I recently attended a summer job fair at Louisiana State University (LSU), with the hopes of finding my “aha moment” to explain what makes college aged kids want to come to camp. As it comes to no surprise, I didn’t come away with just one hypothesis.
Upon registering for the event, I was assigned to my table and was greeted by the woman at the next table with an enthusiastic hello, and “You’re the reason I found my first camp job!”. Awesome. I didn’t know this woman, and didn’t recognize her face, but I recognized her camp (Chestnut Lake Camp) and her first name (Masey). We email back and forth from time to time and campstaff.com helps her to find staff. Seven years ago she landed her first camp job at Chestnut Lake Camp and has since worked her way from drama director through program assistant and director to a now full time job as the assistant director. She had one interview 7 years ago and fell in love with her still-today camp. Hypothesis 1: camp interviews are lengthy and exhausting for both the camp and the seeker, so when you get a great candidate on the line, work hard to have them commit to your camp!
When I go back and think of my own experience, it was similar. I interviewed at Camp Walt Whitman in 1997; it was long interview and I knew from the conversation that the camp would be a great fit for me. I didn’t want to go to any other camp after that call. My husband had the same experience with his interview back in 1989. Apparently, over time we really haven’t shortened the interview process, have we! I love that in a world of trends, connecting through a conversation and giving value to that connection has not gone out of style.
Jumping back to present day at the college fair, Avery, a LSU student and counselor at Chestnut Lake Camp, came to hang out with his camp at the job fair for a bit and talk to prospective staff. Avery and I were able to speak about why he first became interested in camp. He told me, “To be truthful, I wanted to build my resume. I wanted to work in athletics and thought coaching at camp would give me good experience”. Avery came to camp last summer as a volleyball coach and filled a position on the residential side of camp. Avery, of course, fell in love with camp and camp fell in love with him. Hypothesis 2: camp is definitely a resume builder; it’s our job to teach staff how to convert their skills at camp to skills on their resume
At the end of every summer, I sit down with my staff and we brainstorm words to build their resume. With the experience of camp behind them, these are no longer not just words to write, but stories behind each word. To see the lightbulb on the staff member’s face each summer as they process deeply what the words “multi-task” or “ solution-oriented” mean to them; after a summer of becoming experts in these words, they understand these skills on a whole new level. There are some great hand-outs out there on resume building words to use as a springboard, but I like the process of having staff figure it out on their own.
At the end of my recent experience at the job fair, I had some time to kill before an afternoon meeting. I headed to the student union and set up shop. I worked a bit, and also observed what was going on around me. On a campus of 25,000 undergraduates, campus virtually cleared out around 3:30 PM. It was like universal nap time. The few students that were left in the student union were either eating or watching a movie. Nobody seemed to have any energy left to do work, to check their emails, and definitely not to think about a summer job. Hypothesis 3: when you reach out to college aged students, reach out in the morning, somewhere between 10 AM and 2 PM or after 7 PM if you actually want a response! For CampStaff’s website, I like to peek at google analytics and see when folks are most using the site to look for a job. No surprise that it is surely not between 4-7 PM.
As my day continued, I prepared for a meeting about my own website and started reviewing the trends of when people do apply to camp. I like to track this stuff; it’s pretty fun and useful to have 20 years of data to compare! If you are looking to hire staff 18 or older for your residential camp, reach out between Sunday afternoon and Wednesday evening. If you are seeking staff for your camp that are younger than 18, reach out anytime between Friday afternoon and Sunday afternoon. Weekends are a busy time of the week for job searching for high school kids, but not as much for the college aged crowd. Hypothesis 4: pay attention to when you reach out to staff, as you are much more likely to get a response on certain days of the week. We know that this generation of college aged kids are not likely to respond on just the first time we reach out to them. There’s just way too much information coming at them daily and they simply cannot get back to us as quickly as they have in the past. Camps need to reach out in multiple formats (phone, text, social media, email) because college aged kids don’t even check their emails every day any more. It may feel like more work to us, but the rewards are, of course, worth it.
I headed to my meeting to discuss some changes that needed to be made on my website. I pointed out during the meeting to my 20-something web programmer that we had to include ‘co-ed camps, brother/sister camps, female camps, and male camps”. These are standard terms in the camp business. My programmer literally stopped my mid-sentence, “Lynn”, he said, “we can’t figure out here for the life of us what a brother/sister camp is. Do you really need to have a sibling at camp with you if you want to go?”. I laughed. Hypothesis 5: camp makes sense to us that are in it every day. For the rest of the world, it’s an education. I know I’m in the same boat as many of you reading this; people just have no idea what we do for the rest of the year. We tell them, but they still don’t seem to get it. So let’s keep educating. Let’s keep spreading the word of working at camp so we can continue to send our kids summer after summer. Camp is a great niche in the world, and I’m willing to work hard to make sure it’s staffed with some pretty great folks.