Biggest Pros and Cons of Working at Disney World

Here are the Pros and Cons of Working at Disney World!
This photo was taken by Michael for Countdown to Magic

If you’re considering joining the Disney Company family like thousands of others, there are definitely things you should know! Here are some of my thoughts on the major pros and cons of working at Disney World, especially since I was a was a Disney World Intern several years ago.

Cast Member Application Process

Applying to work for Disney

The journey for many Disney Cast Members begins on the Disney Careers webpage. You can search and apply for jobs, learn about different departments, and read about the company’s corporate culture. You can search for anything from business management and technology roles to operations and customer service positions.

There are two neat aspects to this website. One, you can connect to your LinkedIn profile. Once connected, jobs that match your profile automatically populate. Overall, the results were accurate enough to initiate a search. But we still liked going through our desired departments in case we missed any opportunities!

The second nifty perk is the homepage quiz. This quiz is an excellent start if you are still determining where to look for your desired job. The Walt Disney Company has hundreds, if not thousands, of open positions. So, it can feel daunting searching through pages and pages of listings. Thankfully, with the answer to a few questions, you are quickly on your way.

Once you apply, you will have a dashboard showing your application status. It will also show any previous applications. If you progress further into the interview process, the application status changes. There are several stages on the dashboard, including “Submission”, “In Progress”, “Interview Stage”, and “Offer Stage”. If you are no longer considered for the position, Disney does a good job of letting you know through email. Of course, there have been times we’ve been ghosted.

Considering I was a Professional Intern, my application experience was slightly different. After applying, I was invited to a phone interview with my two Supervisors. From there, it was the long, painstaking wait until I heard from a recruiter (who called me unannounced while I was in the shower, by the way). They asked me a few more job-qualifying questions before sending me the official offer.

Each experience is different, and I have heard several stories about the application process. But, if you have a general understanding of what could happen, you are well on your way to your Disney career.

  • Pros: There are so many positions to fill at the company that you have a good chance of applying for something!
  • Pros: The interests quiz and LinkedIn profile connectivity make filtering through jobs easier.
  • Pros: The job dashboard does a (generally) good job of letting you know your application status.
  • Cons: Walt Disney Company jobs are in high demand, which can make getting through to the next stage difficult.
  • Cons: Sometimes Disney ghosts you.

Orientation (aka, “Traditions”)

When I worked at EPCOT, we had several orientations. The first, however, is the most well-known. Almost every Cast Member goes through Traditions, the overall company orientation. The idea was founded by Walt Disney, who believed everyone shared the same purpose when joining the company. We are all there to be storytellers and provide the best-in-class service to our guests.

I met people from all walks of life, from upper management to entry-level employees, in this course. You learn about the company’s foundation and culture, share stories, and understand the keys to Disney’s success. In the end, you get your own set of Mickey ears (which I had engraved afterward) and your name tag. We even got to meet the big cheese himself, Mickey Mouse!

There is something extraordinary about receiving those iconic ears and name tags. You feel as if you are a part of a family – a thriving unit – that has stood the test of time. Traditions is inspiring, to say the least, and it fires you up for what is ahead!

If you are working at Disney Parks, you have follow-up meetings afterward, depending on your role. The next big meeting was about understanding our Disney look, where to get our costumes, how to check them out, and how to care for them. This part was un-glamorous compared to the pomp that was Traditions. But it is a crucial step nonetheless!

Funnily enough, one of the most challenging moments of our EPCOT orientation was figuring out how to open the backstage doors. Cast Members have designated areas where they can park their cars, leading to a formidable gated opening. It is accessible by your employee card, which is stressful if you forget yours!

EPCOT is a unique park, as there are Cast Members from all over the world in one place because of the World Showcase pavilions. To start our park orientation, we took cultural sensitivity training. We learned how other cultures behave, the differences that can occur, and how to approach them. There were also numerous safety videos about lifting, emergencies, and equipment.

Finally, we were taken on a tour of EPCOT. We learned about its initial plan to be Walt Disney’s “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow” and the park’s changes. This was another awe-inspiring look into the park’s magic, which was a relief after the information-heavy sessions.

Ultimately, we were instructed to stand in a circle at the center of World Celebration (formerly Future World). Then, a loud voice boomed over the park’s speakers presenting the newest Cast Members to the park. As a plus, we were told the EPCOT is the only park to do this! (I am not sure how true that is now, though.)

  • Pros: Traditions is probably the best job orientation I have ever experienced.
  • Pros: You feel a sense of community when you start at the company, which shows in what they teach.
  • Pros: EPCOT is the best for orientations. Hands down (but I may be biased).
  • Cons: Depending on your role, you can have many follow-up classes that are lengthy and drawn out.
  • Cons: Understanding the ins and outs (literally) of the parks takes a lot of work.

Pros and Cons of Working at Disney World

Let’s begin this section by discussing the perks of being a Cast Member.

Cast Member Perks

Disney Cast Member benefits have changed throughout the years and ultimately depend on the type of role you are offered. As a Professional Intern, my benefits were surprisingly good. I had access to vacation/sick leave, complimentary theme park admission, and Cast Member discounts on shopping, dining, hotels, and recreation. I was also paid weekly and had access to the Disney World company fitness center.

Best of all, I received free theme park tickets for my friends and family based on my working hours. During my six-month internship, I received more tickets than I could count.

Full-time roles have more perks, and my Cast Member friends have touted that they receive benefits like health insurance, retirement programs, tuition assistance through Disney Aspire, child care support, volunteer programs, and commuter assistance.

But there are others I know who wish the company provided more. It is up for much debate, and I understand it is a sensitive subject. As a college student, I felt the benefits were satisfactory, but that was because I had few utilities, groceries, and rent to pay. It would not have been sustainable if I had a full-time job at the $11 per hour rate I had in 2016.

  • Pros: Free access to the theme parks!
  • Pros: There are more perks than before, like tuition assistance, career development, and wellness programs.
  • Cons: The pay could be higher for such expensive living expenses in Florida and California.

Working in the Disney Parks

The Pros and Cons of Working at Epcot
This photo was taken by Michael for Countdown to Magic

Working at EPCOT was the most challenging and rewarding facet of my job at Disney World. My role was different than others, as I was a Plant Science Intern for the Living with the Land attraction. I took care of all the hydroponically-grown plants in the Temperate greenhouse. That is the greenhouse when you enter past the aquaculture facility and see vegetation like sugarcane, sunflowers, blue agave, and sorghum.

My role was a hybrid of on-stage and backstage (the Cast Member-only area). In the early morning, I would make the plants “show quality,” meaning they had to be presentable before the ride opened. Then, I would work the front desk and lead the Behind the Seeds tour.

No matter which role you are in at the theme parks, there are some everyday experiences:

Disney World is HOT

Imagine standing at a counter, working groundskeeping, or being in a parade in 90+ degree heat. Then, imagine only being able to carry around a small plastic water bottle covered in black felt that attaches to your belt. Then, picture that ice-cold water warming up in the sun and providing the least-satisfying thirst quench on the planet.

Cast Members can struggle with the heat in their first few days (I know I did). The Florida climate is unforgiving and rather tiresome.

Challenging Guests

As Cast Members, we understand the pressure guests place on themselves to have the perfect vacation. Take an expensive trip, combine that with Florida heat and FOMO (fear of missing out), and you will have a grumpy guest.

Every Cast Member has dealt with this. From the “you ruined my vacation” types to the “I’m going to complain to Guest Services” types. Funnily enough, in many of those cases, the guest was misinformed or doing something dangerous.

As Cast Members, our first priority is keeping guests safe. Then comes factors like courtesy and show. The last thing we ever want to do is ruin your vacation. But sometimes, we must throw down the hammer to keep you and others safe.

Below, take a look at a video uploaded to a YouTube channel of a former cast member, where she shares some of her experiences with guests:

Amazing Guests

Demanding guests are expected, but what is more common are the fantastic guests that make our day better. Sometimes, even a simple thank you goes a long way. Sometimes, I have received small homemade gifts (although totally unnecessary, it is a sweet gesture).

So, for those that have read this far, if you are one of those fantastic guests who strive to make Cast Members’ lives easier…thank you! You have no idea how quickly our day can be turned around with extra kindness. Many Cast Members love what they do. It’s nice to have recognition from those we care about the most.

  • Pros: You can feel the warmth and kindness of a good guest. They can make your day so much better!
  • Pros: Working at Disney World can be exciting and fire you up.
  • Cons: Well…the difficult guests are too frequent. You can expect quite a few of those!
  • Cons: Florida is hot. Just too hot for its own good.
  • Cons: Disney needs to supply more water throughout the day.

Wrapping It Up

So, there you have it! My brief overview of the pros and cons of working at Disney World. From cranky guests to intense orientations, a lot goes into being a Cast Member. But, it is an experience I would not trade for nearly anything. Perhaps, one day, this Disney fanatic will pass through Traditions again.

This article was written by Angela and edited by Michael.

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