5 Tips for Negotiating a Last Minute Summer Camp Job

Photo Credit The Unpolished Barn

It’s the eleventh hour of the summer camp hiring cycle…job seekers are needed, sometimes desperately.  Once you’ve connected with your amazing camp job through CampStaff.com, what’s next? Here are our tips for negotiating the best compensation package possible.

Don’t focus on Salary.  Here’s a little bit of a harsh truth.  Salaries are basically standard at most camps.  Since you will be living and working with your coworkers everyday, smart camp directors avoid salary disparity. Camp is not like a “regular” job. You eat, sleep and work 24/7 with your camp colleagues. Staff will discuss salaries and morale can suffer. Having huge pay disparity like most industries we read about every day, simply will not work in a camp setting… nor should it!  Come to think of it, summer camp may be the one US industry where men and women ALWAYS start on equal pay footing.

So if you can’t ask for a simple salary increase, what are some options?

Travel allowance. Camps have lots of leeway in offering travel compensation. If you are flying by air, this is a no brainer. Last minute flights cost more. However, if you are driving to camp, gas is the same as if you’ve been planning since March. Ask for an increase over the standard gas allowance. Remind the director that having a car at camp is a benefit to camp staff morale and you’ll be happy to include fellow staff on your day off and night out trips. More $ in your pocket and happy staff – Win/Win.

Flexible dates. If you have a wedding or job interview or anything else pre-planned for the summer, be sure to include those in the negotiations. If you play your cards right, you can get these days off with pay in addition to your standard time off. Just ask up front. Camp can work around being short staffed for a few days. Camps already operate when staff are ill – letting the camp in advance when you’ll be taking “sick days” allows for smooth planning. Win/Win

New equipment. If you are a camp specialist – ie, someone teaching an activity – you can work in camp purchased “tools of the trade”. Would a new golf bag help when you interact on the golf course? How about a new tennis racket? Anything that legitimately helps you improve your job performance and the experience of the campers can be asked for. Win/Win

Skills or training. Many camps send staff to update certifications or new skills courses before camp opens. If a lifeguard certification could be beneficial to you (even if you are hired to teach softball!) ask to be included. The more staff with cross training, the better for the camp. For you it’s a few hundred dollars of training you don’t have to come out of pocket for. If your new skills are in-line with your actual camp job, again this is a no brainer for the camp. Win/Win

Charitable contributions. We once had a coach from a low income school district ask, in lieu of a raise one year, to be able to take any sports balls we were “retiring” for his students. We were directing a high end sports camps and basically bought all new balls each summer. Not only did we give him the pick of the balls – but we also gave him the raise. That’s the kind of staff we wanted to keep! Another staff member we hired as a senior team member came from a non-profit camp background. She arranged for our unclaimed lost and found clothing to be sent to her old camp at the end of the summer. Camps are happy to get involved in charitable work. It may not mean more money in your pocket, but that’s not always what’s most important, now is it? JUST A PLAIN OLD WIN ALL AROUND!!!

Bottom line is you have to ASK if you want things to happen. You won’t know until you try. If you are hesitant to negotiate, just remember that the camp has the most to gain by hiring you. Summer camps can’t run without out camp staff!

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