Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Orlando/Disney Post 1- Who the heck are you?

Shortly after I posted my super exciting (to me, at least!) announcement this morning about my upcoming series of posts dedicated to sharing info and advice about moving to Orlando and working for Disney, I was immediately flooded with an awesome outpouring of questions and ideas. I am LOVING the awesome response, so keep 'em coming! A few of the questions I've received so far were things I never would have thought about covering, so I'm really thankful for everyone who has written in so far!

However, I also got a couple of people asking something along the lines of "What makes you think you're qualified to give advice about this stuff?"

If you know me at all, you can probably guess that my first thought in response was:

I mean, I would never ask a YouTube beauty guru why they think they're qualified to do a makeup tutorial, or message someone who shared a recipe on Pinterest and be like "Why do you think you can teach me how to cook?"

But after some thought I realized that since so many people will be visiting this blog for the first time due to this series of posts, it might be both fun and helpful to post a little background info. There are around 65,000 cast members at Disney World, and I can't even imagine what the number is if you factor in past cast members from the last few years, too. The cool things about that is that every single one of those people has totally different experience and wisdom to draw on, so you would probably get slightly different opinions from each person. With that in mind, here's my background:

*I did most of my original apartment hunt (back in 2007) online from 1,000 miles away. I'm a wee bit obsessive when it comes to research, so I still have super-nerdy spreadsheets that detail things like which apartments include which utilities, which come with a balcony, what their pet policies are, etc. Although the actual details in those files would probably be out of date now, the experience of finding a place to live (or at least narrowing down the list) in that way means that I'm pretty darn good at finding apartment info online, and I've definitely picked up a lot of tricks that I'm planning to share. I've also visited quite a few (around a dozen, I think?) apartment complexes in the Disney area in person, so for those places I can offer up some first hand knowledge of what the place and staff are actually like.

*Continuing on that "where to live" theme, although I haven't yet seen and done everything Orlando has to offer, I definitely know my city, so I can offer up advice on which neighborhoods you should probably avoid living in for safety reasons, as well as the general "vibe" of various parts of town. Plus, there's all that fun info I've picked up about where to eat, where to shop, and where to go for nightlife! (The local music scene is one thing I'm excited to write about!)

*I've been lucky enough to have the experience of working both in the parks (Magic Kingdom attractions) and the resorts (front desk/concierge), so I'm familiar with the pros and cons of both experiences. In addition to my regular job at my home resort (All Stars- WOOHOO!), I also got to work on some cool temporary special projects at other resorts. I definitely picked up an interesting perspective at how different the environment can be in a different location, even when the job title is exactly the same!

*I spent two years facilitating the orientation for new cast members at my resort, which was a HUGE learning experience! In any given class I could have from two to over 30 bright, shiny new cast members to introduce to my "home". They ranged from International College Program participants (ICPs) who had never set foot in this country before to retirees who had been visiting for decades and were finally settling down to call Disney their new home. In one morning's class I might have new housekeepers, front desk cashiers, merchandise CMs, lifeguards, managers, food and beverage cast, and luggage assistants. In addition to introducing them to our resort and showing them around, my job was to answer questions like "Where the heck am I supposed to meet my trainer on my first day?" and "Can I wear these shoes for work?" Of course, as you can imagine, when people are that new and overwhelmed, I always ended up getting a ton of questions that had nothing to do with the resort, too! (I highly recommend becoming a facilitator if you get the chance, btw! I think that's probably my favorite role ever. You obviously need to be comfortable speaking in front of groups and handling unexpected things that pop up, but it's a blast!)

*On the less fun side of that role, one of my responsibilities was assisting new cast members with their e-learning (basic training courses done online in the computer lab). I went through the e-learning for every line of business at my resort in order to be familiar with it, and if I had a dollar for every time I've seen some of those courses, I'd be rollin' in dough! The most interesting part of that experience was the time I found myself working with a new cast member from Haiti who had never used a computer, nor taken a multiple choice test. I ended up reading the questions out loud in my best attempt at Haitian Creole (it's similar enough to French that I could usually understand it, but I'm sure my pronunciation was atrocious). It was a little crazy (especially when she would say "nooooo" to each multiple choice option offered), but we made it through! So although I obviously have only worked in a few different departments myself, I've had more experience with the training for different roles than most people.

*On the days that my orientation class ended before I was scheduled to clock out, I would usually spend the leftover hour or so helping out the Coordinators of Training in their office. COTs are the people who set up your schedule when you're new, deciding what day you'll be where and learning what. Even though I was mostly doing things like making copies to put together into training manuals, just spending so much time in that office meant I got to witness a lot of what goes into training and scheduling for all different departments.

I'm sure I'm leaving out a lot here, but this got long quickly, so I hope it at least gives you an idea of my background. Now, with all of that said, you should obviously take every word of advice I offer to heart and follow it to the letter, right? Of course not. I can only offer you my own opinions and experience, but I hope that those things can at least point you in the right direction to find the answers you want! I just know that when I was first planning to move to Florida, I spent months online looking for all the info I could find, and I would have loved to have had someone's brain to pick with my questions!

So keep sending 'em in! I can't wait to get started!

OH! And if you have a witty idea for a name for this series of posts, I'd love suggestions!

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