5 Lessons I Learned About Getting Into The Theme Park Industry

By , July 22, 2015
Matt Brueckmann

Hi again everyone! Today I thought I’d give you a different kind of post, one that might be useful to those of you who love theme park rides and want to join this amazing industry. I’m just beginning my journey myself, so I’m no expert, but I think I’ve seen a lot of things already that differentiate this from a typical career path. So here’s everything I’ve learned so far in 5 points, starting with Lesson 6 (Lessons 1-5 can be found in my past blog posts):

 

Lesson 6: Find your specialty and run with it.
By all means, if you find some aspect about the theme park experience that you love and want to work in, then go for it. However, I don’t recommend picking a major/field just because it appears to relate to theme parks. Choose a field that you like first purely because you enjoy it, then figure out how you can apply it to theme parks. Most fields have real-world theme park applications, so I wouldn’t worry too much about that.

There’s so many different ways you can go with a career in this industry, and there’s never a wrong answer to the path you should take, in my opinion. Everyone I’ve seen make it to some point all came from different, unique paths, even sometimes completely different majors and fields. I always found that fascinating because then everyone has their own different perspectives and experiences to bring to the table. I’ve met people in the industry from backgrounds like engineering, hospitality, architecture, interior design, technical theater, you name it, somebody does it.

Lesson 7: Put yourself out there, attend IAAPA!
For the most part, I believe your passion for theme parks will shine through your past experience/projects and skills. Show people why you are a desirable candidate and what you have to offer first, then explain your passion. I know it’s hard getting into contact with people  sometimes, but I can tell you the best way to do so is to attend amusement industry related events. The best place to meet anyone and everyone in this industry is the IAAPA (International Association for Amusement Parks and Attractions) Expo in Orlando, FL each November. It’s basically a large tradeshow where every amusement manufacturer and park displays their latest work, and meets with other companies. I highly, highly recommend attending IAAPA, it’s what brought this adventure full-circle for me, giving me opportunities to learn, connect, and at the least have fun looking at all the cool stuff. I mean, it’s basically a pop-up theme park for a week.

IAAPA even has a program for students and young professionals (the IAAPA Ambassador Program) where you help put on the show and gain so much personally and professionally, and it’s worth applying to.  If you need more information, I was previously an ambassador so let me know!

Lesson 8 : Take risks, find opportunities.
When you take risks, people will notice. And with an industry like this, it’s a must. I know for some of you it might be hard to travel to Orlando for the IAAPA Expo, or travel across the country for an internship, but start small. Find the companies and people whose work interests you, and start by getting in contact with them. Don’t bombard them with emails, but just give them a reminder every once in a while of your continued interest and dedication, you never know where it could lead. That’s how I got into contact with GCI. When the opportunity arises, do your best to take advantage of it. From getting the courage to start a conversation with someone, to finding your way to IAAPA, you’d be surprised how much people are willing to support you in your endeavors. I personally crowdfunded my trip to interview with GCI, which completely surprised me in how generous and insightful people can be when you share your story and your goals.  Efforts like these further demonstrate your persistence and passion where it counts, where people will notice.

Lesson 9: Relationships are key. Make friends, not connections. 
I can’t emphasize this point enough, as I believe it to be one of the most important. The cool thing about this industry, is that it is so big that there are people doing amazing things in every field, yet also such a small world where everybody knows everybody. I find that when I meet new people, they also happen to be connected to others that I know, and over time you can make a great network of friends, colleagues, coworkers, etc. This is essential and can be mutually beneficial for everyone if you make sure to begin and sustain these relationships.

Lesson 10: Don’t give up.
Just about 2 years ago, I was finishing my sophomore year in college and looking for a summer job. I applied to anything from internships to ride operator positions at my local parks, and didn’t get any of them. Let’s just say I lost a little bit of momentum after that. “How could I design and build theme park rides if no one wanted me operating theirs?”, I once thought to myself. Little did I know that it was the best thing for me at the time for several reasons.  It takes a lot of patience and persistence to survive and thrive in this business, and those were personality traits I once thought I didn’t have, but developed through this process. Use your passions in theme parks and your chosen field to push forward through everything, to ultimately achieve your goals.

 

This is a little long, but I hope this helps some of you, since I really believe each one of these points helped me, especially in the past year. This industry is tough, and will test you in a lot of ways. I’m not saying its easy, but saying its possible, if you put forth the effort. If you need anymore advice or information about different opportunities, I’m more than happy to help where I can. I feel obligated and honored to help, in return for the great advice and opportunities I’ve been given thus far.


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