Climbing the Ladder

By Nate Johnson


When I graduated from college, I wanted to strike it out on my own. I wanted to write books, travel the world, and “live the dream”. I accomplished all that. Now I want the complete opposite– forty years with the same company. I have loved working at Disney since my first college program. It’s incredible. Making the change meant I had to change my goals. 

That made me think of the phrase “climbing the corporate ladder”. Many hear this phrase and think of a lifetime of never reaching the top and link it to “the rat race”. I look at it differently. I see “climbing the ladder” as a way to find my fit. Here’s what I’ve learned in my short eighteen months.

Step On– Many people will talk about “making it big”. Few will step on and begin.

Vision– One question I asked myself before coming to Disney full time was “ What’s my endgame?”. What is “enough”? For me, my long term vision is to work at the Disneyland Resort. I loved my experience during my College Program and want to raise my future family in Southern California. Wanting to live there requires me to continue to get better and find a position that can allow me to raise a family in that area of the country. Having that vision helps with I have long weeks at work. I know where I’m going.

State your ambition– I worked with someone who had been with Disney for five years. Every time I asked what she or he wanted to do or where they wanted to work next, I got vague “I’m not sure” and “I’m happy to be here”. People can’t help or advocate when they don’t know where you want to go. I state where I go and what opportunities I’m looking for with my leadership team. That being said…

Let your work do the talking– After stating your intentions, let your work do the talking. Find ways to improve the operation. Give ideas to solve problems. Have people notice when you’re gone because you’re so good.

Find the work that no one else wants to do– When I was part-time, I noticed towels would always run out. I took it upon myself to get towels for the areas that needed them (in ADDITION to my daily responsibilities). When I had my weekends, people noticed towels were out. After a few months, people began telling me that I was the “towel boy”. That was one reason I got new opportunities.

Find your Fit- In 2019, I worked at three different teams. I worked at the Magic Kingdom, Blizzard Beach (one of Disney’s waterparks), and Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge. Each area had different leadership teams. Sometimes getting a new change adds serenity and help to your long-term goals. 

There it is. Here’s how I’m “climbing the ladder” eighteen months in.

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