by Matt Kaufman
on December 23, 2020
I have spent almost every summer of my life at summer camp. For the past 15 years, I have been fortunate enough to work year-round at camp. People often ask me why I have devoted my career to summer camp. I haven’t yet discovered the perfect answer to that question, but I feel like it is a calling. Most people that I know in this industry feel the same way. There’s just something about being at camp. We can’t imagine life any other way.
As I think more deeply about what makes camp so special to me, I realize that each day I spend at camp makes me a better person. That may sound trite, but it happens to be true. I strongly believe that being a camp counselor was the best first job I could have had. As I got older and was given more responsibility, I learned even more.
It is my hope that more people will realize that working at a summer camp is a worthwhile use of time for young adults. Simply put, there is no greater responsibility than being in charge of the safety and well-being of other people’s children. There is no job that will teach you more about problem-solving, taking initiative, dealing with the unexpected and working within a team.
In the past 50 years, the workforce has changed significantly. Successful employees must now think more creatively than in the past. Job processes used to be very linear. There was a set of instructions, or an algorithm, to follow for most tasks. Technology and the interconnectedness of the world have changed this. More jobs require creative thinking. There is no longer one way to get to a solution. The trend towards creative problem solving over linear thinking will continue for the foreseeable future.
Working at a summer camp is great training for success in this changing environment. Working with children requires you to be nimble, change plans on the fly, and come up with creative ways to be successful. In fact, the skills that you learn while working at camp are the exact same ones that employers are seeking in their new hires.
Here are seven skills that working at camp has taught you, that you can share on a job interview:
When meeting with potential employers, speak proudly and confidently about your camp experience. If you were able to succeed at summer camp, you can succeed anywhere!
Matt has spent his summers at Camp Ramaquois since 1984 — as a camper, counselor, and in various administrative positions, including his current role of Associate Director. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in Operations Research and Industrial Engineering from Cornell University. At camp, Matt works in program development, staff training and camper engagement. He has served as the program chair of the Tri-State Camp Conference and authored a book about summer camp staff training entitled The Summer Camp MBA. Outside of camp, he enjoys hiking, reading, website development, and spending time with his wife, nieces, nephew and dog.