This fairytale came to an awkward close. The princess didn’t get a knight, prince or court jester. She didn’t even get financial stability.
My second DCP did not come with a fruitful return, and thus, I’m leaving the Disney Company indefinitely. And that’s okay.
I spent the last five months of my life watching a major powerhouse completely restructure one of its assets. I saw budget cuts devastate full-time and part-time employees barely clearing 40 hours each week as they were only scheduled 30 or less. I heard about my CEO’s paycheck, the streamlining of positions to save a few more millions. We can’t say “Thanks, Shanghai” sardonicly without a bitter pang that there’s more to the story.
I spent the fall portion of my program furiously applying to Professional Internships, adjusting my resume and cover letter to meet every specification listed on an individual application. I took pride in graduating Summa cum laude, completing a Masters-level thesis project and having my stories mentioned and quoted by Washington Post and Sports Illustrated. Maybe I assumed too much, but I sent each application in with a sense of success and with the expectation of two phone interviews. After all, “if you can dream it, you can do it,” right?
The four rejection emails I received were automated and cold, which is fair given the size of the Company. I’m assuming never hearing back from the other five applications were also rejections as well. What I didn’t expect was the brutal honesty from one of my meet-and-greets: the resume section is ALL automated unless a department wants it another way. Most departments don’t want to read through the hopes and dreams of applicants; it’s clearly easier to have a computer do the emotional bits. I bitterly laugh at the irony of computers weeding out candidates for writing internships. The most impassionate creations deftly scanning for “keywords” of writers who spend time crafting a variety of ways to express themselves.
It all felt, well, very non-Disney.
I doubt if Walt himself would be able to land a PI interview. After all, he could barely negotiate contracts. (Roy, on the other hand, would probably make it to the final round of a management internship.)
You can be angry at me for not playing the system. You can call me naïve for my bitterness. I’m nothing more than a stubborn millennial who doesn’t want to earn her keep, right? My 60-hour work weeks during holiday seasons, dealing with thousands of Guests each day, telling irate parents their child doesn’t meet a height requirement and getting screamed at — none of it will ever show enough commitment to this place for some people.
“That’s what you signed up for,” the voices echo. “You’re supposed to be nice. You knew what you were getting into.”
Well, yes and no. I love making magic. I love seeing a kid terrified of riding a ride come off triumphant and shouting “we have to do that again!” I love having families reunite at their favorite place if only to spend a few days together. Those moments are truly inspiring, and they are why I worked for Disney.
But since when does making magic and offering excellent customer service stay confined to one company? In the words of Dream Along with Mickey, why can’t I “take the dream with [me] wherever [I] go”?
I had the honor of meeting Marty Sklar –Walt Disney’s personal ghost writer– several months ago at a book signing. The experience itself was life-changing, and his book offered an unexpected glimpse into Imagineering.
The first half of Sklar’s book explores the 10 Commandments of Imagineering and creativity. The latter half consists of over 75 anecdotes from current and former Imagineers. Nearly all of them admits to having most experience outside of the Disney company. They do not speak highly of the opportunities for WDI interns –the most coveted professional internship within the Company. If anything, overzealous interns are criticized for entering into their dream job unwilling to adjust to outside input.
I spent time recently thinking up the Disney executives who left the company and returned to a higher position. The list was quite lengthy, and Lasseter’s existence on the list was enough to comfort me.
To my friends still in Orlando pursuing their professional dreams, good luck. I know a majority of you were left with the awkward silence after putting in full-time and part-time applications, even after going above and beyond in your work locations. I hope that answers come and bring favorable news when they do.
I love Disney, and that will never change. I still tirelessly follow the Disney Parks Blogs, Oh My Disney and DisneyStyle accounts for new information about the company. I will forever love the thrill of walking down Main Street USA and hearing the Dapper Dans serenade a new set of ears.
I’ll keep blogging remotely from wherever when announcements are made or whenever I have an Oh My Disney moment of inspiration.
But I can’t become so enraptured with the constantly-evolving magic that 20 years of my life passes and I’m stuck with piles of untried dreams under Four Keys Cards receipts.
Sometimes, the best stories are the ones where a lofty goal isn’t reached. The princess lands a fresh adventure and a quest begins anew.