Can Working at Camp Help Your Job Prospects?

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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:

Initiative
  • I recognized that a camper was having trouble fitting in, so I…
  • By the sixth week of camp, the children were bored of some activities, so I…
  • I was concerned about the safety of a specific program area, so I…
  • I was confused about certain rules, regulations and protocols, so I sought out my supervisor to ask for guidance.
Teamwork
  • Working with other counselors helps you realize how to utilize each person’s strengths and weaknesses. For instance…
  • Because the team of counselors worked well together, and communicated effectively, we were able to…
  • One time when I found it challenging to work with someone else was when…. I learned….
Responsibility
  • As a leader of children, I took this responsibility seriously. I prepared for camp each day by reviewing all health related information, checking the schedule for possible safety problems, and….
  • One child in particular had severe health issues. I took the following steps to ensure that he was always safe…
Decisiveness
  • In camp, things happen quickly. If a child gets hurt, you must react immediately. There have been many times when I had to make a split-second decision that affected the safety of children. I learned to not panic, think quickly and execute a plan in a very short amount of time.
  • Because I have experience in these kinds of situations, I feel confident in my ability to make the correct decision quickly, and then follow through on that decision.
Leadership
  • As a leader of children, I had no choice but to be a role model for the campers as well as the other counselors.
  • I learned that there are many different ways to be a leader. Sometimes it is best to simply lead by example. Other times you can be vocal, and inspire others to action. And there are also times when a leader must not act, and let others take initiative so that they can learn and grow.
  • As a camp counselor, I learned that every person is an individual, and you must take the time to learn how to motivate each camper. One example of how I motivated a camper was…
Positive Attitude
  • As a leader, I learned that my attitude sets the tone for everyone in my group. * Although some days are tougher than others, I developed the ability to display enthusiasm and a positive attitude while on the job. I found that this, as much as anything, contributed to the success of my camp group.
Time Management
  • Although a day camp seems like a relaxed, utopian setting, the reality is that the day is very rigidly structured, and there is a lot that must get done each and every day. I learned the very important skill of planning ahead. Every day, I would look at the schedule and plan the day. Without good time management skills, campers and counselors would be extremely stressed at the end of the day. This particular skill has helped me manage my workload at school.

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!

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