Posts Tagged ‘summer work’

It’s Not Too Late…

Saturday, April 19th, 2014

Are you experiencing it yet? The ‘Oh no, summer is almost here and I still don’t have a summer job yet!’ panic?

Maybe you visited a job fair a couple of months ago, met a camp recruiter, and briefly thought about working at summer camp. It certainly sounded like fun, and it would definitely be different than any other summer job you’ve ever had. But you decided to put off the decision. Oh, how time flies when you’re taking exams and busy planning spring break.

Now, you’re just a little over a month from packing up your dorm room and wondering where you’re going to go. There is home, of course. But if you’ve been hoping for something slightly more exciting this summer, consider revisiting the idea of working at summer camp. It’s not too late.

While it’s true that many camps are filling those final empty positions, if you have a unique or unusual talent, that just might work in your favor. Most of the positions camps are currently filling are those that are hardest to fill, meaning that they require some sort of specialized knowledge that not a lot of people have. What kind of specialized knowledge? Think creatively. Are you good in the kitchen? Maybe you are Shaun White on a skateboard, a Zumba enthusiast, know how to fire a kiln, operate a band saw, sew or build rockets. These are just a few of the specialty hobby or niche programs for which camps sometimes have difficulty finding just the right person. Before assuming that there is no place for you on a summer camp staff, do a little bit of research. You never know when a camp may be looking for someone just like you.

This isn’t to say that if you’re not particularly gifted in anything special that there is no place for you. Sometimes staff members who have signed on for the summer score that last minute dream internship or have to withdraw for personal reasons, leaving camps with positions to fill that require common skills. The point is that although openings are dwindling fast, it’s not too late.

Be Better

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

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 while others 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.

The Other Camp Staff

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

Summer camp employment is synonymous with “camp counselor” in most people’s minds. But there are a lot of non-counselor” positions at camp. If you’re interested in working at summer camp but don’t really think the role of camp counselor would be best for you, consider one of these alternatives:

Program/Activity Head: Are you or have you ever been a professional or college level athlete or coach? If so, and you’re interested in working at summer camp, then the Program/Activity Head role might be a perfect fit for you. Program/Activity Heads oversee a sport or activity at camp. They typically have a staff of counselor specialists who are also active in the sport or activity to assist with instruction and coaching. Program/Activity Heads plan daily activities, oversee instruction and assign campers to teams for intra and inter camp league play. There are also a handful of Program/Activity Head roles at camp for those who are not athletic but have some sort of niche expertise in areas like arts & crafts, music, dance, theater, cooking, science and communications.

Programming Staff: If you have a knack for scheduling, consider applying to work as part of a camp programming team. The camp programming staff is responsible for the daily camper and staff schedules. When creating schedules, they must keep in mind things like facility availability, staffing ratios and camper frequencies.

Special Events Staff: The special events staff at summer camp are responsible for all events that take place outside of the regular daily special. This is typically all evening activities and special days as well as (on that rare occasion) a rainy day. It helps if you have some sort of technical knowledge, such as connecting laptops to video screens, rigging microphones and operating (sometimes complicated) sound systems. But not everything you do as a special events staff member is hi-tech. You can also be charged with setting up a scavenger hunt, gathering and placing materials for game night or baking night, or a host of other things. The imagination is the limit. If you love fun and event planning and are detail oriented, special events might be the area of camp for you.

Photography/Videography: Camp photographer and videographer roles are highly specialized and extremely critical roles at camp. Every day, camp photographers take hundreds of photographs of daily activities and film many of the activities as well. If you’re a professional in either of these areas and are interested in working at summer camp, chances are there is a camp looking for you.

Camp Nurse: Summer camps maintain health centers and employ licensed nurses to dispense medication, clean up those inevitable scratches and cuts, and treat campers and staff who become ill during the summer. For those rare more severe injuries that sometimes occur, nurses also may be asked to accompany campers or staff to local hospitals or doctors’ offices.

Office Staff: If you prefer behind the scenes desk work and answering phone calls, then consider applying for a camp office staff job. Typically, office staff answer phone calls, sort mail, greet visitors, manage camper phone calls, prepare documents or mailings, and complete other administrative tasks.
Maintenance Staff: If you’re a handyman (or woman) who’s good with a hammer, loves landscaping and cleaning, and prefers being outdoors to inside, consider applying to work as a member of the maintenance team. Camp maintenance staff stay busy all summer long maintaining summer camp campuses, and no two days as a camp maintenance staff member are alike.

Kitchen Staff: Working in the camp kitchen is perfect for those who thrive in restaurant environments. If you’re a chef,caterer or member of a restaurant staff–or aspire to be one–then working in a summer camp kitchen is a fun alternative to restaurant work.

If any of these camp roles interest you, camps are hiring now. Many of the people who work in these role return year after year because they are a great way to integrate personal interests and specialized expertise with the fun and adventure of working at summer camp. Apply now and you just may find yourself returning year after year too.

Coming Back Home

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

As counselors at Starlight we keep our camp memories alive by reliving the stories, the inside jokes, and the people we’ve met. We call each other weekly and send countless texts in an attempt to keep up with each others lives and remain as close as we were at our summer home. We spend hours “liking” and commenting on anything camp related in the hopes that it keeps the bond with both camp and the phenomenal friends we’ve made in the hills of Pennsylvania.

Being that we are for the majority at the mercy of opportunities at our age, we try to gain as much experience to move forward and be in a good position professionally after school; deciding to come back to camp can be hard. Internships, summer classes, and job opportunities can flip the script on returning for another fantastic summer. Fortunately, Starlight is not just for the counselors that are able to return EVERY summer, but it’s also for the people that have the ability to return ANY summer.

The beautiful thing about Camp Starlight is that it’s still home to many who haven’t been there for months, years, and in some cases decades, but it’s home nonetheless. Many of our staff have taken a year (in many cases more) away to pursue other goals or opportunities and then rejoined us feeling as if they hadn’t skipped a beat. It’s a truly special feeling to know that although the world is constantly changing around us, Starlight will always be welcoming us.

To those that have spent time away and rejoined us: we thank you. To those that are away currently: we will always welcome you. To those that were unable to come back: we miss you. To those that get to join us every summer: we cherish you. So if you’ve been away from our summer home for too long but find your summer calendar open…..give us a call and come back home!

The Hard Part of Working at Camp

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

A popular question that a lot of prospective summer camp counselors ask recruiters is about the difficult aspects of the job. After hearing about how much fun they will have, about the amount of time they will get to spend outdoors, about all of the friends they will make, and how much money they can save, it all sounds a bit too good to be true. Candidates want to know, ‘So, what is the hard part?’ It’s a good question because, while it’s true that a simple internet search will produce article upon article about all of the great aspects of working at a sleepaway camp, few highlight the difficult parts of the job. In the name of bucking the status quo, this blog is going to take a stab at it.

First, camp ends. That’s probably the hardest part. From an outsider’s perspective, a couple of months never seems like along time, certainly not long enough to form any permanent bonds or attachments. What a lot of people fail to consider, because it’s just such a foreign concept to most people, is that those two months aren’t 9-5, 5 days per week months. They’re 24/7 months—including meal times. That’s roughly 1,344 hours of constant interaction with campers and co-workers compared to the 320 hours those people who just do that daytime thing get. A little basic math establishes that’s roughly eight months of regular work time crammed into two. Eight months is the better part of a year and plenty of time to get pretty attached to new friends as well as campers. That’s why tears are usually inevitable when it comes time to say goodbye. Goodbye is always hard. But it’s even harder when you know that you may never have the opportunity to see some of the people with whom you’ve just spent the equivalent of eight months of your life again.

Second, you have to be comfortable around children. This sounds like a no brainer, but if you’re used to spending most of your time around adults, spending most of your time around children requires a bit of an adjustment. It goes without saying that interacting with children requires a filter of sorts. Obviously, you don’t share everything with children that you would with other adults. Interacting with children also requires a great deal of discretion. They’re looking at you for answers. Not only knowing what answers to give but when to give them is important. Knowing when it’s not your place to answer but to escalate the issue is even more important. Also, successful interaction with children is all in the presentation. You have to be a good salesperson to a certain extent. Before signing up to work at summer camp, think about the fact that convincing at least one camper to do something he or she does not want to do and to have fun while doing it is likely going to be a daily occurrence. If you’re a person who is quick to lose patience, summer camp may not be the right fit for you.

Third, stepping outside of your comfort zone is difficult. Think about it. When you’re feeling like pizza, do you pick up the telephone and call a different restaurant to order each time or do you call that place that you know makes a killer pie? There is nothing wrong with comfort. It certainly makes life (and decisions) easier. But leaving friends and family and going to a completely foreign environment to live and work for two months is definitely taking a giant step out of the comfort zone for most people. A lot of first year staff members arrive at camp thinking they’re prepared…and then reality sets in. Just accept that you will feel disoriented for a few days and definitely out of your comfort zone, which is hard. But if you stick with it, you’ll find that stepping out of your comfort zone to work at camp is one of the best hardest things you will ever do.

Finally, working at camp is exhausting. Seriously. You need some serious stamina—both mental and physical–to make it through the summer. The days are long. The sleep is short. You will likely be given one day off per week, on which you will still find yourself spending time with the same people with whom you’ve been working for the past six days and with whom you will work for the next six days. Obviously, if you’re a person who values a lot of alone time, you might find working at camp a bit hard.

There you have it. The hard part. The fine print. The ‘What’s the catch?’ If you’ve read all of that and are ready to take on a bit of difficulty in exchange for a whole lot of fun, then a summer at camp just may be the right fit for you

I’m coming back!

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

It’s that time of year when counselors try to decide if they are coming to back to camp this year! For some counselors, it’s a quick decision about which they don’t even need to think twice. They immediately call the winter office and proudly exclaim, “I’m coming back!” These counselors know they can live another “10 for 2” and can’t wait to return to Starlight to see their friends and campers, both old and new!

For some counselors, the decision doesn’t come as easily.  It might be that this is supposed to being their internship summer, maybe they have to stay at school to take classes, or are feeling the pressure of graduation and the need to get a “Big Kid/Full time “job.

What has kept bringing me back each summer has been what I call the “little moments” that make me smile throughout the year and remind me why I need to go back to camp this summer.  Sometimes it’s while studying for a big exam and hearing “the song of the summer.” Suddenly, I feel the same energy and excitement I felt on welcome day when the buses pulled in, and I finally met my bunk.  Other times, it’s having a British professor whose accent can’t help but remind me of my hilarious co-counselor from the UK.  But my absolute favorite is when I’m walking to class, and the air actually smells like a warm summer day at camp.  In the back of my mind I can hear children laughing and playing, and even my backpack feels like a drawstring bag filled with emergency sunscreen.

Every counselor’s moments are different, but it’s what binds us together in our love for camp and our desire to return to Starlight as many summers as possible. And, hopefully, your “little moments” help you finally make the call to say, “I’m coming back!”

See you soon, Summer 2014!


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

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

1.) Being able to put “Provided excellent care and fun for several hundred children” or “helped children improve athletic skills” onyour 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.) Participating in unique Camp Starlight activities like Spirit of Starlight, Miss Starlight, Friday Night Live, and Olympics in addition to getting to witness the campers’ enthusiasm for such deep rooted traditions as Rope Burn and the annual Interfaith Service are special memories that you just wouldn’t have if you had chosen to work anywhere else.

Behind the Scenes

Sunday, July 7th, 2013

No one really thinks about the support staff when it comes to camp, but without them many camps would have trouble functioning.  Here at Camp Starlight the support staff is amazing and well appreciated.  These workers do everything from cooking and cleaning to maintenance and gardening.  Their philosophy in life is to work hard, do your best at all costs, work together, and never give up.

These staff members prepare meals three times a day and still manage to do other types of work.  They manage to do this by working together as a team and making sure that they are understood by each other on tasks.

Many of the support staff aren’t from the United States and they say that their biggest struggle is trying to speak and understand English.  It’s difficult for them to learn because many of the other counselors have different dialects of English. But they happily report that their English gets just a little bit better after each summer.

We just want to thank you support staff once again for all your hard work and that we love and appreciate everything that you do here at Camp Starlight.

5 Tips for First Time Counselors

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

You’ve accepted the position and completed the paperwork.  It’s official!  You’re about to spend your first summer as a camp counselor.  Naturally, a lot of people experience a few nerves in the days leading up to camp.  After all, even when you’re a grown adult, leaving behind your family and friends to spend the summer in a strange place is a big deal, especially if you’ve never been away from home for an extended period of time before.  If you didn’t attend summer camp as a child, working at summer camp holds even more mystique because you’re not sure what to expect.  If first time counselor nerves are haunting you, don’t be so quick to call up and accept that unpaid internship filing paperwork in a stuffy office all summer and, for goodness sake, don’t accept that job at the hot dog stand in the local park.  Instead, follow these tips to kick your summer into gear now:

1.)    Relax!  You are NOT the only first time staff member coming to camp.  If you know no oneelse going to camp or have never been to camp, that understandably may be a pretty difficult concept to wrap your head around right now.  But trust us!  When you get to camp, you will be in good company.  If you’re feeling a little bit lonely when you first arrive, don’t panic and automatically assume you’ve made a mistake.  The majority of people who tend to be drawn to work at camp typically have laid back, easy going and open personalities with an extraverted bend toward making new friends.   Chances are that after your camp’s staff orientation period, you’ll have several new friends for life and wonder why you ever even doubted coming to camp.

2.)    Like your camp’s Facebook page and staff Facebook page if it has one.  Social media has arrived and most summer campsare completely aware that the easiest and most effective way to communicate with their camp staff is through means such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  By liking your camp’s pages, you can make friends before camp, pick up a lot of useful tips, and even possibly connect with a rideshare if you’re looking for a way to get to camp.  Most summer camps also now feature regular blogs.  It’s a good idea to pop onto the camp webpage every now and then in the weeks leading up to camp to see what new blogs have been posted.  Camps tend to post some blogs, such as this one, for which staff is the intended audience during the late spring and early summer.

3.)    Don’t over or under pack.  Packing lists are created by camp professionals who’ve spent enough summers at camp to know what you need to be comfortable for the summer.  So read over the staff packing list, if your camp supplies one, when determining what to pack as well as what not to pack.  Veteran staff members are also usually more than happy to field questions on staff Facebook pages, which makes them a good resource if you’re unsure about some items.

4.)    Arrive with the right mindset; being a camp counselor really is the hardest job you’ll ever love.  Camps tell prospective staff members this during the interview process…and they mean it.  You are about to spend the summer working harder than you’ve ever worked in your life, and you will love most moments of it.  There will also be moments during which you will question how in the world you ended up working at a summer camp and why you thought it was a good idea.  Two things are essential to moving forward when these moments happen, and they’re actually most effective if you prepare yourself with them before you even get to camp.  First, arrive with the right attitude.  Yes, you’re there to work.  You’re there to work hard.  You’re also going to have a lot of fun creating amazing moments for and with your campers.  Second,  know what helps you alleviate stress or frustration and come prepared to engage in it should the need arise.

5.)    Be in the moment.  Yes, we spend our lives being told how important it is to plan.  But at camp, it’s very important to bein the moment and be present with the campers.  It’s how you’ll best appreciate the camp counselor experience as well.  Summer camp lasts only a few weeks each summer, and things tend to move very quickly.  On the first day, you’ll be looking ahead at a whole summer and thinking the end seems like a long way off.  But on the last day of camp you will wonder where it went.   Don’t find yourself with regrets on that day by realizing that you didn’t take advantage of every moment.

Camp Mom

Friday, February 1st, 2013

One of the most essential roles held in a summer at Camp Starlight is that of the Camp Mom. The Camp Mom is always alert and sensitive to the needs of Starlighters in their everyday routines. Her chief role is to pay that extra special bit of attention known as mother love to our junior campers, specifically our Junior Boys. She checks that the campers are clean and keeping up personal hygiene. She makes sure everyone is lathered up in their sunscreen before heading off to a day of fun in the sun, and she is always ready with her clippers to trim those fingernails when they need it!

Our staff at Camp Starlight is ever vigilant to the safety and well-being of campers, but as we all know, there are just some things that a mother does best. The Camp Mom has the freedom and flexibility to be where she is needed whenever that is. She drops into the bunks, stops by at activity periods, and of course does her daily rounds at meals to make sure everyone is having a proper meal. Counselors are aware and working to make sure the kids are happy and healthy, but only a mom can really go behind and make sure everything is just right. As important as these roles are, the position also steps outside of the everyday practical check-ups and really allows the Camp Mom and the campers to develop a caring relationship through the summer.

In addition to watching the physical welfare of the kids, a Camp Mom also takes on the role of a nurturing supporter. Campers realize she is there for them to talk to, to wish each of them sweet dreams at night, and to help encourage their independence and growth during their summer at camp. For all of these reasons, it is obvious why the Camp Mom is such an integral part of our youngest campers’ summers. All of our previous Camp Moms have shared their enjoyment of being mother to the many kids they met over the summer and being able to care for them during their time away from home. It is also a common feeling that a summer at Camp Starlight as the Camp Mom brought them a wonderfully warm experience personally because of becoming a part of the amazing people known as the Starlight Family!