Posts Tagged ‘camp employment’

5 Things for Camp Staff to Begin Thinking about in the Spring

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Even though camp is three months away, snow covers the ground in many locations and you just barely finished making spring break plans, if you’ve committed to working at a summer camp, it’s already time to begin thinking about the summer. Here are five camp things to begin thinking about in the spring:

1.)    Make travel arrangements. How will you be getting to camp? Will you drive, fly, carpool? If you plan to fly, airline tickets are often less expensive in the early spring before the weather warms and people begin making summer vacation plans. Carpooling is a great way to get to know co-workers while splitting the cost of fuel. If you plan to carpool, reach out to other camp staff through your camp’s Facebook page or other resources offered by your camp and begin to get to know others from your area who may be interested in traveling together. If your camp offers travel reimbursement as part of your contract, it’s also very important that you understand the reimbursement process prior to making travel plans.

2.)    Set goals. Camp is a work experience like no other and it can be a bit overwhelming at first. Setting goals prior to arriving helps minimize culture shock. When setting goals it’s important to keep an open mind. Summers at camp tend to have a lot of twists and turns. Your list will likely evolve as you familiarize yourself with your new environment, and there are some things that will probably not pan out quite the way you initially envision them. That’s okay. The importance of setting goals is that they help you mentally prepare for the camp experience and arrive with some sense of direction.

3.)    Begin stockpiling…but not too much. Packing for camp is an art. Living space is very limited. At the same time, camps are usually in rural places that don’t have a lot of nearby shopping options, and limited access to computers and the internet make online shopping a bit more challenging too. So it’s extremely important to pack the right combination of items that can be easily replaced with those items that are difficult to come by or require a bit of a drive to acquire. Chances are, you will have several opportunities throughout the summer to replenish basic items such as shampoo, deodorant, sunscreen, etc. So if you need to maximize luggage space, pack just enough of these items to get you through the first couple of weeks. It’s a good idea, however, to begin thinking about acquiring certain items, such as bedding, towels and socks, that people tend to overlook until the last minute. By beginning to accumulate those items a few months ahead of time, you’ll avoid that last minute binge shopping trip in which something essential and perhaps not easily acquirable is inevitably forgotten.

4.)    Complete forms. In the spring, your camp will either mail or make available online a series of forms. These forms may include a contract, standard employment forms, forms requesting information about how you intend to travel to camp, and forms that require medical and insurance information. Although completing paperwork is never the most exciting task, it is essential that you complete and submit these forms prior to your arrival at camp. First, the camp must have these completed forms in order to pay you or treat you for any medical emergencies or conditions. Second, many camps will not issue you id badges or uniforms until they have received these completed forms. Orientation is a very busy time and few staff members love the idea of having to take some of their downtime to complete paperwork.

5.)    Learn about the camp. Presumably, you learned at least a little bit about the camp prior to accepting a job there. But now that you’re actually going to be part of it, really get to know it. Watch the camp video if you haven’t already. Re-watch it if you have. The camp video is a great way to preview the camp culture. Also, if your camp participates in any social media outlets (and many do these days), begin following them to get a sense of who your co-workers are as well as your camp’s values and traditions. Also, a lot of camps provide tips and updates for staff through their social media outlets as camp draws near. Of course, it’s impossible to get a full sense of what your camp is all about until you get there, but arriving with some sense of what (and who) to expect is a lot less disorienting than arriving with none.

Be Better

Saturday, March 8th, 2014

The Sochi Olympics took place last month, and even though the athletes competed on snow and ice, the games were surprisingly reminiscent of summer camp, particularly from a staff perspective. Many athletes were there for the first time. Some, however, were competing in their second, third, or even fifth Olympic games. Each summer at camp, likewise, attracts many fresh staff faces – eager but not quite sure what to expect – and returning staff who are back to lead the way and improve upon their past performances, even if those performances were already gold medal caliber. Oddly, a lot of camp blogs and articles address the qualities and expectations of new camp staff, but few address those of returners. How do staff approach camp if it is their second, third, fifth, or even tenth summer? The answer most veteran camp staff provide is that they intend to be better. Even great summers, in retrospect, have room for improvement. Like campers, returning staff always arrive with an agenda and, like athletes, always strive for that perfect 10 summer. Every summer is an Olympic year for camp staff.

Many returners actually begin goal setting for the following summer before the current summer ends. Some simply visualize areas in which they could be better while others actually comprise a physical list. Veteran staff members learn, over the course of several summers, that there is a maturation process to working at camp. Because camp tends to be such a microcosmic environment in which staff wear many hats, it’s almost impossible not to develop multiple perspectives of camp and how it can be made even better. Like athletes, veteran camp staff know that there is always room for improvement. Even the smallest of adjustments can elevate a summer from excellent to outstanding. In part, that is what draws returning staff members back year after year.

Regardless of whether each summer begins with a written or mental list of goals, it ends the same for all returning staff – with careful evaluation of their own performance. The desire to be better is a unique quality of returning camp staff, and a quality that makes them very appealing as job candidates. The enthusiasm of happy campers is infectious. Mediocrity is simply not an option when making campers happy. Returning camp staff are so willing to dedicate themselves to the task of creating gold medal summers that they come back year after year, physically and mentally ready to take on old challenges as well as new ones. At camp,  they eat, breathe, sleep and live what they’ve been envisioning since the end of the previous summer in their quest to simply be better at something they love.

You Can Never Have Enough Socks

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

Arrival: The time has finally come and you have one million different thoughts racing through your head. I can’t believe I am here! Will I fit in? Will I make friends? Will the kids like me? How am I this excited and nervous at the same time? Did I pack enough socks? These feelings are par for the course when coming up the camp road for your first summer at Weequahic. It’s a feeling that any returning staff member remembers vividly and one they are not likely to forget.

Orientation: It’s officially started; your bags are in a bunk, you’ve exchanged a few smiles or started small talk with a couple people, and you are wildly curious as to what a week of training will have in store. You attend meetings that are less of meetings than they are events. Chants, cheers, and skits may not be in your normal comfort zone, but here at Weequahic you have flipped a switch you never knew you had. You have immersed yourself with this group of complete strangers to make a week of learning fun and the nerves of where your summer is headed completely vanish.

Campers Arrive: The nerves are back as fast as they went. The two weeks of orientation felt a lot longer (in a good way) and you’re not too sure you want anything to change. You are attempting to perfect your bunk for the campers’ arrival and also trying to decide how much paint to put on your signs. Cheers erupt as the buses emerge. Nerves are at an all-time high, but the energy of the moment is temporarily paralyzing any fear that attempts to escape. Camper after camper joins your group until the last makes it and you begin introductions as you head towards your bunk; relief sets in.

Week 3: You are at the end of the first session and the halfway point of your summer. Just a few short weeks ago your campers knew more than you did, but that seems like an eternity ago. You are now proficient in the camp schedule, spirit, and probably even the songs. Nerves, what nerves? Only half of the summer has gone by and you are determined to make the most of it. You are sad to see your first session campers leave but can’t wait to meet the new campers who will arrive in a couple of days.

Closing Time: You are in the final days and are trying to relive your summer as it has flown by way too fast. Every “last” moment brings both cheers and tears; you really don’t want to leave. The kids board the buses and the magic of Camp Weequahic has come to an end….for now. As you pack your bags and say your goodbyes to friends who you are so thankful for meeting, you realize a few things: you’ve made friends and memories that will literally last a lifetime, you can’t wait to come back next summer, and when you do you will most assuredly bring a few more pairs of socks.

The Hard Part of Working at Camp

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

A popular question that a lot of prospective summer camp counselors ask recruiters is about the difficult aspects of the job. After hearing about how much fun they will have, about the amount of time they will get to spend outdoors, about all of the friends they will make, and how much money they can save, it all sounds a bit too good to be true. Candidates want to know, ‘So, what is the hard part?’ It’s a good question because, while it’s true that a simple internet search will produce article upon article about all of the great aspects of working at a sleepaway camp, few highlight the difficult parts of the job. In the name of bucking the status quo, this blog is going to take a stab at it.

First, camp ends. That’s probably the hardest part. From an outsider’s perspective, a couple of months never seems like a long time, certainly not long enough to form any permanent bonds or attachments. What a lot of people fail to consider, because it’s just such a foreign concept to most people, is that those two months aren’t 9-5, 5 days per week months. They’re 24/7 months—including meal times. That’s roughly 1,344 hours of constant interaction with campers and co-workers compared to the 320 hours those people who just do that daytime thing get. A little basic math establishes that’s roughly eight months of regular work time crammed into two. Eight months is the better part of a year and plenty of time to get pretty attached to new friends as well as campers. That’s why tears are usually inevitable when it comes time to say goodbye. Goodbye is always hard. But it’s even harder when you know that you may never have the opportunity to see some of the people with whom you’ve just spent the equivalent of eight months of your life again.

Second, you have to be comfortable around children. This sounds like a no brainer, but if you’re used to spending most of your time around adults, spending most of your time around children requires a bit of an adjustment. It goes without saying that interacting with children requires a filter of sorts. Obviously, you don’t share everything with children that you would with other adults. Interacting with children also requires a great deal of discretion. They’re looking at you for answers. Not only knowing what answers to give but when to give them is important. Knowing when it’s not your place to answer but to escalate the issue is even more important. Also, successful interaction with children is all in the presentation. You have to be a good salesperson to a certain extent. Before signing up to work at summer camp, think about the fact that convincing at least one camper to do something he or she does not want to do and to have fun while doing it is likely going to be a daily occurrence. If you’re a person who is quick to lose patience, summer camp may not be the right fit for you.

Third, stepping outside of your comfort zone is difficult. Think about it. When you’re feeling like pizza, do you pick up the telephone and call a different restaurant to order each time or do you call that place that you know makes a killer pie? There is nothing wrong with comfort. It certainly makes life (and decisions) easier. But leaving friends and family and going to a completely foreign environment to live and work for two months is definitely taking a giant step out of the comfort zone for most people. A lot of first year staff members arrive at camp thinking they’re prepared…and then reality sets in. Just accept that you will feel disoriented for a few days and definitely out of your comfort zone, which is hard. But if you stick with it, you’ll find that stepping out of your comfort zone to work at camp is one of the best hardest things you will ever do.

Finally, working at camp is exhausting. Seriously. You need some serious stamina—both mental and physical–to make itthrough the summer. The days are long. The sleep is short. You will likely be given one day off per week, on which you will still find yourself spending time with the same people with whom you’ve been working for the past six days and with whom you will work for the next six days. Obviously, if you’re a person who values a lot of alone time, you might find working at camp a bit hard.

There you have it. The hard part. The fine print. The ‘What’s the catch?’ If you’ve read all of that and are ready to take on a bit of difficulty in exchange for a whole lot of fun, then a summer at camp just may be the right fit for you.

It’s Summer Camp Recruiting Season

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

Attention college and university students:  Have you started to think about how you’re going to spend next summer? Sure, it’s winter, it’s cold outside, and the thing you’re most worried about  now are your upcoming finals. Perhaps in the back of your mind you’ve toyed with the idea of applying for an internship or two. But have you considered working at a summer camp? Right now, in the late fall and dead of winter, many summer camps are on tour, making stops at schools throughout the country and recruiting events around the world in search of the most caring, dedicated, enthusiastic and fun students who are interested in working with children. If you’re taking courses to become a professional in any field that pertains to the education, coaching or care of children, a summer spent working at camp is more valuable than any internship. Imagine how much you can dress up your resume after a summer living and working with children. Your understanding of diversity and your communication skills will also get a big boost because you’ll be working alongside people from all over the world, all walks of life and from a variety of professions. Best of all, you literally get paid to spend most of your days outdoors having fun while participating in activities with your campers!

If you think working at camp sounds great but you’re not a person currently majoring in an area related to children, don’t be discouraged. Although students are typically placed in camp counselor positions, there are many different types of roles at summer camp, and summer camp recruiters are always excited to meet and chat with candidates of any college major who may fill a special niche position. So even if you aren’t an athlete or education major, if you think you have a special talent or quality that you can bring as a camp staff member, don’t hesitate to pay summer camp recruiters a visit when they’re at your campus. You might just be that special candidate who is difficult to find but for whom a camp has definitely been searching.

There are a few things prospective staff members should be aware of, though, and recruiters like to be up front with candidates. Working at summer camp is fun, and you’re certainly not going to be fetching coffee (except for yourself at meal times) or be lost in Excel spreadsheets cursing the invention of pivot tables. But you will work harder at summer camp than you probably ever have or maybe even ever will again. In fact, we in the summer camp industry have a motto that working at summer camp is the “hardest job you’ll ever love.” The hours are long. You can expect to be on duty from breakfast to bedtime, typically, six days a week. Summer camp is extremely fast paced and the environment is best described as “organized chaos,” so you have to be able to keep up with the pace and make split second decisions. Being able to stay positive and provide encouragement, even when it’s storming outside, you’re stuck in the bunk/cabin, and the soccer team (of which most of your campers are a part) just lost a big game, is critical. You have to be able to put on a smile and choose a positive attitude even on days when you wake up not quite feeling the summer camp vibe. You must also be able to care about and for someone else’s children as if they are your own for several weeks. It’s still important to remember that those campers assigned to you are your campers for the entire duration of camp, and you are expected to do your best to make sure that ALL of your campers have equal opportunity to have an amazing summer. If you’re dependent on your tech gadgets, you’ll likely experience a bit of culture shock. Summer camps encourage campers to enjoy their natural surroundings and forbid most electronic equipment such as cell phones, laptops, iPads, and Kindles. Staff members may keep them in camp lockers or safes for use in their off time, but they may not be kept in bunks or used while on duty.

If you’re still reading after the “hard parts” of the job, you must really be interested in working at camp. So now that we have most of the difficult aspects out of the way, here are some fun and rewarding parts of the job. Your summer will be rent free. You’ll likely live in a bunk or cabin with another counselor or two and 8-12 campers. You’ll eat free, too, as your meals are provided. What that translates to is that you can save most or even all of your salary if you have no other financial obligations. The ability to be completely silly on the job when the situation merits is actually commendable. You’ll also get paid to play sports, swim, sail, make clay pots, build woodworking projects, make arts and crafts, do fun science and nature experiments, play crazy games, be in camp shows, go on trips with your campers, etc. You’ll likely make more friends in one summer than you have in the past several combined…real friends. Not just Twitter or Instagram followers. You’ll get to know some children who will remain in your heart long after camp has ended. You’ll also get to meet some staff members who choose to return to camp summer after summer. You may even decide that one summer working at camp is just not enough for you either. Regardless, a summer as a camp staff member just may be the summer that changes your life. Summer camps often get emails or phone calls from former staff members explaining how their time at camp clarified an education or career path. Sometimes it’s the collective of everything that happens over the summer that has such a profound effect on staff members. Sometimes it’s a single moment.

So if you want that summer that’s different, that will set your experiences apart from those of many of your friends, then be on the lookout over the next few months for a visiting camp recruiter and go into spring break free of worries about how you’re going to spend your summer. If you happen to miss the campus tour, don’t be discouraged. You can also apply to work at summer camp through most camp websites. For a good start, visit the Camp Weequahic website.

10 Reasons Working as a Camp Counselor This Past Summer Was the Most Awesome Job Decision You Ever Made…

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

1.) Being able to put “Provided excellent care and fun for several hundred children” or “helped children improve athletic skills” on your resume is a pretty sweet bonus.

2.) Saying, “My friend who lives in Australia…” or “My friend who lives in Arizona…” sounds a lot cooler (and more worldly) than, “My friend who works two cubicles down from me…”  Not to mention, you’ll save a whole lot of money on accommodations the next time you travel!

3.) You’d take tutus over “business casual” as dress code any day.  Shorts and staff shirts meant you got some extra Zs in the morning, too, because you didn’t need an extra half hour to stand in front of your closet wondering what you should wear.

4.) Fetching snacks for your campers was so much more fun than fetching coffee for a boss–and your campers were more appreciative, too.

5.) You got paid to do lots of fun outdoor activities everyday.  Your friends had to request a day off to do fun outdoor activities.

6.) Your “office” had a much better view than your friends’ cubicles. Summer camp provided plenty of breathing room in the form of roomy campuses as workplaces.

7.) Every day brought new opportunities and challenges that, by the sounds of it, were much more gratifying than spending an entire summer filing and creating mail merges.

8.) Letting loose and acting silly was not only acceptable, it was encouraged.  Your friends got verbal warnings for laughing too loudly in their offices.

9.) The amount of friends and connections you have through social media outlets multiplied exponentially.  Who knew summer camp would be such a great place to network?

10.) Tribals and Olympics are EPIC fun!

5 Tips for First Time Counselors

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

You’ve accepted the position and completed the paperwork.  It’s official!  You’re about to spend your first summer as a camp counselor.  Naturally, a lot of people experience a few nerves in the days leading up to camp.  After all, even when you’re a grown adult, leaving behind your family and friends to spend the summer in a strange place is a big deal, especially if you’ve never been away from home for an extended period of time before.  If you didn’t attend summer camp as a child, working at summer camp holds even more mystique because you’re not sure what to expect.  If first time counselor nerves are haunting you, don’t be so quick to call up and accept that unpaid internship filing paperwork in a stuffy office all summer and, for goodness sake, don’t accept that job at the hot dog stand in the local park.  Instead, follow these tips to kick your summer into gear now:


1.)    Relax!  You are NOT the only first time staff member coming to camp.  If you know no one else going to camp or have never been to camp, that understandably may be a pretty difficult concept to wrap your head around right now.  But trust us!  When you get to camp, you will be in good company.  If you’re feeling a little bit lonely when you first arrive, don’t panic and automatically assume you’ve made a mistake.  The majority of people who tend to be drawn to work at camp typically have laid back, easy going and open personalities with an extraverted bend toward making new friends.   Chances are that after your camp’s staff orientation period, you’ll have several new friends for life and wonder why you ever even doubted coming to camp.

2.)    Like your camp’s Facebook page and staff Facebook page if it has one.  Social media has arrived and most summer camps are completely aware that the easiest and most effective way to communicate with their camp staff is through means such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  By liking your camp’s pages, you can make friends before camp, pick up a lot of useful tips, and even possibly connect with a rideshare if you’re looking for a way to get to camp.  Most summer camps also now feature regular blogs.  It’s a good idea to pop onto the camp webpage every now and then in the weeks leading up to camp to see what new blogs have been posted.  Camps tend to post some blogs, such as this one, for which staff is the intended audience during the late spring and early summer.

3.)    Don’t over or under pack.  Packing lists are created by camp professionals who’ve spent enough summers at camp to know what you need to be comfortable for the summer.  So read over the staff packing list, if your camp supplies one, when determining what to pack as well as what not to pack.  Veteran staff members are also usually more than happy to field questions on staff Facebook pages, which makes them a good resource if you’re unsure about some items.

4.)    Arrive with the right mindset; being a camp counselor really is the hardest job you’ll ever love.  Camps tell prospective staff members this during the interview process…and they mean it.  You are about to spend the summer working harder than you’ve ever worked in your life, and you will love most moments of it.  There will also be moments during which you will question how in the world you ended up working at a summer camp and why you thought it was a good idea.  Two things are essential to moving forward when these moments happen, and they’re actually most effective if you prepare yourself with them before you even get to camp.  First, arrive with the right attitude.  Yes, you’re there to work.  You’re there to work hard.  You’re also going to have a lot of fun creating amazing moments for and with your campers.  Second,  know what helps you alleviate stress or frustration and come prepared to engage in it should the need arise.

5.)    Be in the moment.  Yes, we spend our lives being told how important it is to plan.  But at camp, it’s very important to be in the moment and be present with the campers.  It’s how you’ll best appreciate the camp counselor experience as well.  Summer camp lasts only a few weeks each summer, and things tend to move very quickly.  On the first day, you’ll be looking ahead at a whole summer and thinking the end seems like a long way off.  But on the last day of camp you will wonder where it went.   Don’t find yourself with regrets on that day by realizing that you didn’t take advantage of every moment.

Camp through the Eyes of a Program Director

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

I’m the camp’s Program Director.  I have a very unique job at camp as the person responsible for overseeing the daily scheduling of the camp’s daily activities.  Even though it’s not one of the traditional camp jobs that comes to mind when people imagine working at a summer camp, it’s a crucial one.  I like that it’s a perfect combination of behind the scenes with hands on.

One of the things I love most about my job is that I get the opportunity to get to know most of the campers and staff through daily interaction.  I’m the person they come to with requests for their programs.  I enjoy speaking with them about the things that are working in their activity areas and hear feedback about things that I might improve.

On those rare occurrences when the sun refuses to cooperate with the camp schedule, I get to demonstrate my creative talents by figuring how we can keep the fun going in all of our indoor facilities.  I also enjoy getting out on campus every now to see for myself how the schedule plays out in real time.  It’s a great time for me to take notes for the next schedule.

In the evenings, before I begin working on the next day’s schedule, I often participate in special events.  Sometimes I judge activities.  Sometimes I lead them.  Other times, I host them or just keep score.  The real reward of my job is when I overhear campers telling their counselors that they just had the best day ever as they’re heading off to bed in the evenings.  It’s a great way to begin another day because just as everyone winds down their day at camp, I head back to my office to begin working on the next day’s schedule, ready to create another “funnest day ever!” for our campers.  If you think working in camp programming sounds like a fun job, apply at one of America’s Finest Summer Camps today!