Signing on the Dotted Line: Commitment Is a Two-Way Street

Reprinted in part from Camping Magazine by permission of the American Camp Association; copyright 2018 by the American Camping Association, Inc.

Congratulations! You committed to working at camp this summer, and the director and/or team who hired you have been anticipating your arrival since you signed on the dotted line! It is completely normal to have cold feet and wonder if you made the right decision to spend your summer at camp, similar to the feelings of the campers you will soon meet who will be embarking on this adventure as well. Before the butterflies in your stomach get the best of you, know that commitment is a two-way street. Yes, you made a commitment to camp, and camp also made a commitment to you (whether it is your first summer or eighth summer on staff).

Working at camp is a real job and should be treated in the same manner as employment or obligation anywhere else. Because you will be taking care of other people’s kids, the hiring process to work at camp is rigorous. Your application was screened; you were interviewed (sometimes more than once and by multiple people); your references were contacted; and background and other related checks were run before you were even offered a job. Steps were taken for returning staff to be rehired as well. Not everyone is cut out to work with kids, but you have been carefully selected and trusted to become an integral part of a camp community.

One of the main reasons you were hired is because of your strong moral character, which means being responsible, having integrity, and staying true to your word. Thorough consideration has been given to where you will fit in the bigger puzzle of the staff team. Don’t be thatperson who bails on your commitment! If you are new to camp this summer, you may not know the people you are coming to work for and with very well (if at all). Please know they are counting on you to fulfill the contract you signed.

It is possible you made the decision to work at camp several months ago, and other opportunities may have presented themselves to you in that time that could get in the way of fulfilling your commitment. Weddings, family reunions or vacations, taking classes to catch up or get ahead, sorority/fraternity rush, etc., may lure you to rethink your commitment to camp. If something has come up since you signed your contract that would affect your ability to stick it out, it is best to talk to your camp director sooner rather than later to explore options. The courteous thing to do is to set up a time to discuss in person. Texting is not the best way to deliver the news. Worse yet is telling your camp director about your plans at the last minute instead of asking permission in advance.

Camp Is a Job

Hopefully, you get the idea that while working at camp is a job, it is unlike any other employment experience you will ever have. At the end of the day, you will earn a paycheck and may receive other benefits such as room and board if working at a resident camp (where housing, meals, laundry, utilities, and other living expenses are usually covered). This may mean extra money in your pocket at the end of the camp season when returning to school (or looking for another job). Regardless of working at a resident or day camp, you will typically get paid a base salary with add-ons for experience, certifications, leadership roles, extra duties, etc. A bonus for completing your contract may even be included. Working at camp can be a great way to save most of your earnings.

Commitment to you beyond the paycheck comes in the form of innovative training, intentional opportunities to connect with the people you will work with, and support every step of the way. What you may not realize is working at camp has many benefits that will last long after the summer is over. This commitment to you will not only help you be successful in your career choice but also in life. Commitment is a two-way street. Thank you for keeping your commitment to camp — it is a win-win for both you and the camp that is fortunate to have you this summer.

-article written by Kim Aycock

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