Sophie's top tips for getting hired at the BUNAC Summer Camp Fair

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Summer Camp Fairs can be daunting places no matter your age, experience or skillset. Why? Because for the past five months you’ve dreamt of spending your summer differently to how you’ve spent them previously. Instead of working in your local supermarket or spending your uni-free weeks revising (only broken up with a short getaway to sunny Spain), you want to fly to the United States for a slice of the American Dream and work at an American summer camp as a camp counsellor or an activity instructor. Your parents and maybe even some of your friends might think it’s a brave decision to make. To me, it’s a great one, and you won't regret it. And all this is playing on your mind in the lead up to the Summer Camp Fairs: the one day in one year where you can get hired by a Camp Director face to face. 

Having been hired at the London Summer Camp Recruitment Fair back in 2013, I know what it feels like to be nervously waiting in line to speak to Camp Directors from overseas. For some of you it might be in the first adult American you’ve properly spoken to, or perhaps it’ll be one of the first formal job interviews you’ve had. All of this is okay.  I worked at Summer Camp for three consecutive years and it changed my life. I solemnly swear that it is the happiest place on Earth (forget Disneyland) and it will always be my second home.

I want to help as many people as I can get out there and experience the true magic of summer camp for themselves. So, I’ve comprised a quick to-do list of how to best prepare for the upcoming BUNAC Summer Camp Recruitment Fair. 

1) List your top three camps, just in case

Sometimes the camp you have your heart set on might have already hired all the staff they need and are only looking for very specific skillsets at the Camp Fair, e.g. a male sailing instructor over the age of 21. If you don’t fit the bill, you’ll need back-up camps. I’d recommend you choose your top three camps to be ready to talk to at the Fair (if not more) because you never know what might happen on the day.  You might also be surprised and find that on the day you’re blown away by a Camp which wasn’t originally your top pick.

2) Know your availability 

This one is kind of obvious, but needs to be said. If you have exams in mid to late June (as I did), then you cannot go to a camp which starts on June 5th. The Camp Director will have set that start date for a reason in conjunction with other factors such as pre-camp (also known as training week for new staff). Proposing to arrive at the camp later, even if it is only by two or three days, already gets the interview off to a bad start. Only talk to camps you are definitely available for. 

3) Recognise what you’re GOOD at and sell it

You might love to play football in your garden every once in a while, but this is very different to having played club football for ten years and obtaining a certified qualification in football coaching. Although you might have the skills, you must phrase them in the right way (and be honest) when you interview with a Camp Director. Tell them your qualifications, tell them how many years of experience you have, tell them why you’re great at your job – and do it confidently. This is your time to shine, my friend, so make sure you do yourself justice!

4) Research the camp you want to go to BEFORE you attend. 

Do you know what type of camp it is? Check. Do you know which state it’s based in? Check. Do you know when it was founded? Check. Knowing your stuff about the camp you want to go to shows you are interested and enthusiastic about their camp. You wouldn’t go to an interview without researching the company, its history or its philosophy would you? So don’t do it at the BUNAC Camp Fair. Not only will researching help you decide which Camp is right for you and the experience you want to get but will also impress the pants off the Camp Director.

5) SMILE! 

Oh, here we go again. I’m nagging you to smile like your parents did when you took family photos. Unfortunately, your parents were right with this one. Never underestimate the power of a smile. It makes you instantly friendlier, personable, approachable and most of all – it’s contagious! This works wonders in any kind of interview, especially when it’s for something as fun as Summer Camp, so flash those pearly whites!

6) Arrive on time. 

Not so early that the Camp Directors are still setting up their tables, but early enough that you’ll be near the front of the queue (if not at the front). Do this and you’ll get the first pick of the camps at the fair, and you won’t be sprinting to get anywhere with your application form and your hair blowing in the wind. NOT a good look. 

7) Take a moment to just… breathe

Again, rather obvious – I’d recommend you to literally breathe. But, in the rush of the day and all of the new people around you, it’s very natural for you to feel overwhelmed. If this happens, take a moment to remember who you are and why you wanted to work at summer camp in the first place. You don’t need to convince me you’re an amazing person, and you’re going to be amazing at summer camp.

8) What’s it all about? Having FUN

80% of the people that came to BUNAC's UK and Ireland Camp Fairs last year walked away with their summer camp job secured, but not everyone does. If for whatever reason you don't get hired, remember that it's not the end of the world. There is still a great chance that you'll be placed online after all the fairs have finished with summer camp just months away, and we're going to be there with you every step of the way to help you, so don't lose hope.  

Now, it’s over to you!
These are your first steps to success at your Summer Camp Fair. I hope you read this carefully and go on to attend the Camp Fair feeling a little more confident in yourself. Remember, it’s the best feeling in the world when you get hired at camp, but you need to do this graft first. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact the BUNAC team whenever you need, and we'll also be at the fair to help you out too. Otherwise, best of luck and see you at the Fairs! To find out more about our awesome Summer Camp USA programme and how you can have the experience of a lifetime, click here.