I'm curious to see if anyone has insight into finding a job in the park/coaster industry. And by a job, I mean full-time, year-round and salaried. Does anyone know if there are certain boards that parks might post for these types of positions? It would be a dream come true to find a position in an industry that I love so much!
Theme parks have a lot of the same kinds of positions that any other company has, plus the specific operational roles (rides, culinary, entertainment, etc.). If you're interested in those industry-specific kinds of jobs, they pay isn't great, and there's a lot of competition for those jobs. For the more typical "corporate" jobs, they pay is typically less than it would be in other industries. Just something to keep in mind.
Honestly, my feeling is that the industry is neat from the outside, but the inside varies in neatness and you may find it disappointing. I had a friend who got her "dream job" within two years of graduating college, and she was kind of like, "Now what?" She went into a different field.
Ha! When I was much younger, I dreamed of working a summer at Cedar Point, my favorite (then and now) amusement park. After several years of applying, finally, the call came*. I was in! I went to Cedar Point! I processed in! I worked at Stockade Refreshments!
Yes: Cedar Point was neat from the outside. Not neat from the inside.
*Yes, boys and girls, I am so old that when I applied, I had to go to Kalamazoo, Michigan to interview, fill out a paper application, and wait for a telephone call on a telephone that was attached to the wall.
Thanks, Jeff! That's very helpful. I've been working in non-profit arts administration for the last few years, so I would be looking for something more in the administration/corporate side of things. I am currently based in Philly, so there aren't a lot of options particularly close to me at the moment for the amusement park industry, so I'd probably have to make a move as well.
And don't be afraid to network. If you know anyone in the industry, reach out to them. If you're a member of any enthusiast organizations, reach out to the leadership team.
If not? Do some research. Call several parks or companies and ask who heads the department(s) you would like to work in. Send those folks an email and ask if they would be willing to do a short information interview, emphasizing that you're not looking for a job, but for information and insight.
Attend tradeshows. I had similar intentions on a coaster carrier. I attended the '08 IAAPA trade show in Las Vegas. I talked to several of the coaster companies, most were nice to talk at their boths. But, keep in mind they are there to sell/ promote their company. As you may know, they are only a few coaster firms in the U.S. Gravity Group, GCI, Premier Rides, S&S Power, and Morgan. Did I miss any? During the convention, I realized there were more opportunities in water parks. Also note, a most in the industry are passionate. Just attending the IAAPA trade show was awesome, but expensive. Try looking into being a show intern. They look for their interns months ahead.
Desperate to get my feet wet, I became a Schlitterbahn lifeguard for a few weeks in '10. I loved the job, but made minimum wage. I lived in a tent for affordable, short term housing. I was hoping the job would lead to a full- time design career. It did not, as Schlitterbahn's design group, NBGS, had downsized. I attended the '10 WWA tradeshow, talking with a handful of firms. One firm asked if I, a Texan, would relocate to New York. I stumbled upon a contact that knew of a small Texas design firm that struggled meeting deadlines. They needed an Autocad guy and I know the software. I waited several weeks until they called. I got a "short term" assignment where I pulled two all night ets to finish a job. The job went from a month to three months to about two years. The pay was nominal, I was a 1099 Contact worker with no benefits. I could of been let go at any time. The experience was great, but many ups and downs. I met some great people and designed a few waterparks and waterslides. I left on my own after dating my wife.
Again, attend tradeshows, walk the floor and go to the seminars. Be willing to relocate and perhaps accept lower than expected pay. Be passionate and willing to learn. Find out what kind of software the firm's your interested use.
For careers, the best site I've found is www.blooloop.com. There seems to be always listings on their job board. Premier seems to always to have a few postings on their site. I've seen some listings on Indeed, but usually their seasonal, park jobs.
I hope this helps in finding a fulfilling career.
And don't be surprised if the "way in" is working several years in a low paying hourly position doing the same thing high school kids are doing. It's a tough industry to break into, as the higher up you go the fewer positions there are.
My time at Disney was a mixed bag. I actually wound up enjoying some of the hourly, mundane work, but within six months of becoming a salaried park operations manager I started a new career path outside of the company. That position (and the overall lifestyle that comes with it) wasn't for me, for more ways than one.
What BrettV said. My ex got a job at WDW as a host at The Seas in Epcot and immediately started auditioning for Entertainment, the department he actually wanted to work for and quickly climbed the ladder.
If you're a member of ACE, I believe you can go to IAAPA for free or at a lower cost, as ACE is an IAAPA member; it would be a great place to network.
What ever you do, don't tell them you're an enthusiast, that will close a lot of doors in your face at the get go.
Joseph Croft said:
I'm curious to see if anyone has insight into finding a job in the park/coaster industry. And by a job, I mean full-time, year-round and salaried.
What area are you wanting a job in? Finance, Marketing, Engineering, Horticulture, Entertainment, Human Resources, etc? Most full time positions, especially at seasonal parks, require previous experience or a degree.
The job board on the IAAPA website is a good place to watch for full-time, year-round positions. I personally think that trolling the IAAPA show floor is pretty bad advice, but if someone can get mileage from that without looking like a tool, more power to them. It's a trade show. People are there for education and to buy, sell, and/or research products. Cold-calling on vendor booths with your resume or randomly approaching executives and managers from parks on the floor seems a bit strange and off-putting.
The vast majority of people in full-time jobs in the industry worked their way up from part-time, front-line positions and through the natural networking that occurs in the workplace. That may not be an option for everyone, so watch the IAAPA job board and watch the websites for companies and firms that you think you might want to work for if a position opened up.
Yeah, I have to agree. Trade shows are a place that people are selling stuff. Sure, I can catch up with "the network" at the show, and I do meet new people, but people would not spend time talking to me if I was looking for a job.
Honestly, for the standard professional jobs (finance, marketing, IT, etc.), I don't think you need to work in the industry. I've worked in the business once, on contract, in the highest possible position for my skill set. It was for my career experience, not anything industry specific. Other areas, especially operations, benefit enormously from industry experience, but as others have said, there is a long line of people who want to do that work.
Another thing to keep in mind is many people never get further than the leadership level of front line stuff. And with that, positions like culinary for the signature restaurants, resort concierge/management positions, even positions like an administrative assistant will often make considerably less in a place like Disney than in a normal office setting or a fancy convention style resort by the airport where business people do important things. With the lower pay comes the perks like park admission and discounts, as well as the ability to say you work for Disney.
In theme park management I was pulling in 55-60 hour weeks (mandatory 50 hour weeks in many departments, but the counterproductivity there is a topic for another day...) and I was working every weekend and was unable to take off days such as Christmas and Thanksgiving. I have a similar guest service type position now outside of the theme park world and I make considerably more, work considerably less, and have weekends and holidays off. Some folks go 10-20 years (or an entire career) before they realize the lack of work/life balance isn't worth it and doesn't make you happy. I realized it within 6 months. When I left, many co workers told me that maybe I wasn't "cut out" for "real work." When in reality, I enjoy spending time with my significant other, having two days off per week, and not waking up and going to work on Christmas Morning. Now many of those co workers are jealous of my new lifestyle, and I couldn't be happier. Just keep that in mind... it's a ruthless industry.
That's totally bull****, by the way. The idea that you should have to suffer and kill yourself for work, otherwise you're not good enough. That's a strange American invention that clearly is not making anyone happier. At least in my line of work, people have figured out that they can do that as contractors for 20-30% more, on an hourly basis, over already pretty good salaries. Even then, it should be a choice. Time off is important.
Cold-calling on vendor booths with your resume ... seems a bit strange and off-putting.
Very true. I'm suggesting taking such an opportunity to make connections in the industry, not to apply for jobs.
That's totally bull****, by the way. The idea that you should have to suffer and kill yourself for work, otherwise you're not good enough. That's a strange American invention that clearly is not making anyone happier.
That is what drove me nuts literally from day one. My direct supervisors felt that the number of hours you put in a week related to how "good" you were, rather than the quality of the work. And on those marathon days, I wasn't the least bit productive after hitting hour 11 or 12, but it "looked good" to be there. This is just not the way to have happy, productive employees.
My dad has subscribed to the "work 6 days a week and take work on vacation" theory for 30+ years. I remember as a kid on family vacations to the beach going back to the hotel and he would have work overnighted to him each day to pick up in the hotel lobby and work on in the afternoon before driving to the post office to overnight it back. I knew by age six I would *never* do that. He doesn't understand my view and I don't understand his.Last edited by BrettV, Sunday, March 20, 2016 10:05 PM
I think in the case of the amusement industry, there's some degree of desire to want to be in it. Disney is probably the worst, where people are seemingly desperate to blow fairy dust up tourists asses for reasons I can't explain. We have a segment of people in the software development world like this too, mostly working for valley startups and game companies. No thanks. I haven't reached this stage in my career so I can work more and dilute the salary I've worked hard for.
I think some of it too is that people tend to wrap much of their identity in their work. I don't really fault anyone for this, but there comes a point where you're being taken advantage of, or something else in your life suffers for it. I mean, Sweden and Norway citizens get way more time off than we do, and they have a higher per capita GDP. What's up with that?
I think some of it too is that people tend to wrap much of their identity in their work. I don't really fault anyone for this, but there comes a point where you're being taken advantage of...
This was true for me when I started at Cedar Point. I spent 11 years working 6 days a week, 70 to 80 hours a week with no summer vacation. The idea that if I wasn't there work was not being done was the mantra for everyone. Once I did some freelance work outside of Cedar Fair and was able to see what it was like outside of the chain, I couldn't wait to jump ship. Now I work for Walt Disney and only have to do 40 hours a week. Overtime is up to me and I get plenty of time off to keep me alive and well. I take a 4 to 5 day vacation every month to make up for those lost vacations in the past. You can work in the industry and bust your ass doing those long hours and neglecting your personal life for nothing. Or you can find a park/positions that allows you to have a life but still have a hand in some exciting projects. Sadly though most people who WANT to be in the industry like I did take a long time to realize that life isn't all about work. I only wish I had figured it out sooner.Last edited by 99er, Monday, March 21, 2016 12:12 AM
I'm not sure we Americans have a lock on the "working longer = success" syndrome. In Japan it's not uncommon for a salaried employee to work 70+ hours a week (12 or 13 hours a day X 6 days) despite labor laws in place. Time off is rare and workers will take their break time to visit a light booth designed to bombard them with strong light in order to refresh them. It's common for people there to never step out into the light of day- its dark when they arrive and dark again when they leave.
The jobs I had (all within the same company) were important, but I never felt important performing them. In most cases there were many, many of us doing the same thing over and over and if any one of us should drop dead there would immediately be someone else willing and able to fill the chair. However, our contract protected us from forced overtime without compensation, and hence, the company rarely ponied up the cash. Instead they had us focused on being as productive as possible during those 40. Sometimes it was demanding and stressful, but the trade off was being able to wipe our feet at the door and go home. When I retired after 33 years with the company I was looking at a great salary and 6.5 weeks of vacation a year with every evening and weekend free to do what I wanted. Looking back none of it seemed so bad.
I worked two summers at Cedar Point in food service. The first year I was a server/counter person and the second I was promoted to manager at a similar place. For a hot minute I had the notion that I'd like it to be my lifelong work, but after consideration (mainly observations of how higher ups were treated) I decided it might be best to not let anything come between me and my love for amusement parks. Plus, it occurred to me that those who work at a park have little time to travel to visit parks, so there was that.
Anyway, good luck to the OP, and I sincerely hope he finds what he's looking for. But sometimes hobbies are better left as just that.
I worked for Disney for six and a half years. Nothing was more freeing than leaving and having theme parks return to being just a hobby again.
I can't imagine the idea of a 50-60 hour workweek ever again.
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