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The Walt Disney Company recently announced their Heroes Work Here initiative at their annual stockholders meeting on 13 March. At that time they announced a new company-wide initiative to hire, train and support returning veterans. Disney committed to hiring at least 1000 returning U.S. veterans over the next three years.
At the time Disney also announced that they would be holding three Job Fairs in Anaheim, New York, and Orlando. I was able to attend the Orlando Career Expo held at Disney World’s Coronado Springs Resort Conference Center at the invitation of WDW Media Relations.
In full disclosure I had been critical of Disney’s lack of information provided to the military/veteran public about these events and my (as well as other’s) inability as a military member/veteran to obtain an invitation to attend this invitation only event as a participant, I came away with a very good impression of both the event and more importantly the Walt Disney Company’s commitment to this initiative and our veterans.
The event opened in typical Disney fashion, with a video. The video was comprised of a made for TV commercial, clips from current ABC television shows, movies, and theme park scenes.
Meg Crofton, President, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Operations, U.S. and France then gave a brief welcome address in which she mentioned both Roy and Walt Disney’s military service during World War I. She said “We are doing this because it is the right thing to do, but we’re also doing it because our company and cast have been touched in countless ways by veterans.” Crofton stated that Disney already employs thousands of veterans currently and also mentioned that since the announcement of this initiative two months prior, that 250 military/veterans had already been hired, 160 of which had been in Florida.
Crofton also talked about the company’s support of four non-profits that support the military.
Next the event broke up into several different venues:
- The Expo Hall – Manned by veterans currently employed by Disney from the various divisions of the company who discussed their particular areas. And Disney Casting (Human Relations) was also on hand to do personal resume reviews.
- Classes for the military job seeker – Three different classes tailored towards the military professional entering the civilian job market.
- Transitioning Your Resume
- Tips to Interview in the Civilian Environment
I listened in on two of the classes and both were very worthwhile. In the Transitioning Your Resume class, led by Disney’s Director of Human Resources for Veteran’s Affairs Kevin Preston (a very recently retired Army Colonel), converting your skills and accomplishments in the military into a format that means something in the civil sector was presented. In the Interview Tips class lots of good information was presented on what to do before, during, and after an interview.
In between classed Kevin Preston commented “Disney hadn’t done any marketing for these events, but rather passed the information to military commands and relied on them to get the word out.” The thought being “To get moving as soon as possible, rather than waiting.”
Bryan Malenuis, a Disney spokesman said that they’d originally planned on 350 people attending the event from within a 50-mile radius, but had extended their target area to a three-hour drive, and that 422 individuals had eventually been invited.
I had the opportunity to interview one of the attendees, John Rice, a Navy Officer with 35 years of service, due to retire this month. His career mirrors so many, starting as an enlisted jet mechanic, going on to earn his degree and commission, with duty assignments all over the world. When I asked John why he was interested in the Disney Company he said that Disney’s reputation for professionalism, safety, and excellence were so similar to the military that he felt that it “Would be an easy transition.”
I spent quite a bit of time with Brian Britton Vice President of Park Operations at Walt Disney World. Brian is a Navy veteran, a former Naval Aviator who found his transition to the Walt Disney Company very easy. He said, “The skills I learned in the military such as leading by example, cutting through red tape, lifelong learning, stress management, and adaptability to change were skills that allowed me to succeed at Disney.” Britton also said that the company has many roles for military members and veterans, full time, part time, and seasonal and that “The key skills that Disney is looking for from those they hire with military experience are leadership ability, operational experience, a sense of urgency, adaptability, and a strong work ethic.”
Robin Zais, Director East Cost Casting, Disney Parks and Resorts, also mentioned the Disney brother’s WW I service and that while Disney has always hired veterans that, “It’s the right time to formalize Disney’s longstanding relationship with the military.” And also “That it is much more about creating a relationship with our veteran community and also supporting them in any way in which we can.”
The Wrap Up
The day wrapped up with a panel of Disney executives, some of whom were veterans, who fielded a few questions from the audience. And of course Mickey Mouse came by to say hi.
This event was a fantastic opportunity for those who were able to attend! The coaching received in the classes and the personal resume review was priceless. Bryan Malenius said, “Disney is looking at the attendees of these events as a hiring pool that they can draw from.”
I only wish all who had wanted to attend had been able to do so. Disney said they plan on this project being an ongoing process, so I encourage them to reach out to veterans and military alike through other means than military channels and Facebook.
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