Summer camp jobs - a place to grow!

Welcome everyone to my blog. Running a residential camp (Maine Arts Camp), as well as MySummers (a staffing site) and Camp Finders (a summer camp referral service), I have gained a unique perspective about sleepaway camps. I first attended camp in 1970 in Maine; I'm still at camp and love it!

Rick Mades

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Summer camp jobs & team players

We are always looking for staff who will be good team players at camp. If you have ever worked at a camp, you know what the expression "wearing many hats" means. Staff could be needed to help in the office, help with an emergency with a camper, fill in at an activity which is somewhat new to them, move from one cabin/dorm to another, etc. During staff training one summer, we had one of our boys' counselors come in with a big sign that said "Ego". We were trying to get across to new staff (and returning ones) to check their ego at the door. Invariably, when we have staff who think they deserve special treatment, even if they're very talented in a variety of areas, they can cause more problems than they're worth. Working at a summer camp job takes staff who want to be part of a team and help each other out. I would rather have a new staff who needs training than one who comes in with pre-conceived notions about how our camp should be run.

Although we run an arts camp, I am a big sports fan, especially of the New England Patriots. They currently look like the best team in the NFL and the key word once again is "team". No one player more important than the other (even their leader Tom Brady seems like a great team guy). The coach, Bill Belichick, looks for players who fit his system and who he can "coach up". This is no different than hiring and training staff for summer camp jobs. The Pats motto is "Do your job". Ours at camp is "Ready, willing and able". At camp, doing your job means that you're ready for anything that comes your way. I admire Belichick in that he doesn't get to up or down with each win or loss (not too many lately) and the players try to learn from their mistakes. We hope for the same for staff who take camp jobs. We all make mistakes, but the staff and administrators who learn from them, accept responsibility and grow are "keepers".

So, if you're looking for a summer camp job, or running a camp, don't be afraid to collaborate, ask for help, listen and learn each summer. Since being a camp counselor is a 24/7 job, staff taking summer camp jobs have an incredible opportunity to grow and gain valuable skills that can be used in all different walks of life.

Have a great Holiday and go Pats!

Rick Mades
Camp Director, Maine Arts Camp
Owner, Camp Finders (a free service) & MySummers (the best resource for camp jobs)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Off season camp jobs

My significant other's son is currently working for Nature's Classroom. Nature's Classroom has 14 locations throughout New England, usually at summer camp facilities that are set up for year round groups. Nature's Classroom takes school groups a week at a time for outdoor & environmental ed.

As a former teacher, I always was interested in any type of active learning, thus the attraction to working at and running my own camp, Maine Arts Camp. For young teachers looking for work, having room and board included, along with competitive weekly pay, programs like Nature's Classroom are a good option in this tough job market. Working at off season camp jobs can also help 20 somethings to gain experience working with children. This can only help in applying for summer camp jobs. Camp directors are looking for staff with experience working with children and year round work of this type translates very easily into living and working with campers at a summer camp job, either at a day camp or a residential camp. Other places to look for off season work would be with the YMCA or with other seasonal work sites. Working at a program like Nature's Classroom is often more fun and allows the staff creativity that one doesn't find as a substitute teacher. So, when you're thinking about summer camp jobs, don't forget to search for camp jobs for the Fall and Spring. Good luck in your job search!

Rick Mades
Owner/Director of Maine Arts Camp
Owner of Camp Finders & MySummers, the best place to search for summer camp jobs.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Year round summer camp jobs

Although this is a slower time of the year for MySummers, there are still a few applications coming in every day. Many of these applicants are looking for year round camp jobs. This is a good time to look, as camps are evaluating the past summer and deciding whether to hire a new full time employee or replace someone in that current position. On the other hand, the economy hasn't been the best over the past two years, so camps may hesitate to fill a position that isn't necessary. So, what should an applicant do? I would suggest that applicants contact camps directly, express an interest in working at camp in a full time position and emphasize that they're willing to do whatever it takes to help the camp. Even if an applicant is interested in the recruiting/marketing side, he/she should be open to helping with year round maintenance of the camp and living at the camp if the camp needs an assistant caretaker. Many camps shut down their facilities for the summer, but having staff living on site helps to keep the camp secure from locals who know that many summer camps are empty in the off season. At Maine Arts Camp, we don't own a facility, basically leasing Unity College's facility for the summer, so our camp is not a good fit for my suggestions, but most camps are. Also, by bringing on staff to live at camp, camps can start to explore ways to better make use of their facilities in the off season. Applicants can certainly find camp jobs on line at various sites, including MySummers, but applicants should also take the initiative to research camps on their own, and find ones that have an unused facility during the winter. Besides learning the ropes on recruiting campers and staff, learning about camp maintenance and off season rentals gives full time camp jobs employees a look at the whole operation. This experience is invaluable.

Along with expressing an interest in helping camps in whatever ways possible, applicants looking for summer camp jobs should also be open to a lower salary that would include housing at camp. It may be a little lonely living at camp during the winter, but that's what it may take to get experience at camp jobs, whether for residential camps or day camps. Sites that are good resources for camp jobs and seasonal jobs in general include MySummers, American Camp Association, Quint Careers, and Coolworks.

Good luck in your search for the best summer camp jobs!

Rick Mades
Camp Director, Maine Arts Camp
Owner, Camp Finders (since 1994) & MySummers (since 1999), the best resource for camp jobs

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A summer camp perspective

We have been at camp since June 28, starting with early staff arriving, then staff training and finally campers on July 6. This summer's start was the hottest I have ever seen, the hottest weather in the East since 2001. Usually Maine has pleasant days in the 70's and about 60 at night. Homesickness + hot weather is a bad combination, but in general our campers and staff have perservered. It is great to see campers and staff so happy and involved in the daily and evening activities. Improv night was a great choice for the first evening activity and last night's capture the flag was a hit. If any college students are reading this blog, and you're considering working with children for your livelihood, applying for summer camp jobs should be high on your list. This is especially true for residential camps. I talked with a staff member yesterday who had worked at a day camp and they so value the stronger connections that are made in living with campers 24/7. It is more challenging, but much more gratifying.

What's amazing is how the days fly at camp. It is so busy that there isn't time to think and reflect. I probably should be roaming around watching activities right now, but wanted to take a few minutes to think about the past couple of weeks. I just stepped out in the middle of this
blog and saw our African Infused Dance activity. Amazing stuff!

Besides working with campers on homesickness, it can be more of a challenge working with parents. They often receive a letter 3-4 days after camp has started. That letter was written the first day, when their child's homesickness was at a peak. As a parent, those are heart wrenching letters to read, even if we have sent them pre camp packets warning them that they could receive such a letter. If the camper is still homesick after 3 days, we call the parents so that they are not surprised to receive such a letter. The harder parents to work with often are ones that we haven't called. If campers are not exhibiting homesickness, there is no reason to call or to bring up home to those campers. We want them to have fun and make friends, which naturally happens at camp. Some of the parents we haven't called can't believe that their child is doing well and with a no phone call policy for 2 week campers, it can be challenging to deal with. But, working through these issues is all worth it as campers come home more independent, confident and having grown is so many ways.

Staff who take summer camp jobs at residential camps shouldn't just look at working as a camp counselor as any job. It is a life changing experience for most staff. Some of you may find that working and living with kids is not for you and that is ok. But, many of our staff have told us that after working at camp, they know that this is their life calling.

Have a great summer and think about applying at MySummers for summer 2011, the best site for summer camp jobs!

Rick Mades
Camp Director, Maine Arts Camp
Owner, MySummers & Camp Finders

Saturday, May 1, 2010

summer camp jobs & internships

Now that we're at May 1, the homestretch for camp directors in hiring staff, I thought that I would recreate part of several blogs from the past year about summer camp jobs. Well, here we go...

Working at a summer camp, especially at overnight camps, can help both campers and staff grow in so many positive ways. Staff learn how to resolve issues among campers and staff, how to balance their time, how to compromise and listen, and how to communicate better with their peers, campers and administrators. It is a learning experience for all! In looking for summer camp jobs, potential staff can talk with friends who have worked at camp. That is certainly a good start, but finding a camp on their own can be better in terms of risk taking and gaining independence. Some sites such as MySummers have a large number of camps that are looking for quality staff. By registering with such a site, staff will have many good choices and can start to narrow down their search for a camp that matches their personality and interests.

For college students, taking a summer camp job makes a lot of sense at this time. At sleepaway camps, staff get their room and board taken care of and most camps will offer some sort of travel allowance for staff who live a good distance from camp. Also, living and working with a team of staff helps to prepare young college students and graduates for the work force.

With the job market so weak, it makes sense for college students to look into internships. While many internships are unpaid positions, think outside the box and apply for a summer camp job. Most camp directors will be open to filling out the paperwork needed for an internship if they can get quality staff. Even better, camp jobs have a salary so college students get invaluable experience while still helping to cover their expenses for the rest of the year. At Maine Arts Camp, this summer we have two staff doing internships while still being paid the typical salary. To make the most of your summer camp job/internship, go to Quint Careers for some great advice.

At the right camp, staff will be teaming with peers who are also passionate about working with children. It is a time for staff to be creative, thoughtful, and a place to put their egos aside and be part of a team. These life skills will translate into the work place in so many ways, many not easily defined. So, in looking at summer jobs, don't neglect what could be the best of all, a summer camp job!

Best of luck in your search for a wonderful summer camp job!

Rick Mades
owner of Camp Finders and MySummers
owner/director of Maine Arts Camp

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


As with many camps, we have been working hard to increase enrollment for the upcoming summer. As usual, we have done several camp fairs, while adding direct mail to our typical inserts in local papers. This weekend, we are trying something new which could be great. At Harvard Square, there is the Mayfair Festival, a gathering of up to 200,000 people. Hopefully, there will be lots of families at Mayfair, with children looking to go to camp! We continue to discuss ways to market our camp and are trying to "think outside the box". We have had no problem hiring staff this summer as many people are looking for summer camp jobs and specifically at our camp. We actually haven't hired any new staff since early March and are likely done hiring for the summer. If any camp directors would like to talk about marketing ideas, feel free to contact me ( If potential staff are reading this, many camps, not quite as small as Maine Arts Camp, are still looking for staff. To apply for a summer camp job, just go to MySummers.

Rick Mades
Owner/director of Maine Arts Camp
Owner of MySummers & Camp Finders

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

More on bullying

While spending some time in New England in late March, we continued to read about the bullying incident at the high school in Hadley, MA, where a young girl took her own life. It is a heart wrenching and tragic story which got me thinking. Although we always devote a whole section of staff training to bullying, we need more structure from an expert so that our staff will have a consistent way of dealing with such issues. Candy Cohn, assistant director at Maine Arts Camp, found a bullying workshop for schools in Maine. Stan Davis, a long time school counselor in Maine, runs the workshop. So, we contacted Stan are delighted that he will be working with our staff during staff training. Stan's web site is Stop Bullying Now! If you're in Maine or New England, his workshop is being held in Augusta May 10 & 11. I also purchased Stan's book "Schools Where Everyone Belongs" and have some reading ahead of me in the next couple of weeks. Of course, someone asked me what I do the rest of the year since I run a camp... I'll let you all know how the effective the training is at the end of the summer. Camp is approaching quickly and I hope that lots of parents start to think about camp in the next 6 weeks. Spread the word about the power of camp.

Rick Mades
Camp Director, Maine Arts Camp
Owner, Camp Finders &

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

summer camp jobs & interviews

Now that we are in mid March, most camps open within 3 months. With the overall job market so tight, college students would be well served to explore summer camp jobs sooner rather than later. At Maine Arts Camp, we are fully staffed for male counselors and may hire another 2-4 female staff in a month or so, depending upon enrollment. We have had lots of quality applications and have an older and more mature staff than ever. We have many graduating college students on staff this summer. For college students, taking a summer camp job makes a lot of sense at this time. At sleepaway camps, staff get their room and board taken care of and most camps will offer some sort of travel allowance for staff who live a good distance from camp. Also, living and working with a team of staff helps to prepare young college students and graduates for the work force.

At camp, we talk about staff "wearing many hats". If an applicant is looking to fill a specific role only and isn't willing to fill in wherever needed, we don't hire that person. I don't know how each college career service prepares their students for interviews, but getting across to students that they need to be "ready, willing & able" to be part of a team and jump in where needed would be the first thing I would talk about. This underlying thought process doesn't just work at camps, but any job. Is it hard work being a camp counselor (especially at a sleepaway camp)? Sure it is, but after a summer working and living with kids, most staff should easily transition into a 9-5 job. What else should applicants think about when applying to work at a summer camp job? Since we receive so many applications, we look more carefully at the ones that take the time to fill out our staff application with some thought, care and sincerity. If an applicant can't express why he or she wants to work at our camp specifically, then we usually don't even offer an interview.

We were very impressed with career services at Alfred University last month. We spent a few days at Alfred for a job fair, a meeting with interested students and many interviews (7 in two days). We later did several phone interviews and ended up hiring 5 Alfred College students, 3 of which are graduating this year. Since we're a small camp, with only about 33-34 counselors living with the campers (dorm counselors), 5 from one school was amazing! Keep in mind that Alfred is known for its arts programs, so Maine Arts Camp is a great match for Alfred students. Thanks to Kevin Jacobs and the rest of the career staff at Alfred! They are such good advocates for the students and do the hard work to make sure that students have every opportunity to succeed.

Applying at MySummers enables applicants to apply and get their information directly out to interested camp directors. MySummers is unique in that after an applicant fills out the registration form, his/her application is immediately e-mailed to camp directors. This method makes it easy for camp directors and qualified applicants to find each other. There are other summer camp jobs sites on the web and applicants should explore all avenues. Applicants need to be pro-active and stick with it. We had an applicant call yesterday who had sent in her application about a month ago. Although we're still not interviewing her at this time, we will if enrollment picks up. I also gave her a couple of summer camp jobs sites to register with. A site that has a good number of job listings is Summercampstaff. For good advice on jobs, internships and more, go to Quint Careers. Good luck in your search for a summer camp job!

Rick Mades
owner of Camp Finders & MySummers
owner/director of Maine Arts Camp

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Facebook and social networking

I attended the ACA National conference last year in Orlando and sat in on an interesting workshop. It was run by camp directors (Director's Roundtable). The workshop was on the last day of the conference, but may have been the most thought provoking session that I attended. Staff at camp are employees only while they're at camp. In the off season, how can camp directors influence returning staff or former staff to continue to act in a responsible role of a counselor, not a friend to current or former campers? The Roundtable discussed how it is basically impossible to control what happens on Facebook, who staff and campers befriend and any communication through Facebook or other means. At Maine Arts Camp, we have a policy where if a camper and staff would like to communicate in the off season, such communication needs to be approved by the parents of the camper and by the camp director. In theory, this is a good policy, but parents and camp directors cannot possibly know everything that goes on with such communication. I have talked with another camp director who feels that campers come back to camp for their friends and staff, so healthy communication is a good thing. As camp directors, we want campers to return and feel like camp is their second home. The same director is often on Facebook, checking his staff's pages to make sure that nothing inappropriate is on the page. Should camp directors be Big Brother? We have let our staff know, both in staff training, in the Staff Handbook and in the off season, that even though they are not employed by camp except during the summer, in parents eyes they still represent our camp. That is a scary thought for a camp director as any communication is out of his/her control. We also remind staff that they may need a reference for another job, so they should keep their professionalism in all aspects of their lives. In fact, after this blog, I need to write a recommendation for a former staff. She is applying to grad school to be a teacher. If you're looking for a workshop on this topic, Chris Thurber is available. We have a local lawyer (to Maine) address our staff, but Chris travels the country.

Good luck!

Rick Mades
owner of Camp Finders & MySummers
owner/director of Maine Arts Camp

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Gaining independence

I was just on the phone with a parent who is looking for a camp for her children, as well as other relatives. It will be a group of 5 kids. There are always interesting conversations with parents who are sending their child with a friend, sibling or relatives. Often the campers are not so nervous attending overnight camp if they have a friend or sibling. But, as a camp director, we have found that campers often do better coming to camp on their own. That way, there are no expectations among friends and campers can find their own place at camp. We always talk about camp being a place where kids can gain independence and grow. I'm more than comfortable having frank conversations with parents about why we recommend that campers take most of their activities separately so that they can integrate better into the camp community. Chris Thurber talks about camps that can help their campers grow are ones that stick to their mission and have an intentionality so that camp policies fit the underlying mission. Also quoting Chris from the Summer Camp Handbook (a must for parents), is a statement from a camper who clearly went to camp on his own:

One of the best parts about my camp experience was the opportunity to establish myself among peers with a clean slate. None of the kids who knew me from school were there, and the authority figures had no history with me. I felt very free to be myself, and not to be part of an ingrained social order.

I feel that talking with parents, expressing the goals of the camp, and trying to come up with a game plan for multiple campers, can work. On the other hand, we have had parents (and their children) more interested in being with a friend than taking the steps to get to know other campers. Sometimes those families choose another camp and that is ok - they have made an informed decision.

Good camping!

Rick Mades
owner of Camp Finders & MySummers
owner/director of Maine Arts Camp

Monday, January 18, 2010

Bullying at camp

One thing that we emphasize at Maine Arts Camp is an emphasis on creating an inclusive community where children and staff are accepted for who they are. We work hard on discouraging bullying and cliques. Chris Thurber is a camp professional who is at many camping conferences running educational sessions. He is one of my favorites as I learn a lot and he is entertaining at the same time. It must come from all of his years as a camp counselor and leader! I just read an article that Chris wrote about bullying at camp. Chris is right that camp is a place where bullying can be used as an educational tool to help campers grow. Modeling positive behavior from staff and staff complimenting campers on proper behavior is a start. As camp directors, we hope that campers have a positive growth experience at camp and that includes all campers. Sometimes we are not equipped to deal with behaviors that are consistently hurtful (physically or emotionally) to other campers, but most of the time we can work with the campers and help them become more empathetic and caring. Chris brought up one fact that was especially pertinent, that most bullies have been bullied. If we keep that in mind, it will help us as camp directors and camp counselors to find a way to relate better to our campers and what they're going through in their lives.

Rick Mades
owner of Camp Finders & MySummers
owner/director of Maine Arts Camp

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Reference checks, interviews

We are in the busy time of the year for interviews of staff applicants. Along with the interviews, and very important, are the reference checks. I was just on the phone with a couple of references for a guy that we interviewed on Thursday. The interview went well. He was personable, caring, thoughtful and probably will become a good teacher upon graduating college. The first reference I talked to was an important one as the applicant had worked for two weeks last summer at a day camp. One thing the camp director said was that the applicant took directions well and doesn't take those directions personally. I asked her about this and she has had staff in the past who takes directions, constructive criticism and more personally. Haven't we all seen this at camp? It is almost human nature to take things personally to some extent. Although we have questions during the interview which address constructive criticism, it is always better to hear from an employer how an applicant actually reacts to constructive criticism. Hiring strong camp staff takes a good set of questions, strong listening skills during the interview and in talking to references, and a bit of luck. Parents often ask whether we do background checks, which we do, but such checks don't tell us anything about most applicants since 90% of the checks come up with completely clean records. Good luck to everyone with camper enrollment and staffing!

Rick Mades
owner of Camp Finders & MySummers
owner/director of Maine Arts Camp