I refer to this part of the camp off-season as being “in the weeds.” I’ve always found that when the calendar turns over the New Year, that there is a new intensity to summer preparation. And one thing that takes up most of a camp director’s attention this time of year is finding enough quality staff. Like many of you, I’m currently recruiting applicants, reading their applications and facilitating interviews. Unfortunately and much too often nowadays, I wonder, “are we not teaching this generation of young adults how to go about applying for a job??” So, in part one of this two-part series on summer camp staff hiring, here are my top tips for the potential summer camp counselors out there.
Treat this opportunity like a J-O-B!
Because that is exactly what it is. You are applying to work for a company. In most instances, you will be compensated for your time and labor. The camps in the real world are not like the ones you have seen portrayed in the media. I am not Ug and this is not Camp Anawanna. I am a professional, and this is a serious job with significant responsibilities. The core of a camp counselor’s job is this: to ensure the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being and safety of other people’s children. Be aware of the seriousness of that responsibility and show the camp staff you are ready for it. And you can convey that preparedness in many different ways.
First, Project Professionalism.
From the beginning take the application and hiring process seriously because all of your interactions (verbal or written) with a potential employer make an impression. If the job requires a resume, take half an hour and go by your school guidance office or college career center and get some tips before submitting it. Just because we work at a camp does not mean that we want a resume on neon paper with a lot of pictures that details your personal likes and dislikes. Camp employers appreciate energetic and creative people, but you can show us that in other settings. The attention-grabbing portion of the resume should be your experience, not the bedazzled appearance. Keep the information simple, action-oriented and job specific.
I cannot tell you how many emails and applications that I have gotten over the years from job seekers that are haphazardly put together with grammatical, punctuation and capitalization errors. I will respond kindly to your email; however, if you cannot take the time to proofread an email (which is essentially a cover letter) or much less your application, then I do not have time to interview you. And when we speak on the phone, even if we have known each other since you were a young camper, camp directors want to hear “yes sir” or “no ma’am”, and not an assortment of slang terms you use with your friends. A little respect and professionalism goes a long way.
Then, Be Prepared.
When it comes time for your interview, make sure you have done your homework. Research the camp your with which your interviewing. Know the mission statement, the camp history, the activities and some basics of your responsibilities. Also, the interviewer will have plenty of questions for you, but we love when you have questions for us. Show your interest! Ask questions about your job functions, how the camp deals with certain situations, and advice or recommendations from the interviewer. Two of the best questions I have had asked of me in interviews have been: “What is typically the most difficult part of the job for your counselors?” and “In your opinion, what is the most important skill of a great counselor?” This shows that you are serious about the possibility of being a camp counselor and you are already preparing to do your best for the campers.
Finally, Show Perseverance.
Do not be afraid to follow up with the camp director that interviewed you. It is always great practice to send an email or letter thanking that person for their time and the opportunity to be considered for the position. You can also use this follow up as another opportunity for a quick pitch about how you would fit into the camp environment and make a positive impact on their program. It does not need to be long or involved, but just enough to convey your excitement about this opportunity. All potential employers will appreciate you taking the time to do this.
It’s not that complicated or difficult, but it does require a little effort, and for the most fun and rewarding job in the world, that’s not too much to ask.
Check back in two weeks for my top tips for full-time camp staff on interviewing potential counselors!