This is the second part of our work camper experiences. In this series, we are taking each one of our work camping experiences and detailing how we got the job, what the job was like, and our overall thoughts on the job. Part 1 had to do with spending our first season full-timing down in Florida for the winter. Chris worked and I gained weight. If you missed this article click here to read.
To start this article I will need to back up to before I retired. It was the spring of 2017. We had already moved into the RV and were commuting from the local parks to work. We had already signed up for the work camping rendezvous that was happening that year in Arkansas. We knew we were going to be work camping at least for a few years so we figured it was a smart move to attend.
We were staying at the local and state parks on Long Island until my retirement date in October. If you would like to know more about us and how we got started check out our about us page.
We signed up for workamper news and the KOA work camping website and created resumes. We figured since we have both worked our entire lives and had a great work history, jobs would be falling in our lap. Guess what, we were wrong.
That Darn Corner Shelf
Although I was a mechanic most of my life I had no real “campground “ skills. I know nothing about household electric and a little bit of plumbing and I am certainly not a carpenter. I think I was ruined by that first corner shelf project in shop class in school… lol
We couldn’t understand why campgrounds were not lining up to hire us. What’s wrong we thought? Did we fill something out wrong? We had submitted our resumes to a bunch of campgrounds and we hadn’t heard back from any of them.
At this point, I should mention we were looking for work for the summer of 2017. We had decided to take the first season after retirement off. Again, if you missed the first part of this series, click here to get caught up.
Finally one day we were sitting at our campsite and I got an email notification. It was from a campground in Michigan ( I don’t remember which one) and they wanted to know if we were still available and interested in working the summer season. Chris had put in for the office position and I put in for either office/outside.
We were so excited. At this point, we had no idea how the process worked. All we knew was someone wanted to hire us!!! Woohoo! We replied to the email and told them we were still available and very interested. We never heard from them again.
We were crushed. What happened? What did we do wrong? Looking back at that situation and knowing what we know now, we should have given them a day or two and followed up with them. They were probably getting tons of resumes and ours just fell by the wayside. What we have found over the last couple of years talking to owners and managers is that when they post jobs they get absolutely slammed with resumes. Who knew? We thought there was just a small group of people going for these jobs. After all, these are all minimum wage jobs.
We Are Not The Only Ones
It turns out there are hundreds if not thousands of people just like us who want to travel and supplement their retirement, social security, or any other income they have. After all, why not trade a little work for a free site, electric, propane, and laundry and have extra money to sightsee without ever touching any of your savings? We feel it’s a great lifestyle and apparently so do lots of other people.
So as the winter months are flying by and spring begins we keep submitting resumes for jobs we see and hearing nothing. Finally, we get another email inquiry. This one from the KOA site we joined. It was KOA in Amarillo, Texas. Although we were excited we were not going to get super excited again only to be let down. So we responded that we were interested and gave them our available times for a phone interview. Since most applicants for these jobs are residing in different states from the actual job, phone interviews are the most common way for owners/managers to interview potential applicants.
To our surprise and excitement, they responded with a confirmation for a phone interview time. At this point, we were nervous but also very excited. We had researched the job hiring process before and knew it was the next step but now we were actually going to do it!!!
To prepare for the interview we went back and started re-researching things to ask during an interview. We went onto the campground’s website and read as much as we could about the place. We checked the reviews on the KOA site, google reviews, and even did a google earth view to see the campground. We compiled a list of questions and felt we were ready. As we look back at the whole situation we laugh at ourselves on how green we actually were. We should have asked so much more. Oh well, you have to start somewhere right?
We Were Ready… Sort Of
Ok, so the day has arrived and time is closing in on the interview taking place. The phone is charged, the notes are ready, and the a/c is turned off. We turned the a/c off because our RV a/c is so loud we were afraid we wouldn’t be able to hear. As the time approached we were sweating bullets.
The phone started ringing and we both looked at the screen and then each other. It’s go time!!! As we worked through the formal introductions and started chatting we started feeling more comfortable. This campground was a privately owned KOA franchise and we were talking to the owners of 30 ( or about that) years. They were very understanding of our newbie status and reassured us they would train us.
Job Duties Explained
They explained what our jobs would be in great detail. Chris would be working in the office taking reservations and selling gifts and food items. When it was slow she would straighten up the store, put away inventory, or do some light cleaning. I would work outside. This would include mowing, weed eating, painting, escorting, filling propane, or any other project that needed to be done.
They also explained that each couple would have a day or two of cleaning the cabins and bathrooms. It would be on a rotating schedule. It was a full time (40 hour) position. We were offered a flat monthly salary. For that salary, we were promised we would get free propane, free laundry, and our full hook up site including water/electric/sewer. We were also promised that we would work on the same days and hours and have the same days off.
We accepted the position on that phone call and agreed on a start date. We also asked if they could email us a confirmation of everything we just talked about. They agreed and welcomed us aboard. Everything went really well on this call. It lasted a little over an hour. Woohoo!!! We had our first “campground” job.
Within the next 24 hours, we received our email detailing everything we had spoken about on the phone and more. It has turned out to be the most detailed email we ever received from a campground to date. Periodically over time, we would receive emails with updates on various things with the campground and work camper statuses.
We Have Arrived
The time had come and we were finally pulling into the KOA. We were a little nervous but also excited at the same time. We received a friendly welcome upon checking in and were told they needed to inform the owners we were there. The owners came into the office shortly thereafter. At the time they lived on the campground. We received a friendly welcome from them and before you know it we were being escorted to our site. Once at our site, we were told to get set up and settle in. We were to meet with them in a couple of days to begin work.
The day we were to begin, we were introduced to the owner’s brother and daughter. The brother ran the outside duties with the male owner and the daughter ran the store section with the female owner. All involved were super nice. They did a great job of making us feel comfortable which was great for us as we were super new to this.
Within the next week, as the other work campers arrived, lunch was set up with everyone so we could all meet (formally) and fill out any paperwork that needed to be filled out. They introduced themselves to everyone and fielded any questions we had. They also told us the campground was for sale but not to worry. It was a lengthy process and even if sold right away it would take longer than the summer season to finalized which would not affect any of our jobs.
The job itself was exactly how it was explained and laid out in the email. On the mornings that we worked, my wife would head into the office/store and I would head into the shop. I would grab a radio and golf cart and check the whiteboard for any assigned tasks. There were also the regular morning tasks that needed to be done before any assigned tasks.
The Little Green Men
Some of the outside tasks included putting out these green signs saying “slow down” shaped like a person that held flags that had to be put in different sections of the park, the pool had to be vacuumed and tested, garbage needed to be picked up, flags put up, and the wishing well pump turned on.
In the office the voicemails had to be listened to and written down, late arrivals checked and entered into the computer, the cash draws opened, and of course, the mariachi music turned on. If there were any cabin keys turned in whoever was on cleaning detail that day could start cleaning cabins. Bathrooms were cleaned at certain times during the day.
Are You A Good Fit?
We found out quickly that not everyone is a good fit. Some people might expect to come to these jobs and expect not to work or to be running the place. If you are considering work camping keep in mind that many campground owners/managers have been doing it for a while and only want you to do the job you are hired for. They know what they need to get through the season and don’t need any more managers unless of course, that is what you were hired for.
If you go into these jobs with the mindset that you will just ride around on a golf cart and do nothing all day, you are going to run into a big problem. A campground is a lot of work to run and the more flexible you are the more you will be appreciated. We found out at this job that many people don’t think of this as a “real” job. We saw people just up and leave when they found out they will actually be “working.”
Ask Many Questions
Our philosophy going in was as long as we were not taken advantage of or treated bad we would honor our commitment. The key is in the interview process. Ask many questions, and verify your duties BEFORE you accept the job and drive to the location. Many misunderstandings can be avoided if you follow these recommendations. This KOA was probably the most organized as far as job responsibilities of any place we have worked at. The job was meticulously laid out in both the phone interview and email.
Within the first month, some people had discovered this was not what they thought and left. Chris also discovered she was not comfortable in the office. Although both the owner’s wife and daughter were extremely patient and helpful, Chris knew right away she made a mistake by accepting an office position. The office can be super busy and stressful at times and she was not used to that.
This was going to be a long season for her. The owners recognized this and since they were now a little shorthanded from people leaving, they had a possible solution that would help both them and Chris. They knew how anxious and uncomfortable she was in the office and coupled with the fact that nobody likes to clean they offered to make Chris (and me) the main housekeepers. This meant that we would now do housekeeping every day and the other couples wouldn’t have to take turns cleaning as originally set up.
Most days there were not full days of housekeeping duties and when we were done Chris would have to return to the office. We agreed because now instead of Chris being in the office for 8 hours, she was only going to be in there an hour or two each day. The other couples were happy that they didn’t have to clean. It was a win/win for everyone. It made the rest of the season go smoothly.
Happy Wife/Happy Life
After the housekeeping duties were done and Chris was back in the office, I went to work outside. Mowing, weed eating, pumping propane, and escorting. I would have rather not been cleaning every day but you know what they say, “Happy wife, happy life” …lol.
This is what I mean by being flexible. Sometimes you will get to a campground and people will leave (for multiple reasons) and the situation will change. The more flexible you are the more positive your experience will be. It is also extremely important to think about any position you apply for. Chris knew she was not really an “office” person but took the job because it was offered. That was a big mistake. It turned out ok this time because the owners recognized a problem and offered a solution that worked for both parties. We were very lucky.
Moving forward she will never take another office position again. It turns out she has really enjoyed housekeeping duties and is good at it. She does not get anxious and her work camping experiences are more pleasant because of it.
We learned a lot from this experience. Here are our takeaways:
- Never take a job just to have a job. Know the job details and if it’s something you don’t like to do, don’t take it. Wait for the right job for you to come along. It will.
- Before your phone interview, research as much about the campground as you can. What is located around it, what is the typical weather for the area, what kind of reviews does the campground get?
- Make yourself a list of questions and have a pen and paper during the phone interview. Take a lot of notes. If something is said you don’t understand, make sure you clarify right away. Don’t wait until you arrive at the campground to find out what was meant.
- After your phone interview, ask them to email you everything you spoke about in the interview. When you get this email make sure everything on it matches what was said. If something does not look right contact them right away and get it clarified.
- Running a campground is not easy. Be flexible. Sometimes you will be asked to do something you were not hired for. As long as you are comfortable with the task just help out. If this is a problem for you then maybe you should consider other types of employment.
- Be honest about your skills in your interview. If you do not know how to do something, don’t tell them you do. For example, if you know nothing about electrical (like me) don’t tell them you do. They might ask you to help out with an electrical problem and if you don’t know what you’re doing you can get seriously hurt or hurt someone else.
Work camping can be a lot of fun or it can be one of the worst experiences you ever had. Most things you can control by being honest with the campground owners/managers and yourself. You can also make some great new friendships. We still keep in touch with two couples we worked with at this location and visit them whenever our paths cross.