With only a few weeks until children begin packing their bags and leaving for summer camp, you might think that you've missed the boat for a job at a camp this summer. Think again! If you are willing to move fast you could soon be starting staff training at a camp. Here's how to approach a last minute job search.
Many camps, maybe your first and second choice camps, will already be finished hiring. Use the internet for up to date openings. Many camp directors change their listings at Camp Channel almost daily as positions are filled. Decide if you are willing to travel and where. Many Internet job resources list openings by region. Be ready to ask the camp if they are prepared to help with travel expenses. Be able to sell yourself for as many different positions as possible and show a willingness to be trained. A camp may need arts and crafts counselors but be fully staffed at the waterfront. You can either hold out for a waterfront position at another camp (which may or may not materialize) or jump on the crafts opening.
At this stage of the game you will have to take the initiative. Phone or e-mail any camp where you think you might be able to offer something to the campers. Ask to speak to the person in charge of hiring and find out what openings they still have. Listen carefully and only respond to those where you have a genuine interest and some reason to think you are qualified. It's no good saying "I'll do anything" only to find that the Director is looking for a stable hand, a drama counselor, and a breakfast cook and your skills are in ball sports. If you find an opening that sounds interesting explain briefly your qualifications and ask if you can fax your resume and references. Include a fax number locally (a local copy shop usually offers this service) where the camp can fax an application to you.
Alternatively, ask if the application can be e-mailed or downloaded from the internet. Having found an opening, don't stop calling other camps. You may need to find 6 or 7 openings before you find a job.
Have the following ready to fax to a camp director with an opening:
- A Cover Letter. In it explain why you are excited to work at his or her camp. Tell the director why you are still looking for a job. It's good to get this out of the way because a camp director will want to know. Were you just lazy or do you have a genuine reason to be conducting a last minute search?
- An Up-to-Date Resume. Include any work with children including babysitting, etc. Take the extra few minutes to update the objective on your resume. It should read something like: "To obtain a position as a counselor at a summer camp where I can make a difference in children's lives." Make sure you list any activities, sports, hobbies, that may be skills you can pass on to the campers.
- References. Three written references if at all possible but as a minimum, three names with up to date contact numbers. If you are using college professors or teachers make sure they can be contacted even if the semester is over. If you are not sure if they can be reached, find another reference. If possible, provide at least one reference who has seen you work or interact with children.
It's a fine line between following up effectively and becoming an annoyance. But remember, the camp director is probably less than a month away from opening camp and he or she wants those positions filled as quickly as possible so preparations for camper arrival can be completed. Follow up 24 hours after sending an application. If you haven't been contacted about an interview make it clear you can be available for a phone interview at any time.
If you do accept a position, honor your commitment. Don't say yes to a position if you are, in fact, waiting for other offers. It's okay to turn down a job offer or ask for time to consider the offer and compare it with other opportunities. As soon as you commit to a position, call or e-mail the other camps and inform them. No reputable camp will quibble with your decision. If any camp director ever tries to persuade you to take a job with his or her camp if they know you have already made a commitment to another camp, ask yourself if you want to work for a person with those kind of ethics.
Being a camp counselor can be a life changing experience. If you don't already have plans for this summer consider a summer at camp, but act fast.