The Job Skills I Learned on the Disney College Program

Author: Mary Grace Donaldson, Career Advice

By now, you’ve probably figured out that I’ve had a number of different work experiences. From working at home, to working in an office, to working in insurance, to working full-time and balancing a side hustle, I’ve learned different things from each one — and for that I’m grateful.

But while all of the above experiences had their unique qualities, none could have topped the experience that was the Disney College Program.

I joined the Disney College Program in August, 2011, following my college graduation the previous May. And while I am a life long Disney fan and park visitor (as evidenced by the photos I included in my piece on my life as an only child), there was nothing that could have prepared me for the fact that working in Disney was not all pixie dust.

Without further ado, here’s just a few job skills I learned while working crowd control on  Main Street, U.S.A….

You have no choice but to interact with your co-workers. 
Very often, especially in the parade situation that I worked in, teamwork was essential. As a Highly Sensitive Person I am often overwhelmed by big groups of people, but I had to learn to put that feeling aside when working a parade with 50 other staff members (or, as Disney calls them, Cast Members).


Your appearance matters. 
Not, of course, in a way that you can’t control — Disney has very strict policies regarding discrimination due to race, religion, creed, gender or sexual orientation. But they will be fast to give you a slap on the wrist when the “Disney Look” guidelines are not adhered to. I had to say good-bye to seven of the nine holes I have pierced between both ears while I worked in Disney World. I couldn’t paint my nails crazy colors, and a friend who had tattoos up and down his arms had to wear long sleeves on 90-plus degree days. While the rules for appearance are far from strict at my current workplace (I wear all of my earrings again), I always err on the side of caution when starting a job thanks to the Disney Look.

You learn to control your potty mouth. 
Yes, the rumors are true — Disney Cast Members aren’t allowed to so much as say “damn” when working in the parks. While we err away from using profanity in any #NAMB pieces, the rules here aren’t that strict.

You develop a brave face. 
Sometimes, your personal life wants to creep out during work hours. When working in a Disney Park and talking to guests, there was no time to show sadness. The priority was making guests happy — as in any customer service related job — but Disney service is legendary, and the Cast Members were (and still are) a reflection of that legacy.

While these realities may seem harsh to some (they did to me as a 22-year-old recent college grad with little “real world” experience), they come in handy in the long run. They are also not the be-all and end-all of the Disney College Program experience…don’t worry, there’s plenty of time for pixie dust, too.

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