Reaching Out

Keeping in touch with counselors is important to get a feel of how many returning staff a camp will have. But it is also fun to keep in touch with the people that you have spent an awesome summer with.

A good way to keep in touch is by mass e-mailing. This is when you send out e-mails to the entire staff discussing either upcoming camp activities and plans for the summer or just to update the counselors about your personal life.

Counselors also like to send out e-mails to the group as a way to keep in contact with friends. E-mail is a convenient way to let others know about recent events without having to spend many dollars on phone bills.

Another way to keep in touch with counselors is to send out newsletters every month or so. One program director I worked with sent them out every two months or so through e-mail and sometimes through the mail.

He liked to include the Gossip Section to inform counselors about how others were doing in a humorous way. It's always a fun way to learn about others you worked with, the various events planned for camp, and about future projects the camp is planning.

Speaking strictly on staffing strategy (say that ten times fast), the newsletters and updates are a great way for counselors to be thinking about camp and about the great memories they have.

It helps confirm or persuade a counselor to return for another summer. Although it's always hard not to come back as a counselor, some staff just need the extra encouragement.

Now emotionally and personally speaking, the updates are a great way for counselors to take a break from the stress of high school and college life by remembering the great times of the summer.

I would suggest including a Reminisce section that highlights the great moments of camp or funny events that took place. This helps when "real life" makes it hard to remember the summer when "the real world" seemed far away.

When the summer was drawing to a close, at the camp I worked at, the administration went around asking counselors for their contact information and made an address book to share with every staff member.

If privacy is an issue, as it can be in some cases, a message board could be set up for counselors through the camp's Web site.

The Recruiting Touch

If some staff decide not to come back, a good way to recruit new staff is by attending college summer career fairs. This is where I landed one of my jobs, even though I was planning on not working at a summer camp again.

Bring pictures, brochures, business cards, and applications.

These career fairs are a great way to get an informal interview with a potential counselor and to help you plan for the summer.

These career fairs also help to solidify a full, strong staff so that a director is not rushing to find counselors at the last minute.

The thing that attracted me the most to that particular camp was the location. My dad's family had grown up in the area and so I knew the beauty of this camp.

But the director's philosophy was equally important and he made a genuine effort to answer all of my questions after our meeting. He gave me his e-mail address and I sent him many questions that I had. He answered them promptly, and never expressed annoyance in doing so.

The idea of working with a director that had the ideals that everyone was working with him instead of for him really sold the camp to me.

Another way to recruit new staff members is to mention something about hiring in one of your camp newsletters. Let the current staff know that you are looking for great counselors to add to the staff.

This allows counselors to think about friends or relatives (who they might not have considered before) who could be a great addition to the staff.

There is also an opportunity for staff recruiting through the Internet. It might be a good idea to register with various Web sites that list camps that are looking for counselors or other staff positions.

You could also list various job opportunities, or even post your staff application online through your camp's Web site. Since the Internet seems to be a large hub of information for not only college students, but many other teens and young adults, this is a great way to communicate with this particular age group.

After attending the career fair, I had decided to work at a summer camp again but I wasn't sure if it was at that particular camp that I was going to work at, so I spent a great deal of time researching other camps on-line.

I know one person who got a job through e-mail. She e-mailed the director and spoke with him about a position, went through the interview process and was hired.

So, keep in mind that good counselors are also looking for you, and the Internet is becoming one of the best places for them to find your camp.

It would be a good idea to have a section on your Web site for potential staff to outline the job requirements, philosophy of the camp and the hiring process. The more information a prospective counselor has, the more likely they are to follow up.

Christie Enders just spent her second summer at Camp Al-Gon-Quian on Burt Lake, Mich. In the summer of 2000, she worked at Camp Pendalouan. Currently, she is a senior at Michigan State studying community relations and will be graduating in May.

Bryan BuchkoComment