6 Things I Learned from the Disney College Program

25 Apr

Posing in front of the Disney Interships banner at the farewell event.

As the semester is winding down and summer approaches, I can’t help thinking about where I was this time last year. Instead of finishing projects and studying for finals, I was trying to wrap my mind around the fact that my time in the Disney College Program was drawing to a close.

For anyone who doesn’t know, Disney has an internship program for college students that allows them to come for a semester and work on Disney property. The jobs aren’t glamorous – I worked in the Magic Kingdom serving up Dole Whip, selling turkey legs and (my favorite) making funnel cakes – but it was definitely an experience that has shaped me and changed my perspective. A lot.

I have heard plenty of people talk about the program and say that it’s a waste of time, that it’s not a “real” internship and that taking a semester off to go play at Disney is pointless. However, just because I didn’t actually work in my field, doesn’t mean that my College Program was just about playing. I learned so many real-world things that college just did not prepare me for.

1)      Being a full-time student is nothing like working a full-time job.

During school, a full load of classes is 12-15 (sometimes 18) hours per week.  This amounts to about three hours per day. Technically, I’ve been told that for every hour I spend in class, I’m supposed to spend three more studying, but I don’t know a single person that does that. Then I got to Disney and I was working anywhere from 35 to upwards of 60 hours per week and often working six days per week. Talk about an adjustment. Especially once commute time was added in, I felt like I was working all the time. Going from having huge amounts of downtime to working seemingly non-stop took a lot of adjusting on my part.

2)      No matter what is going on in your personal life, it all goes away when you’re on the clock.

Obviously, this should be something any job teaches you, but I think working at Disney especially reinforces it. Being a cast member meant I was putting on a show for the guests. I was more than just the person getting them ice cream; I was part of their Disney experience. They may not remember me specifically, but I bet they would have if I had been rude or distracted. The happy and helpful cast members are part of what sets Disney apart, and it takes every person to make people’s dreams come true.

3)      Just changing what you call something can totally change your perspective.

Disney does not have employees; they have cast members. There are no uniforms, only costumes. No one is a customer; everyone is our guest. These are just a few of the phrases that Disney uses. They may seem like insignificant changes, but they make a world of difference. Just changing the phrasing changes the connotation. To me, using the Disney lingo helped me to be in the right frame of mind. Everything at Disney is about putting on a show and trying to give guests the best experience possible. Calling the people I served guests instead of customers helped me to remember that each one was equally important and deserved equal friendliness and hospitality. Being a cast member in a costume added to the fact that I was putting on a show.

4)      Someone who you think you have nothing in common with can end up being one of your best friends.

The College Program, and Disney in general, has all types of cast members. I will admit that I thought most of the other CPs would be people like me: obsessed with Disney movies, kind of nerdy and more of the quiet type. It was Disney; shouldn’t that have been the type to work there? In reality, every kind of person applies. I became friends with plenty of people that I would never have been friends with if we hadn’t been thrown together to work. In college, even though every kind of person is out there, people tend to gravitate to others like themselves. When working as a CP, there are people from all over the country, with all kinds of backgrounds and all kinds of interests. It’s a big melting pot and definitely expanded my horizons beyond the tiny, little bubble I had been living in.

5)      It’s important to pay your dues now if you want more in the future.

I would love to work for Disney again in the future. I think that being in the College Program will have been a great stepping stone toward that goal when I’m ready to try to get a permanent job there. I met plenty of people that started out as CPs and now have real jobs in their fields. When I apply in the future, having previous experience with the company and a clean record card can only be to my advantage.

6)      Make the most of your time.

This may have been the most important lesson I learned, and I learned it the hard way. During bust season, when I was working six days per week, all I wanted to do on my days off was rest. Looking back I wish I had taken advantage of the free time and done more. I thought four months seemed like a lifetime and that I would have plenty of time to act like a tourist. In reality, time flew and I regret not taking advantage of every opportunity I had. Disney offers so much, and I only did a small fraction of the things I would have liked to.

So maybe I didn’t get professional work experience in a specific field, but I think what I got proved just as, if not more, valuable that just working a generic internship. I got a new outlook that I will carry with me wherever my future takes me, be it Disney or somewhere else. Whether I end up in accounting or public relations or doing something completely different, the lessons I learned from my Disney College Program are ones that I will take with me as I continue to grow and change and figure out just where my life is headed.


Live Tweeting: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

11 Apr

I am a member of the LSU chapter of PRSSA. We had a meeting earlier this evening, and I thought I would share something unique that we do. We “Live Tweet” at all of our meetings.

Basically, this means that members at the meeting send out tweets with our special hashtag: #geauxPRSSA. Then anyone who could not attend the meeting can follow the conversation via the hashtag. We are all encouraged to participate in the Live Tweet because every person is going to find different things interesting and, that way, people who could not attend the meetings can still follow along.

I think Live Tweeting events can have both positive and negative consequences. It can also have some unintended problems.

The good:

Live Tweets are an innovative way to get multiple perspectives on an event. I enjoy reading what other people tweet, even when I am at the meetings, too. I like seeing what other people think is important. Also, if I miss something, chances are that someone else tweeted about it.

When I had to miss a meeting because of tests, I pulled up the #geauxPRSSA feed and checked what was happening at the meeting. Even though I could not get the full effect of the presentation, it was nice being able to follow along and get a few tidbits even if I couldn’t get everything.

The bad:

Live tweeting is not all good though. It has some things that bother me.

My biggest complaint about live tweeting is that I have to see people live tweet at events I do not care about. My twitter feed gets clogged with random tweets that do not seem relevant. Tweeting is good; I just think that it is important to send out tweets that interest your followers.

My other biggest complaint: the misuse of twitter. People will tweet anything. It is not necessary to chronicle every small detail. Instead, just pick out main points and things that are especially interesting or relevant. I like seeing when people tweet interesting things that happen, just not everything that happens.

The ugly:

While live tweeting today, I realized that even when done well, it can still result in awkwardness. Without proper context, some tweets sent out just do not make sense.

For example: I tweeted, “If you do an excellent job for a client, they are more likely to use your services again. #geauxPRSSA” Then I thought about it realized that if my followers did not know that I was live tweeting  at a PRSSA meeting with a focus on event planning, that it would seem like I was just tweeting random tips. This might not necessarily seem like a bad thing, but it ties into my complaint about clogging up the feed.

I think I need to send out a preliminary tweet saying that I am about to start live tweeting about a specific topic, so everything will make sense.

Overall, I like the idea of live tweeting and think that it will evolve into a popular use for twitter. In fact, twitter has a service called TweetChat that allows users to type in a specific hashtag and follow its conversation. This is an especially useful tool for things like Live Tweets and Twitter Chats that have many people all tweeting about one subject. I recommend trying it out if you want to give live tweeting a try.

Golf Boys 2.Oh

5 Mar

Yesterday, Rickie Fowler, Ben Crane, Bubba Watson and Hunter Mahan, aka the Golf Boys, released their second music video, and it already has more than 1 million views. This got me thinking about how much the internet and social media can change our views of people, especially celebrities.

If you have not seen the music video yet, or even if you have and just want to watch it again, you can find it here. Their first music video can be found here.

Rickie Fowler is known as one of the cool, young guys on the PGA Tour. He is sponsored by Puma and always wears bright clothes. He is especially known for wearing head-to-toe orange on Sundays in honor of his alma mater, Oklahoma State University. Rickie rides dirt bikes and had the potential to be a professional Motocross racer, but he chose golf instead.

I think of Bubba Watson as being a “good-old-boy.” He just kind of seems like a big goofball. He does not take things to seriously, which makes him a likeable guy. He owns the General Lee from the Dukes of Hazard, and he plays golf with a pink driver. What could be better than that?

Hunter Mahan is not as visible outside of the golf world, but he is good friends with Bubba and Rickie and a great golfer in his own right. He and Bubba do commercials together, and I can tell that he is a cool guy.

Then there is Ben Crane. On tour, he gives the impression of not having much personality. When he is playing, he takes a long time over every shot, and he does not show much emotion. He got the reputation of being a slow golfer and that did not help him gain fans, so he decided to do something about it.

Ben and his wife started making videos of him being funny and having fun. He wanted to show that he is not just some stick-in-the-mud golfer, and he definitely succeeded.

Basically, Ben makes fun of himself and his reputation for everyone else’s enjoyment, and enjoy it we do. My family and I have spent more than one evening sitting at home watching his videos. Every time he releases a new one, we all have to watch it.

Through his YouTube videos, Ben Crane has completely changed the way the golf community sees him. Now, instead of being the boring, slow guy, he is the hilarious, goofball that people want to hang out with.

He has even had people start reenacting his videos when they see him. Check out this video of the San Diego State University women’s golf team seeing him in the airport. Instead of rushing up for autographs and pictures, they started acting out his “workout” video. This shows me that his videos have made a real impact on his public image.

Social Media has led to plenty of PR success stories, but this one is especially impressive to me because Ben Crane was not trying to do or be anything special. He was just having fun, being silly, and it paid off for him in a big way. I would guess that his popularity has gone way up, and all he did was post a few videos on YouTube.

One Hole Could Save the Game

3 Feb

Today is the last day of the Waste Management Phoenix Open at the TPC Scottsdale. In my opinion, this is one of the best golf tournaments of the year. It is one of the most entertaining tournaments to watch, and I wish more of them were like this. The Phoenix Open is all about the fans. It is the one tournament of the year that allows the fans to go wild and cheer for or yell at the players. In fact, the players actually encourage the rowdiness. In particular, the 16th hole is unlike anything else in professional golf and is something that I, personally, would love to see.

Being a golfer myself, I think having a tournament that focuses on the fans is fabulous, and also that it is necessary for keeping people interested in watching the game. I have heard so many people say that they think golf is a boring sport and that it is no fun to watch. However, one look at the 16th hole of the Phoenix Open would completely change those opinions. The entire hole is surrounded by stands that are absolutely packed with people. Everyone cheers and screams when the players come through the tunnel onto the tee, they hold up signs to score the players’ shots, and they even boo when players hit bad tee shots.

Instead of getting offended or trying to get the fans under control, the golfers encourage this behavior. I think that they enjoy the change in atmosphere and the chance to put on a show. They try to get the fans excited before they hit, and some of them even throw souvenirs into the stands as they walk up to the hole. It creates just as much fun for the players as it does for the 500,000 people that come to watch the tournament over the course of the four days.

Even the caddies get into the excitement. Spectators on the 16th hole take bets on which caddie will step on the green first. The caddies race down the fairway amidst the cheers of the crowd hoping to win their race.

I wish more golf tournaments focused on the fans. The fans are crucial to the survival of the sport because without fans, there is no professional golf. When I was younger, Tiger Woods made a splash in the golf world, and many kids around my age starting picking up the game. He inspired a generation, but now his influence has tapered off, and interest has begun to wane. I think doing more for the fans would be a effective place to start building an audience again. Many of the newer professionals have tried to fill Tiger’s shoes and become the next inspiration for the game, including my personal favorite Rickie Fowler, but so far none of them have succeeded. I think fan involvement would be a smart place to start to build a new audience for the game.

I understand that not all tournaments can be this way, especially because golf is still considered a gentlemen’s sport, and etiquette is central to the game. However, I think letting fans loose every now and then might just be the breath of fresh air the game needs to continue building new fan bases and to keep the proud tradition of the PGA Tour going strong.

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