Bad Work Camping Jobs: Causes and Ways to Avoid Them

Bad work camping jobs exist. Some campground jobs are overall negative experiences. I correspond with thousands of RVers and I hear some real horror stories. While it would be nice to be able to tell you all campground jobs are great and all campground owners are wonderful to work for, that simply isn’t the case. There are ways to avoid those bad jobs.

Bad Work Camping Jobs -- Don't Get Stuck with One

Many campground owners are honest and hardworking business owners. Most campground owners want to be fair with their working RVer staff. Many go above and beyond to provide a good work environment. Campground owners want their staff to be happy and to like their jobs.

So, why then, are there the bad work camping jobs?

  • A mismatch between employee and employer.
  • A mismatch between the employee and the park.
  • Assumptions.
  • Wrong expectations.
  • Poor communications.
  • Bad apples.

There are days when I receive feedback from two people about the same campground job. One raves about what a great place it is to work -- and gives examples of why. The other tells me how awful it is to work there -- and gives examples of why. And guess what? The examples are the same!

A frequent issue is the worker's off-duty time. An RVer wrote me saying something to the effect of, "I love working here because the campground owner treats us like family. We gather in the clubhouse every night. We have potluck dinners together. There's always something for us to do with the owner and other work campers." The other working RVer wrote me with something to the effect of, "I hate working here because I never have any time to myself. Even on the days when I'm supposed to be off work, I'm expected to attend work camper potlucks and every event at the park." The bone of contention wasn't the job; it was a mismatch in social personalities.

The amount and degree of supervision is another common issue. When an employer tells you to do a job, and then walks away, how do you feel? Do you get after the job, thankful he isn't there watching over you, telling you how to do it? Or, do you feel abandoned, that he didn't take time to tell you how he wanted it done? Some people like to have complete, detailed instructions. Others want to be left alone to get the job done. If what you look for in a supervisor doesn't match the campground manager's style, you may end up thinking it is a bad work camping job. But it will be a good work camping job for someone else.

Some mismatches have to do with the park and its location. Think about this before you accept the job. Do you want to be in a remote location, where you can enjoy the wilderness? Or, do you want to be close to the city, with shopping and numerous events? Is your idea of "nightlife" sitting around the campfire or dancing at a club? If you are in the wrong location -- for you -- you'll find working there is a bad work camping job.

Another mismatch on parks is the customer. What kind of RVer do you want to live with and work with for the next few months? Oh, you can be politically correct and say you don't judge. But, the reality is that people -- including you -- do have preferences of what kind of people they like to be around. And, there's nothing wrong with that, if you acknowledge it and choose a campground that is a match for you.

Oh, the squeals of children running and playing everywhere! Are they happy reminders of your grandkids? Do you want to join in and play with them? Do you wish they would be quiet? If  the noise bothers you, a position at a campground that caters to young families on camping vacations will be a bad work camper job for you.

And, what about permanent residents? Do you see them as a plus or a minus? A campground full of oilfield workers who fire up their diesel pickups early each morning and leave for the day.... That's a good thing, right? The only time you see them is when they show up in the office the first of each month to pay their rent. They don't require daily check-ins or check-outs; they don't expect planned activities; they don't even use the campground showers. Or, do you think campgrounds are for campers who come to camp? Your idea of the ideal RVer is a major factor as to whether you see a particular park as a great place to work or bad work camper job.

Assumptions and expectations. They can get you into trouble.

The campground advertises for someone to work in the office. You assume that means answering the phone and checking in new arrivals and chatting with them. But the office is in the camp store with an ice cream counter, and is in the main building, along with the bathrooms. What he really means is that he is looking for someone to do the inside jobs -- cleaning the bathrooms, stocking the store shelves, serving ice cream cones, and occasionally, filing some papers. Those differing sets of expectations -- based on assumptions -- can make this a bad work camping job for you. On the other hand, if your idea of office work is sitting at a desk all day, and you can't fathom the idea of going to a campground and being stuck behind a desk for eight hours straight, you probably wouldn't apply for this job. But, if you ask, and find out this position has you up moving around and working with the campers, it could turn out to be a good work camping job for you.

And, that leads us to communication. Ask questions. Before you accept a job, ask lots of questions. When something is explained in jargon, ask for clarifications. It can help to use two forms of communication. Perhaps a phone call to discuss things. Then, a follow-up email, so you have it in writing and can re-read things that might not be clear. Miscommunication is the biggest factor in mismatched jobs -- the biggest factor in whether the job is considered a good work camping job or a bad work camping job.

Bad apples. You know that old saying, "There's a bad apple in every barrel." Once in a while, yes, you'll run into a campground owner that is a jerk. If this happens and you are already on the job, you have two choices: stay or leave. Hopefully, you've followed our advice, and you didn't spend a lot of time and money going to an area for the sole purpose of a particular job. Because then, you can leave. You won't let that one bad apple spoil the entire barrel of work camping jobs.

More articles about campground work.

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