How to Make a Career at Disney, or Any Company

I was listening to an interview with Lee Cockerell.  Lee is the former Executive Vice President of Operations for the Walt Disney World Resort.  This is his advice for making a career at Disney.

Get in early (meaning when you’re young) and STAY.  Disney often promotes from within, so once you’re in, show them what you can do, and look for opportunities.  Of course, you have to be hard working, prove that you are valuable to the company, and have a clear idea of what you want to do.  If you’re not exactly sure what you want to do, you can figure that out once you’re already in.

Actually, this method can work for other companies too, especially if the company promotes from within.  If you are young person who is just starting to figure out your career, or even a high school or college student, go to a company that you’re interested in working for, ask them what you need to do to get a job there, show your enthusiasm for working for them, and ask if they are likely to promote from within.

Then do whatever it takes to get a job in that company, even if it’s starting at the bottom.  Once you’re in, show them what you can do, and look for opportunities to do what you really want to do, the opportunities will come if you keep looking for them.  This may take years, but if it’s a company you really want to work for, you have to think of it as a long term or even a life long career.  That’s how you can get your dream job.

Encourage Your Children

My Dad always encouraged me in my art. When I was a kid, and we would visit people, he would always ask them, “Do you have pen and paper? Kenny can draw a Disney character for you”. Of course the people would enjoy my drawing and my Dad was obviously proud of my talent.

My Dad would also get me to do drawing appearances, I appeared on several childrens’ TV shows and the local fair, the Lodi Grape Festival. Although my Dad didn’t live to see me become a Disney artist, I think he must have known it way back when I was a kid.

He encouraged my love for Disney by taking us to Disneyland once or twice a year, and living in central California at the time, that was a big deal. He even found a way to get me a personalized autographed photo of Walt Disney just before Walt died, which I still have.

When I grew up, I realized that my Dad’s encouragement was probably uncommon, because I learned that many parents would not encourage their kids to pursue art, believing “You can’t make a living as an artist”.

I believe that most parents want the best for their children, which usually means financial security. But I have also come to realize that you can make money doing almost anything, if you go about it a certain way. You can even make money collecting garbage, which by the way is a necessary service.

I believe that a person’s ideal job is one that they are naturally good at, or love to do. If they can find a way to make money doing it, that can be the ultimate success. So encourage your kids, because while success is never guaranteed, their dream job may be more possible than you think.