Camp Laurel Blog

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Be Better

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 whileothers 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.

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

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.) You got lots of firsthand experience pursuing your passion in the always exciting setting of Camp Laurel with lots of people from all over the world who were just as enthusiastic about there as you!

Who is Watching Your Children? A Look at Camp Staff and Leadership

If you submit prospective babysitters through background and reference checks just for a date night with your spouse or significant other, then you probably have an extreme interest in just who will be taking care of your children at summer camp.  Thanks in part to movies and television, many parents have images of young, barely out of high school teenagers filling counselor roles.  However, the truth is that camps conduct searches for months to locate and fill leadership and key staff roles with mature, knowledgeable professionals, many of whom work with children in some capacity year round.

Even though camp is still six months away, chances are that your child’s summer camp (or prospective summer camp) has already kicked its recruiting season into high gear.  To find counselors, many camps traverse college campuses across the country searching for college students and recent grads who are pursuing careers in education, social work, youth athletics, or other fields related to working with children.  In order to avoid staff members that are too immature—or mature—the target demographic for counselors is typically between 20-25, although some camps will vary from this in certain scenarios or for special needs.  A successful camp counselor works 24/7 and must be mature enough to make split second decisions that concern the welfare and well -being of children.  Although counselor staffs tend to have relatively high turnover rates from year to year because college students complete college and move on to full time jobs that they cannot leave for an entire summer, leadership staff tends to return more regularly.

Camp leadership is often comprised of seasoned teachers and coaches who have been involved with summer camp in some capacity for several years or even decades.  Some of them grew up as campers and worked their way into leadership positions beginning as counselor assistants or counselors.  Others began as counselors and loved the experience so much that they have returned from year to year.  Still others are hired directly into their leadership roles after extensive searches by camps to find the best candidate for the role.  However their camp experience began, one thing that all camp leaders have in common is that they not only have extensive experience working with children, but thorough knowledge of the intricacies and behind the scenes goings on of summer camp.

Aside from leadership staff, other mature individuals are employed to staff health and dining facilities as well as offices.  In fact, parents are sometimes surprised to learn that so many mature, experienced professionals spend their summers at sleepaway camp.  But, for many, the experience, as it is for the children, is beyond compare.  Those who return each year will tell you that they wouldn’t consider spending their summers anyplace else.  They love what they do, they love their campers, and they love their camps!  How many traditional jobs can boast such high morale and collective years of experience?

Are You One in a Million?

According to the American Camp Association (ACA), nearly 1.2 million people take on the adventure of working at camp each summer. They come from all over the world and all walks of life. Some of them are former campers while others have never experienced summer camp at all. Their educations are as diverse as their backgrounds and many of them choose summer camp over a traditional internship because of the unique, well-rounded work experience it provides. Whether the winter weather already has you thinking about what you’ll be doing this summer or you’re just browsing summer employment opportunities, it’s worth asking yourself, “Am I one in a million?” :

  • Summer camp staff come from all over the world. Increasingly, as summer camps recognize their unique position to promote a global community in a fun, relaxed environment, they are recruiting staff from near and far. The ACA reports that within the last decade “there has been an increase in the use of international staff to expose campers to different cultures.” If you live outside of the U.S. and you’ve been wanting to travel to the USA, summer camp is a great way to earn some cash while getting to intimately experience life here. If you’re an American and a trip abroad just isn’t quite in the budget, you need go no further than a residential summer camp to make new friends from all over the world—and pad your bank account while doing it!
  • If you think that being a former camper is a pre-requisite to being a great camp counselor, think again. Many camp staff members who return to camp year after year never even set foot on a summer camp campus prior to working at one. Like many of their colleagues, that one step was all it took. They were won over and continue to return each season.
  • Summer camp employment isn’t just for education majors and coaches. Increasingly, those with majors in the social sciences, sciences, math, engineering, and even medicine and nursing are finding a summer home at camp as an alternative to the traditional internship. Summer camp provides many unique experiences that one can gain nowhere else, such as a 24/7 commitment and the opportunity to simultaneously work with children and adults in a close-knit family type community. Summer camp also develops a diverse range of core skills valued by employers today. As a camp staff member, one must make split second decisions, be an efficient negotiator, use creativity to sell ideas and concepts, resolve conflict, solve problems, be an effective leader, know how to prioritize, be extremely flexible, accept change, and be awesome when it comes to multi-tasking. If it sounds like a big order, it is. But almost all who take on the challenge report that it’s also one of the most fun and rewarding experiences upon which they’ve ever embarked.
  • If you are an education major or a coach, have you thought of summer camp as an opportunity to build experience working with children ages 7-15? Working at summer camp develops many of the same skills that are often used in the classroom or on the field. Many educational institutions view summer camp experience as some of the most valuable on a potential educator’s resume.
  • How many traditional internships pay you AND provide you with room and board? In addition to a stipend for the summer, almost all residential summer camp positions offer room and board as part of their employment packages. What this means to you is that, potentially, everything you earn throughout the summer goes straight into your pocket…or your bank account, as the case may be. Even if you allow yourself a bit to splurge on sightseeing around the local area (many of America’s finest summer camps are located in some of the most beautiful parts of the country), it’s still possible to take home a substantial amount of cash at the end of the summer. This is particularly appealing when one considers how much rent and food can add up to over a summer.

If you’re looking for the summer job to beat all summer jobs, summer camp may definitely be your cup of tea. At summer camp, everyday will be a new adventure that takes you both indoors and out from sunrise to sunset. There are no cubicles, no computers (aside from computers available for staff to use on their free time), and no time clocks. And…there are beautiful surroundings, a camp full of campers who depend on you, a slew of challenges you never knew you’d face (and enjoy), and a circle of lifetime friends waiting to meet you. If you’re one in a million, what are you waiting for? If you are a college or university student, check your college’s upcoming career fair lineups. Many summer camps travel to universities to recruit this time of year. It may be possible to meet the first member of your future camp family in person. If your college days are behind you or there are no summer camps scheduled to visit your university, you can apply directly through Camp Laurel’s web page.

So You’ve Got a Golden Ticket…Ready, Set, Go Part 3

Finally, we close our trilogy of camp counselor tips with one last blog dedicated to you, future camp counselors…

Get ready to build your resume!  Working as a camp counselor at a summer camp will provide you with some invaluable experience that will serve you well far beyond this summer.  Many HR Managers in lots of different fields find summer camp experience very impressive because of the level of dedication and commitment required.  Summer Camp also demonstrates that you can adapt well to new cultures, which is essential for success in many corporate environments.  In fact, many corporate executives were once campers and/or camp counselors themselves.  If you’re an education major, it goes without saying that experience working directly with children is a huge plus on a new teacher’s resume.

One final warning: As a summer camp counselor, you will act goofy, dress funny, and find yourself doing all sorts of crazy things you’d probably never ordinarily do…and you’ll have a blast while doing them.  It’s what summer camp is all about.  But what other job can you get where being an expert in painting faces, making signs, inventing outrageous costumes, and acting silly are all just part of your typical workday?

So there you have it!  A few suggestions for preparing yourself for a great and successful summer.  Have fun!

So You’ve Got a Golden Ticket…Ready, Set, Go Part 2

We promised a sequel and here it is: Orientation 101…

The first thing you should know about the orientation is don’t sweat it.  Yes, it’s intense.  Yes, it’s a VERY busy week and there is a lot to get done.  We know that, by the time months of anticipation for your new summer camp job to start come and you travel (sometimes for hours or even days) to get to the camp and find yourself actually there, even the most staunch start to feel the butterflies.  Remember that everyone with whom you come into contact those first few days is probably feeling the same butterflies—even returners who’ve done all of it before.  But relax.  Orientation is also full of opportunities.  Opportunities to learn more about your new surroundings, opportunities to learn more about your summer camp and embrace its traditions, opportunities to learn more about your summer job as a camp counselor, opportunities to change your mindset and grasp expectations, and opportunities to make friends.

Speaking of making friends, be ready to make LOTS of them from all over the world!  Sure your summer camp job will only last for a couple of months. But a couple of months are plenty of time to make lifelong friends when you spend everyday together.   You may even find that you don’t need the whole summer to bond.  You’ll probably be planning vacations to visit some of your new friends during the winter before orientation is even over.

Don’t over- or under-pack.  Yes, we know that you’re going to want to cram your entire bedroom into your suitcase or duffel..  But the fact is that camp housing isn’t exactly spacious.  Most summer camps provide their camp counselors with packing lists.  Of course you’re going to want to bring a few personal items, but don’t stray too far from what’s recommended and definitely avoid packing the “DO NOT BRING” items.  In other words, make sure your camp permits camp counselors to bring outside food onto the campus before you pack a stash of Doritos and energy drinks.  It’s also a good idea to make sure you read the camps guidelines about permissible items, particularly those related to swimsuits and shoes.  Once you’re packed, inspect your suitcase one more time to make sure you remembered things that are often easily overlooked or forgotten by new summer camp counselors, like rain gear or bedding (if your summer camp requires you to bring your own).

Chances are that you’re going to get a very important email or envelope from your summer camp very soon, if you haven’t already.   It’ll have some pretty important paperwork for you to complete.  Be sure to pay attention to the specified deadlines for each form.  For one thing, you’re not going to want to be bothered with it after you get to camp.  For another, not filling it out on time may cause pesky delays in important things…like being paid!

Well that about covers the orientation.  We’ve still got enough tips left for you that we’re going to make this one a trilogy.  Be sure to come back in a few days for the final part of this series!

So You’ve Got a Golden Ticket…Ready, Set, Go Part 1

So you’ve gotten a great job at a summer camp and are wondering what to do while you impatiently wait for June to get here…

First things first.  You found this blog, so we’re assuming you want to know as much as you can before you leave.  You’ve come to the right place! We’ve got a few suggestions for you…Actually, a lot.  In fact, since we understand that you’ve come to this site to read a blog, not War and Peace, we’re going to have to divide this into a few different parts.  But we figure that’s okay because they do it with movies all of the time, right?  So without any further delay…

Have you started checking out your camp’s blog as well as this one?   Many camps now maintain regular blogs and they frequently post blogs (like this one) intended specifically for staff members.

Check out the camp’s website, if you haven’t about a thousand times already.   Even if you visit the website everyday and spend hours staring dreamily at the photos as you imagine images of you having the perfect summer showing up on the site this time next year, dig a little deeper.  A camp’s website can also tell you a lot about the very special world that you will be part of this summer.  Many camps  have FAQ pages for staff members or special staff areas.  They give you ideas about what to bring and what to leave at home.  Some post sample daily schedules, which are a great way to familiarize yourself with how you will be spending your days.  If there are videos on the site (or if the camp sent you one), watch them.  Not only will you be ready to leave the same day, but it’s a great way to get to know the camp.

If the camp has Facebook or Twitter pages, join them.  They’re another way to keep up to date on what’s happening and, as summer inches closer, the anticipation that builds is infectious.  Many camps also post helpful information or instructions for staff members as summer nears.  Facebook and Twitter are great ways to connect with other staff members before you get to camp.  Not to worry, though.  You’ll make PLENTY of new friends during your Orientation, even if you show up knowing no one!

Prepare to work hard.  We won’t lie.  Camp is one of the hardest jobs you’ll ever have.  It’s also one that you’ll probably love the most.  Every second of every day, SOMETHING is happening at camp.  It’s all a lot to take in at first, but the chances of you making it through the last day at camp without shedding a single tear and hugging hundreds of people are pretty much nil-to-none.  And you’ll probably be making plans to come back next summer before this one’s even over.

Well, like we said, we’re well aware that if you were looking for a novel, you’d be downloading the latest best seller for you Kindle right now.  So we’ll call it a day for this blog.  Be sure to tune in next time for advice about what to pack (and not) and some tips for orientation.

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