We haven’t posted a Nuts and Bolts post for a while so this seemed to be a good time for one. The subject of volunteering and work camping is a big one. We’ll just skim the surface here. There are several books, a Facebook group and WorkamperNews,com for those interested in pursuing the subject further. This post is an overview of how we have approached this topic.
The desire or in some cases the need to work camp covers a huge area. The two terms are often used interchangeably but are not the same. Work camping means exactly that, working where all or part of your compensation is housing. If you have an RV there will be more opportunities available but some places offer cabins, bunkhouse or their own RV arrangements. Most offer full hookups but some do not. Some offer salary, a stipend, commission or bonus. Others (federal, state, county or non-profit groups) will be on a volunteer basis. The number of hours runs from 16 to 40+. Some are directly through government agencies and charities while others are for profit businesses and concessionaires. Some may last 2-3 months while others will be seasonal or require a 6-12 month committment of time. Basically you look at it as you would any job and ask “Do I want to work here?” You will need to write a resume. The format on WorkamperNews.com is a good one or you can do your own. Depending on what type of job you want the web offers many avenues to locate a position. We have used volunteer.gov and state park websites the most.
As for us, we went into work camping knowing we wanted to volunteer our time at the federal, state or county level or for non-profit organizations. We put a limit on the time we were willing to work at 32/hrs each and limit our search to places providing full hookup service. After some soul searching of what we wanted to do, we also decided camp host positions, at least for now, are not what we want. So our resume clearly states our desires. We also let employers know up front that we have a dog who travels with us as this may or may not play into consideration. Then you need to analyze the location and what is important to you. Research the average weather for the location. Do you want to be near major cities, museums, shopping, have need for medical services regularly or do you like remote locations? What are your hobbies? Do you want to continue in a field similar to your past occupation or do something completely different? Write down the answers to these questions and use them to narrow the field. Think about days and shifts you are willing to work. Will you be the only work campers or part of a larger group? What type of orientation will you have? Do you want a very busy job or a more relaxed environment? Ask about uniforms and whether you need to purchase all or part of the required clothing. Also check to see if there are any length or height restrictions on RVs getting into the area, type of access and site conditions. Ask for a picture. Location of your site related to where you will be working (i.e. commuting distance) should be determined. Since you will be there for an extended period, knowing about cell coverage, land line availability, use of facility internet and satellite TV coverage may influence your decision. Make sure to talk about all of these areas during a telephone interview.
Have 3-4 references available to send when requested. Past managers or volunteer coordinators are best but in the beginning you might need to use past employers, co-workers, other work camp volunteers you know or friends. Don’t be afraid to initiate a contact. If you see a job posted that sounds interesting but you are not available until a later date, an e-mail or phone call indicating interest at a later date is worthwhile. If you visit a site using volunteers take time to chat with them about their job. You may want to fill out an application then or take contact information for later consideration. Plan 6-12 months ahead when you can. However, there are always positions coming vacant due to emergencies so even if you are on a waiting list don’t give up. The more open you are to location, the easier your chances for short notice placement.
We can only hope you enjoy work camping as much as we have so far.