Finding the 'Dream' Internship with Disney

Winter quarter is recruiting madness—or so I've heard. As someone interested in an entertainment internship, my recruiting madness began later and more gradually. I have witnessed the madness that my banker, consultant, or CPG [consumer packaged goods] marketing friends have had to endure. While far from jealous of the process, I will not hide my jealousy at their having secured their summers in January or February when my prospects were still a twinkle in an HR rep's eye. But the entertainment folks soldier on, secure in the knowledge that we are following our passion and that our financial models and valuations will be infinitely more interesting than our earlier employed colleagues. Self delusion being an asset in the entertainment world, I believe my last sentence shows how ready I am for the industry.

Not to be outdone by their recruiting madness, I secured an academic internship at Fox (NWS) in the international distribution group within sales and strategic planning division. Having moved myself, my boyfriend, and all my books across the country from New York to L.A. for this kind of industry access, I expected a lot from the internship. It delivered completely. With all due respect to corporate finance, operations, and marketing II, Fox was the highlight of my winter quarter. It reinforced my desire to work in the film industry and, in addition to UCLA Anderson itself, justified my departure from New York. I will caution that an academic internship is a logistical challenge; as an MBA student, you are already pulled in many directions. Adding one more direction almost broke me. However, I, gaining invaluable industry insight and an appreciation for the variety of skills needed to thrive within the studio system, lived to tell the tale.

peer competition—and cooperation

Back on the summer internship recruiting front, I was finding my search to be another business school paradox. The paradox lies in the realization that your closest friends are now, on some level, your competitors. Those whom you have grown close to and with whom you have struggled through the last months are now interviewing for the same position. It's a difficult thing to balance, and I have looked to my fellow students to guide me through the process. I would like nothing more, and it is part of why I became the Entertainment Management Assn. president, for every one of my entertainment-oriented colleagues to get the job of their dreams. Considering the current economic climate, the reality is that some will probably get the dream jobs of others.

Nonetheless, I have witnessed a tremendous amount of cooperation and peer support. Across campus this quarter, I witnessed peers editing each other's cover letters, conducting mock interviews, and exchanging information about the internship search. The process is long and arduous no matter what field you ultimately choose as your destination. Entertainment requires deep industry knowledge, a demonstrated passion, copious networking, and substantial reflection on which function you wish to fulfill within the industry. The catch-22 of casting a wide net but not so wide that you are passed over for highly specialized positions can present a difficult recruiting strategy. Even though I have been fortunate enough to secure an internship, I don't pretend to have the answer to the above challenges. Focus on what is most interesting to you and try to refine that search, and not necessarily the search for an internship.

In the end, I received an internship offer from Walt Disney (DIS) in the motion picture domestic distribution and marketing group in the finance department. I can say with complete candor that it is my dream internship: It combines my passion for distribution with my finance skills at a company for which I have tremendous respect.

start your search early

If I can give any advice to future classes, it would be to start early. You will hear it from just about every second year [student] who survived the experience. I hope you will do as I say and not as I did, and listen to the chorus. Early means now. Or a week ago. Yes, update your resumÉ, but also brainstorm on what you did at your old job, make a list, and read it again and again.

My work on SAP and various other data systems were what I considered the least important aspect of my job; however, my interviewers at Disney considered them most relevant. Talk to your former supervisors and their supervisors. Learning as much as you can before you get to school will prepare you for the variety of subjects that will surface. There were many times when I sought informational interviews with departments or individuals where I had no intention of working. Refine your focus through your fellow students and then use the executive face time to communicate that interest.

Another piece of advice is to remain calm. Chill out. Again, do as I say and not as I did. There was an interview where I put so much pressure on myself to succeed that my nerves got the better of me. The economy might be in free fall, but keep your eye on the prize. An MBA is not about the internship or even your first job out of school, but the lifetime of value it will provide. I wish everyone the best of luck. I am going to go back and reread my last paragraph, because being reminded to relax is perhaps the most valuable advice anyone in business school can receive.

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