confidential projects. Every day is completely different. When I asked my boss what a day in the life looks like and she told me ‘oh every day is different,’ I got really frustrated. But now that I’m here, I completely understand that answer.
No Sitting in a Corner
I’ve been here for two months, which has been non-stop learning about the business and what it looks like to consult with our business partners. Now, my role involves helping to fill requests from and support [those business partners.]
I’ve discovered here that I’m quite good at consulting. That’s not a skill I would have known I had before this. After one client meeting, my leader told me, “the way you walk people through, explain, and provide context for the recommendations we’re making is golden– you have that relationship-building base, and then are able to succinctly describe what we’re recommending.”
The biggest difficulty that I’ve faced so far has been organizational change: A leader that I really admired and respected took a role in a different team, [leaving the previous role vacant.] I’ve had to be intentional enough to step up and lead projects that I would have previously leaned on my leader to walk me through.
“Nobody is babysitting me anymore.”
When requests come to our team as consultants, I get to be among the first faces to see them and help to problem-solve. A lot of it is learning how to take initiative as an intern and learning to act as a fully-participatory team player even though I’m definitely the newest person and have the least experience. But I was immediately empowered to make it into an opportunity instead of a difficulty—one for me to step up to lead and own.
Although my job title is that of an ‘intern,’ my days don’t look like what you might think of an intern doing–getting coffee or making copies. I’m a fully contributing team member and I’m gaining experience far beyond what my title might suggest.
One of the topics I remember standing out to me when Vocatio put on Career Hacks at Miami was talking about company culture, and that was not something I had thought about a lot because I had worked for the Walt Disney Company before. I knew that I loved what they do, but thinking about company culture on both a macro scale and a micro scale [has been important.] You might be on a team that has a very different culture from that team across the hall.
On a macro scale, we want to serve and recognize our cast members just as we are providing quality to our guests. Our job is to provide opportunities for operational cast members to feel valued and cared about within this huge organization.
On a micro scale, the team that I work immediately on is entirely about support and development. They encourage me to go and build my career in the way that is best going to serve me.
Disney is a company I want to stay with because of the diversity of company culture. We are one company and ultimately serve the role of creating happiness for our guests.
Putting Liberal Arts to Work
When I came into college, I had no idea what I wanted to. The dream was to learn all of the languages and do English teaching or something international. I quickly found out that a Linguistics major was not the straight shot to doing that, but I kept it because it was really interesting to me.
I have a passion for words and understanding the weight and the import of every single one that we use. I didn’t want to just major in Linguistics, and I discovered along the way that I love writing and was good at it, so I took on a Strategic Communication major and found that I love strategic storytelling. My liberal arts program was a new way approaching and thinking, and Strategic Communication gave me the way of thinking holistically and applying that in the details.
The Three Most Important Things to Learn?
Design design design. The first request we got from our partners was to create this website. A lot of what I was tasked with was using Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. I had not touched Adobe in my entire life! Photoshop was something I had touched in college, but I still had no technical background. The good news is I have a lot of empowerment and freedom and margin in my role to grow in that.
How She Found It
My second semester of junior year at Miami, I decided that I wanted to try my hand working at Disney, so I came down as a photo-pass photographer. I got to perform a guest-facing role, which really helps as a first step to continue working for Disney longer-term, since we are a Company known for world-class guest service. I’m having a very different experience now being in this support and strategy role than when I was holding a camera and working the operational front line life.
While I was down here, I had a few meet-and-greets. One was with a Miami alumna who works in a communication capacity, and I just sat down with her, and we had a great conversation.
I found the professional internships on the Disney website last semester of senior year and found the ones that [matched with] what I wanted to be doing. I sent out two really important emails: to [that alum] and to one of the interns, [letting them know that I had applied and that I was very interested.] Being able to follow up on those connections I think helped me immensely in getting where I am today.
Moving to a New City
It’s not easy. It’s very much building community from the ground up. At Miami all my communities were very, very close by. City culture is something that I really need, so being back this time is so vastly different: All I saw last time was Walt Disney World. Orlando is a cool, high energy city. I embrace the adventure! There are sooo many interns at Disney. And they do a pretty good job of facilitating community among us.
So You Want to Work for Disney?
Don’t be afraid of doing that first operational role. It’s the best way to get your foot in the door. But that’s a very Disney-specific advice piece.
Do weird things on campus. Improv is something that everytime it comes up in conversation people wanna know more or appreciate it. Things like acapella, or whatever club you did, sets you apart! Think about that thing you do on campus that makes you lose track of time.
The Job Search
Just because a job title sounds one way does not mean that you should rule it out. There are jobs that you’re not going to think you would be interested in or that would fit your skillset well that you can’t know until you talk to somebody about what a day in the life looks like. Don’t judge a book by its cover, don’t judge a job by its title. Know what parts of your job that you love and think really critically about why you love doing that, and those will help you put the pieces together that are you.
A Great, Big, Beautiful Tomorrow
My internship has clarified what I want to do in the future by broadening it. I want to stay curious. I’ve started to pique my own interest in different topics that I want to explore. In the short term, I would like to stay with this company because there is so much opportunity to explore different teams and topics. My next role may not just be up the ladder. I don’t know what my career path looks like, and I’m super excited and empowered by that.
Every meet-and-greet I go to and hear about different people’s journeys with the company, they’re so different and that’s so exciting to me. I’ve been able to have a lot of impactful conversations and make some incredible connections through meet-and-greets since I’ve been here. I have a super supportive leader who wants to develop me and who wants me to be successful.
Amanda was a participant in Vocatio’s Career Hacks program at Miami University in Spring 2017. The program returns to Miami on October 10th. For more information on Career Hacks or to see when it’s coming to your school, click here. To discover the perfect job roles and companies for you, create your free account on our beta online platform.