Sail Caribbean (SC) summer sailing staff is comprised of a diverse group of individuals, and each person brings a valuable and unique set of skills to our teen summer adventure programs. Every year during the hiring process, student names from previous summers appear in the applicant pool; and this summer several students specifically mentioned their goal of one day working with us. So, as an alumni interested in a summer job with SC, what exactly can you expect during the application process? What is it like transitioning from the mentality of a student to that of a professional staff member? We asked Mark Missirlian and Sam Korus, both former SC students who joined our staff team in Summer 2012, to share some insights from their experience.
Sam and Mark both felt as though SC provided them with an opportunity to learn from others and improve their own leadership skills.
Mark says that the staff on his programs were “patient,” “always had giant smiles on their face, and were able to relate to students so well. They were able to keep calm no matter the situation.” Sam remembers the staff who led his programs as being “knowledgeable sailors and teachers, but also hilarious individuals… What’s more is they created a safe environment where kids weren’t afraid to fail, and when failure is no longer in the mind great things are accomplished.”
Mark was inspired by an exceptional staff member who worked on his program – he decided to apply to SC “so that [he] would have the opportunity to one day be just like her” and “always put the students first.” Sam found he “really wanted to give back to the camp that gave [him] such
incredible experiences.” He says there are definitely advantages to being a student before working at Sail Caribbean, including that you get to see both sides of the camp. “You literally know what students are thinking because you had those very same thoughts as a camper. You know the small things that make a trip better.” You also know the anxiety that students sometimes feel when faced with new challenges and can teach and comfort them accordingly, he concludes. Mark agrees, saying “I knew what it was like to have to stay up at night to finish dive homework and to clean the boat thoroughly in order to get some ice cream. Teens don’t go to camp to have chores and do homework, they came to SC to have fun.” He states that staff must understand where students are coming from and that having such insight was very valuable for him as a new staff member.
The first step when considering applying for any job is to read everything in the employment section of the company’s website. Before you begin the application process, it is important to understand exactly what the job description entails. Your experience as a student on one of our programs gives you a unique and valuable perspective, but that alone does not make you a more ideal candidate than your competitors. The time and effort you put into understanding the Sail Caribbean philosophy and the expectations we require our staff will help strengthen your application. Use the time you have during high school and your first 2 years of college to really gain experience volunteering/working with kids in a professional setting, improving your sailing/diving/teaching skills, and getting comfortable with basic first aid techniques. This will build your resume and professional references, and show us that you are serious about this opportunity.
So, say you’ve successfully made it through the hiring process – now it’s time to prepare yourself, as Sam says, “that you are now staff.” We demand a professional attitude dedicated to safety, accountability, respect, and quality – and no matter what, the students and the program always come first (which is why you loved your experience so much as a student)! We do our best to set our staff up for success, beginning with a 9 day intensive training for both new and veteran staff. “The amount of stuff we learn in those nine days is incredible. From dealing with student issues to fixing and sailing boats and staying clam in emergencies – I really do believe everyone comes out of training a better person, ready to lead a group of kids,” Mark shares. Sam adds, “By the end of staff training you are fully confident in safety and sailing procedures, but the whole time you have been working with other adults. You know that in the next couple days everything will be a little crazier once the students arrive. Day 1 of program is one of the most exciting days of the summer.”
Mark claims he had just as much fun working on staff as he did as a student, but that it was different, “We have to adapt to the slow learners that need more one on one time and also the fast ones that want to go full speed all of the time.” Mark also spoke about being aware that as a staff member, it is possible to be switched between different fleets based on the needs of all the programs. Sam agrees saying, “It is important to remember that while you are working in paradise there is still a lot of work to be done. Be ready to work hard” and to be flexible when the unexpected happens. Both Mark and Sam agreed that one of the biggest challenges they encountered was realizing “that you aren’t just there for one program. You have to go through the cycle of teaching everything over again multiple times (Sam).” Mark reiterates that you have “to be patient and remember that [students arriving in August] are no different than the ones in the beginning of the summer and they deserve the same exact treatment and enthusiasm.”
Both Mark and Sam claim that working for SC was basically what they expected it would be, but “[they] didn’t realize how rewarding it was going to be,” said Sam. Mark: “You don’t think that this job will effect you, but when you teach kids how to learn, work together, and get along and …when you watch the kids take over a boat on Challenge Day, watching them come out of it with pride and joy is one of the most rewarding things because it was us, the staff, who did that for them.” Mark says, “the one piece of advice I would give to alumni is to just be yourself. SC is looking for people who can join the SC family – because that’s what it is, a family.”
If you are interested in working at Sail Caribbean in the future, please do not hesitate to call our New York office to ask any questions you may have.
The greatest challenge during the program was staying entertained during the quarantine period. Not being able to leave your boat and not having a phone, which was a crutch against boredom, it was difficult at first to stay entertained.