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

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Choosing the right sleepaway camps & application tips for summer camp jobs

For Parents searching for the right sleepaway camp, here are some questions to think about:
*What type of community does the camp try to create? (this is an important question)
*What is the size of the camp?
*Is the camp more on the competitive or non-competitive bent?
*Is there a religious focus with the camp?
*How does the camp handle new campers, cliques and bullying?
*What is the communication policy for parents and their children?
*Connected with the communication policy, how do camps handle homesickness?
*What is the level of instruction in most of the activities (experienced staff/teachers)?

These questions are also relevant for staff, especially those trying to understand how sleepaway camps work and why their policies are in place.

Having staff invested in the mission of the camp helps to create an environment of positive growth for staff, campers, administrators and the whole camp community.

For Staff applying for summer camp jobs:

We are in the heavy time of year for interviewing staff. So, this is a good time for tips about applying for summer camp jobs, specifically at overnight camps. The first impression can make or break the application.  The most important question on our application is why the applicant wants to work at Maine Arts Camp.

As a camp director, I want to know why an applicant wants to work as a camp counselor at our camp. Our staff are generally very invested in our non-competitive, inclusive camp community. Often time, we get applicants who let us know that they're applying to get more experience, which will help them get a teaching job. That is a good reason for an applicant to apply, but we want staff who totally buy into what our camp is all about (philosophically) and have reasons to work at our camp on a deeper level. Also, we are not looking to give staff experience; we usually want staff who already have a decent amount of experience working with kids.

So, where to start in filling out summer camp jobs applications? First, and this works in any industry, get to know the camp or business you're applying to work for. See if their philosophy fits yours. If an applicant just tells us that he or she is interested in the arts and being in Maine, that is not a compelling reason for us to give an interview. A statement saying "I like kids" as the reason for applying to a camp is also not awe inspiring. Put some thought into why you want to work at a camp job in general and specifically at whatever camp you're applying to.

Another no-no are lots of misspellings and grammatical errors in the application, or one filled out in pencil. This is very unprofessional and shows lack of care. If an applicant can't take the time to fill out an application properly, will he or she want to spend 24/7 living and working with kids? Probably not...

What are some good things an applicant can do? We are currently working with a male applicant. He has been great at following up, making sure we received his application, thanking us via e-mail after a phone interview, and quickly getting us any more references that we need. His references tell us that he a high character guy and works hard at what he does. There is nothing wrong with being persistent. It shows real interest in taking a summer camp job.

Lastly, and this goes back to several of my blog entries. When thinking about working at camp, and during an interview, applicants need to be ready to be a team player, filling in wherever the camp needs them. For instance, the guy I was just talking about will probably get an archery certification (our camp pays for this) as we need help in that area. Archery was on his list of possible activities he could teach, but lower on the list. Applicants, if they really want to work camp jobs, need to be "ready, willing and able". That's the motto at Maine Arts Camp.

Good luck in the search for the right camp or summer camp job!

Rick Mades
Owner/director, Maine Arts Camp
Owner of MySummers (the best staffing site for summer camp jobs)
Owner of Camp Finders, a personalized sleepaway camp referral service (since 1994)