January 28, 2016
A West Virginia University student got the opportunity of a lifetime to try her hand at working in the service industry at the Happiest Place on Earth.
Emily Myers, a senior human resource management major from Morgantown, West Virginia, decided to take a chance on applying for the Disney College Program at the Walt Disney World Resort, and was promptly accepted into a role as a quick service food and beverage employee.
After completing a summer internship program with BrickStreet Insurance in Charleston, West Virginia, Myers was off to Orlando, Florida, where she would meet the five girls who would share her apartment – all from different parts of the United States, all stationed in different areas and disciplines of the workforce at the Resort.
For Emily, her roommates and their peers, the internship position wasn’t just about working in a fast food environment, standing at the front desk of a hotel, ensuring the safety of young swimmers at the pool or ringing up a customer’s order at the gift shop. It was the opportunity that came with working for and learning from the professionals at a highly respected Fortune 100 company; better yet, one that boasts some of the best customer satisfaction in the world.
“One thing I learned, simply from observing what was going on around me day after day, was this: even if you’re just a small part of a very, very big machine like the Walt Disney Company, you feel empowered just like anyone else to go above and beyond in your job and give it 100 percent every day, whether you’re working to please the guests or even in an HR or administrative setting to please your fellow employees,” Myers said. “In my position, I was taught to make every guest experience special, and make every guest feel as though the interaction is personalized to them.”
While completing the internship program, Myers enrolled in a four-week seminar related to her field of study at WVU, “Disney Cast Engagement & Human Resources,” offered as part of the Disney Exploration Series. Myers and fellow classmates learned about how the functions of human resources play a huge role in developing the over 74,000 employees and cast members of the Walt Disney World Resort, and gained insight on Disney’s approach to recruiting, training and retention while balancing the diverse needs of the work force.
Another thing Myers recalls about her semester in Orlando was the very first moment in which she realized that she was “drinking the Kool Aid” during Disney Traditions, the program that introduces each new generation of cast members to the culture and heritage of the world-famous Disney organization.
“I was told that in this moment, Disney was going to ‘sell me’ on the experience I was going to have – and it’s true, 100 percent. I remember they showed a video about a guest describing a cast member who had gone above and beyond to help her son who was disabled, and I cried.
Why? Because they told us that we could give guests that same kind of magic, and I believed it. Rightfully so, because I thankfully did get to have similar moments.”
Within this same class period, each employee was given a headset and sent up into the park in groups to find Cast Members portraying examples of the four keys that they had just been taught: show, efficiency, courtesy and safety.
“It was cool to learn about Disney’s principles, and then go upstairs into the park and see exactly what it is that they teach with our own eyes,” Myers said. “Going into Magic Kingdom with that purpose, rather than just being a guest, really made me appreciate all that the company does right away in that first impression. It wasn’t long before we found cast members displaying each of the four keys that we were looking for in their job functions.”
Through the odd nightshift schedule Myers had to endure – often going in to work at 5 p.m. and not leaving until past 2 a.m. that same night – she enjoyed every minute of it.
“I had fun even when I didn’t think I was having any fun at the moment,” she said. “The chaos of working on the corner of Main Street U.S.A. in a dining establishment that doesn’t close until 40 minutes after the park closes, often past midnight, is a challenge and sometimes felt like the night would never end – but because our supervisors would find a way to make each employee believe that their work mattered, we knew that it did.”
Myers often acted as greeter for Casey’s Corner, in which she would stand in the front of the establishment where she could greet the guests, hand out menus and answer any questions they may have. It was in these moments where Myers would find guests to give out cotton candy “just because,” whether the child was being very well-behaved or in cases of a mishap situation. Often, when she’d interact with children, they’d clam up and hide behind their parents.
“I joked to my coworkers that I’d eventually be known as the employee who gave out too much free food, even if it was okay and nobody ever said anything to me about it. I remember a situation in which a young boy and his family were waiting on their food at Tomorrowland Terrace, and to pass the time the boy sang me Christmas songs! Of course, I was so tickled by him doing that I gave him some chocolate cake – and the smile when he showed his mom was something I’ll always remember,” she said. “He thought that I made his day, but he most definitely made mine.”
Of course, the entire semester wasn’t just work. Myers and her roommates often park-hopped on days off, took a special trip out to Miami together, and Myers got to experience an exclusive one-night stay in the iconic Cinderella Castle with her family.
Yes, you read that right.
During a drawing as part of an employee-only program called Magic Backstage, Myers decided to enter her name, thinking she didn’t have a shot on this earth to earn any of the prizes such as a dinner at one of Disney’s luxurious restaurants, tickets to Halloween parties at the Magic Kingdom, or special seating to eat dessert while watching the Wishes fireworks.
“They said my name, but I definitely thought it was another Emily Myers – my brain shut down, I couldn’t process it,” Myers said.
Myers’ stay in the Cinderella Suite with her family included a full day of walking onto attractions with no lines (courtesy of a guest relations escort), having a special spot for the evening parade, and getting to take home her very own glass slipper, engraved with the date.
Though Myers’ life at WVU since returning from her internship is entirely different, she hopes to wrap up the remaining semester of her college career with a bang, applying the practices she learned at Disney World as well as those at her BrickStreet Insurance internship.
At BrickStreet, Myers was encouraged by her supervisors to sit down with employees from each different area of the company to talk about what they do, and what they enjoy about it.
“I loved working for BrickStreet Insurance this summer, too – they treat their interns just like they would any full-time employee and really took care of us,” Myers said. “I actually got to learn about worker’s compensation, too, which was very interesting. That internship definitely taught me this, if anything: you don’t know what you don’t know. I still have so much left to learn in terms of HR, since I’d only completed two HR courses prior to my internship.”
She said that the experience at BrickStreet left her with the feeling that the master of science in industrial relations (MSIR) program at B&E would suit her in the fall, should she be accepted to the program.
“I feel so lucky to have had two incredible professional experiences in less than a year’s time, and I am taking so much of what I learned from both Disney World and BrickStreet Insurance to help shape my future.”