It doesn’t feel long ago that I was in the office chasing up the last few pieces of paperwork for the last few people flying out this summer. And already the new season is upon us! So following on from my first season as an interviewer I thought I would post some advice on how to boost your application for this coming season.
1) Qualifications! Qualifications! Qualifications!
This is the biggest one for me for a variety of of reasons. Basically… if you have completed any courses or qualifications related to childcare or coaching, what so ever, then put them on your application. The ones I come across most often are the Makaton, Autistic Spectrum, EFYS type courses that people pick up when doing NVQs in Childcare or working in nurseries. These types of courses are absolutely 100% applicable, so please do include them and upload a copy, especially if you are looking to work on Special Needs Camps. Another example I often found was that people who do Sailing have often completed RYA Powerboat courses as part of that – but don’t realise that these courses on their own are massively in demand by camps. So anything, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem at first, could actually be something that a camp is specifically looking for.
2) It’s not too late to start…
If you feel you are a little short in the official qualification area….. there is no need to panic. In my first summer I had no qualifications but managed to get placed and the following experience and qualifications I received at camp is what helped me get placed in future years. But because it is so early in the season you have plenty of time to think about what qualifications you might like to do, and then do them this year to help boost your application. Just write on your application that you intend to do sed course and then upload your certificate and experience once you have!! And one course to really consider doing is a Lifeguarding qualification. You don’t have to be a professional standard swimmer to pass it, and people with this course are in extremely high demand at Camp. So it’s definitely something to think about.
3) Sunday League football doesn’t make you Jose Mourinho
This is probably the biggest pet peeve out their for interviewers…well.. at least for me haha! Being in the UK ALMOST EVERYONE loves football or has played to some level. So I’m not saying ignore it from your application entirely, but if your experience doesn’t go much further then “I play every week in the local Sunday League” then don’t put all your eggs in one basket and focus your application down that route. What you need to do is either include it to support your application as a whole, or if it is something you really want to do, then you should at least complete your FA Coaching Level 1. Courses are held quite regularly around the country and you can find more information about it here.
It is very important that you keep on top of these and make sure they are professional and follow ALL of your sponsors requirements. I know it can be difficult, as a lot of you will have never had a proper job before, so getting a reference can be quite challenging. And trust me I know this from personal experience my first summer. But don’t fear! There are alternatives!
A) Teachers / Tutors. This is always the first port of call to try if you are in this position. Your Tutor or Director of Studies at College or University is the best person to get this from. They typically will know you well enough to make a good judgment of your character and will be always be able to provide a professional reference with the correct letter head paper etc.
B) Coaches. If you are a part of any kind of Sports Club then this is also another good place to get a reference. Again the relationship is a professional one and depending on the club, they should be able to fulfil the requirements of completing a professional reference.
C) Religious Leader. This is one that may not be applicable to everyone, nor one people tend to think of, but if you attend services regularly then having your Religious Leader complete a reference for you is perfectly acceptable.
D) Volunteer. If you are still struggling then one quick easy way to get a good reference is to do some volunteering. You will be able to get a reference from them in return as well as the bonus of some extra experience to put on your application!
5) Broaden your mind..
Now this tip is more of a personal one for me. I know the thought of working on a Special Needs Camp can be quite daunting, even horrifying for some, but it is something to think about. I spent four summers at camp working at three different camps, and all three were Special Needs, but before I went to Camp I had nothing in the sort of qualifications or experience. But don’t get me wrong, it definitely isn’t something for everyone, but if you do want to challenge yourself and learn new skills and do something truly rewarding with your summer, then please don’t hesitate to try. A lot of the time it is a persons personality which is the most important thing on this type of camp. Any specific training required the Camp would provide. And there are some perks as well to working Special Needs. Firstly you get paid more! Which is always good. Secondly (isn’t always the case) you generally will get more time off. At my last camp I would have the whole weekend!! Thirdly, in my opinion working on challenging camps like this forces you to work in very close-knit teams where inevitably very close bonds are formed. The friends I made working at my second camp, which was the most challenging by far, are still some of my closest friends on this planet, four years on. I personally don’t believe this is something you will experience quite as fully at general camps. Fourth, the work is far far more rewarding. Quite often the time your campers spend at camp is the highlight of their year that they look forward to all year round – and being apart of that really is an amazing feeling!! And Lastly – Special Needs Counsellors are in high demand, so having it as one of your options will only increase your chances of getting placed!
I hope these help. I wish the best of luck to all of you who apply, and for some lucky few, we may even get the chance to meet!! 🙂