If I were in college right now and I wanted to be a camp director here is what I would do.
Change My Major
First I would change my major to graphic design and minor in computer science or the other way around. Almost every camp director I know went to school for nothing that has to do with being a camp director. So I would major in a couple of subjects that I think are interesting and would both be useful as a camp director and different from what most other wannabe camp directors are doing. Graphic design and computer science are both super useful for creating marketing materials and projects for camp along with a million other things.
Make a Quick Website
Next I would make a super simple website called… becomingacampdirector.com. To start I would simply set the home page to the blog and create an about page for who I am. Then each month I would read a book and type up a simple synopsis on how I think it applies to camp. Each month I would also do the same with between 1 and 10 Youtube videos. Here is a list of some of the books videos that I would start with.
Talk to My Current Director
Third, I would send a short email to my current director explaining that I want to become a camp director and ask them if they had any advice. Then I would decide if I wanted to go back to my home camp. This is a tough one. I love Camp Stella Maris where I grew up and worked for eight summers, and I learned a ton working there. My gut tells me the best way to set yourself up for a director job would be to work at your home camp until you get a leadership position and spend one summer in a seasonal director type role before applying at other camps. Unless for some reason your current camp doesn’t have a seasonal leadership position available to you for whatever reason.
Find The Next Camp
Fourth, I would start looking for another camp. I would be super honest with my home camp director about what I was doing. Let them know you love your camp and to maximize the chance of being a great camp director you need to build a larger network and see how other people run camp. Next, I would apply at a handful of camps. Knowing the camps that I know and who I am I would apply at, Stomping Ground, Frost Valley, Sanborn Western Camps, and Augusta. Sanborn and Augusta are both super well established amazing programs that I think you could learn a lot from and I would think hard about Frost Valley if I really wanted to work in the Y. Then I would go work at Stomping Ground! ;) I am biased of course, butI would choose Stomping Ground because I know the directors are well connected. It is a new camp so there will be tons of opportunity to make changes and try new things. Stomping Ground serves a diverse population and does a lot of new and interesting things on a small budget, and because its fun to work there. After choosing to work at Stomping Ground, or another great camp, I would plan on spending two summers there. One to get to know the place and show the directors what I can do as a counselor and one as a seasonal director or leadership staff member of some kind. This way by the end of my time at college I will have two sets of directors that can vouch for me and two experiences as a leadership staff member at two separate camps.
The next step is meeting as many people as possible. I would send an email to all the camps I could find that are with in a two to three hour drive from my school and try to setup a day where I could volunteer, get a tour, and meet the director. I would write about this on my blog after each trip and ask the director at each camp for recommendations for the next place to visit. After each visit I would also make each camp 4 or 5 sharable memes and send them over in an email thanking them for their time. I would gladly skip class to get a day with a camp director.
Go to a couple Conferences
I would go to my local ACA regional conference, again, gladly skipping class, and after accepting the job at Stomping Ground I would ask to join them at the ACA Tristate Conference. At each of these I would try to meet as many people as I could and send great to meet you emails after the fact. Being a camp director means sending a shit load of emails.
That is where I would start toward setting myself up to be the most likely to land a camp director job, but after graduating from college I wouldn't want to jump right into a full time job. More on that later, but I’d start with a couple of short term outdoor ed jobs combined with something like Camping Coast to Coast. Then it doesn’t become how can I get a job, but rather what job do I want?
If you are looking for a new job in summer camp I would love to hear what you have been up to. The struggles, ideas, and what you are hoping for. Fill out the quick form below and let's chat.