Staff Orientation is in full swing! All our staff is at camp learning the ins-and-outs of being a camp counselor and having a blast. It’s certainly a talented crew! We’ve had a jam-packed week so far with Leadership Training Sessions, Health and Safety Seminars, Typical Day At Camp, Role Playing, Staff Chaos, Campus Competes, Field Night, CL Drafts, Swim Tests, Driving Tests and so much more. We even brought in Maine’s premier Square Dance Caller, Al Hipkins, for a little Hoe-Down last night. Yeehaw! We still have a lot to do before camper arrival day on Saturday but we can’t wait. Only 5 days till camp!!!
Few people think of finding a summer job while bundled in scarves, coats, and gloves as they attempt to maneuver roadways and college campuses after the latest snowfall. However, whether 2011 is the first time you’re considering a summer camp position or you’re a seasoned veteran, February is exactly the time to start the process of securing summer employment, if you haven’t already done so. Many camps attend campus recruiting fairs in order to assemble the perfect staff. So why should you attend one of these fairs or complete an online application now? To begin with, a camp job is definitely fun, but also a lot of work…so be prepared! Where else can you get paid to play all day while building valuable job skills? Whether you work in a specific area and focus on a sport, activity or hobby you love or you work as a counselor who travels from activity to activity with campers, your day is full of exciting challenges and a probably even a few surprises, both of which will develop your problem-solving, critical thinking, and negotiation skills.
If you like working with children and aspire to a career in a field such as education, sports training, psychology or sociology, then you already have another reason to work at a camp. Camp is an excellent place to gain valuable experience and is impressive on a resume. Although camp seems lighthearted–and it is in many ways–working at camp requires a lot of responsibility, flexibility, and adaptability, all of which are very valuable characteristics sought by employers. Each day guarantees new challenges, many of them unexpected. Summer camp is often organized chaos. Yes, there is always a plan in place, but the unexpected is also inevitable. While this may seem scary the first couple days, it also brings an excitement and satisfaction that delivering pizzas or serving food (or even working at an investment bank) never could. Working at camp also requires a lot of communication and interpersonal interaction, two more transferrable skills that are highly valued by employers. At camp, you must effectively co-exist with your campers, co-counselors, and other staff members to be successful. You will also be able to tell future employers that you worked with people from all over the world and from many different socio-economic backgrounds. That you’ve overcome cultural, language, and social obstacles with others tells recruiters that diversity is not something you fear, but rather embrace.
Working at summer camp can also be very healthy for your bank account. You won’t become Donald Trump spending your summers at camp. However; camps provide housing and food in addition to a salary. It’s possible to live virtually expense-free for a couple of months. Many summer camp counselors take home all or most of their salaries at the end of the summer.
Finally, you will form lifelong friendships at camp. You may arrive alone and nervous in June, but you will leave in August with literally hundreds of friends from all over the world. Two months may not seem like a long time, but when one lives and works in close proximity with co-workers, it’s more than sufficient to form bonds that ordinarily would take years. There are always tears on the last day of camp, not only when saying goodbye to your campers, who will have secured a special place in your heart forever, but to co-workers—the ones you know you will see again as well as the ones you know you will not. Regardless, the world will seem like a much smaller place to you.
Though it may seem early to begin planning such a special adventure with so many possibilities, building a successful camp staff not only requires individuals who possess all of the qualities previously mentioned, it requires finding the right mix of personalities and talents. Such an endeavor, of course, takes time. Camp recruiters review literally thousands of applications each year and speak with hundreds of candidates to find those who are the best fit for their camp’s atmosphere, philosophy and program. Starting your job search while the ground is still white and the tree branches still bare provides you with the advantage of a larger pool of positions from which to choose. By April, most camps have nearly completed their hiring and only difficult to fill or highly specialized roles remain.
So, after a winter of wading through piles of snow, are you ready for a summer full of adventure?
According to American Camp Association (ACA) CEO Peg Smith, approximately 1.2 million camp staff make summer camp happen each year. Camp counselors are a large group in that staggering number and many are also college students who not only earn money for school but also professional experience, resume-building skills and learn a lot about themselves!
Smith says that summer camp provides a unique learning experience for college students since “a camp job offers real life experiences and a hands-on education that simply cannot be found in a classroom.” If you’re looking for a way to earn money and also develop and grow as a person, summer camp is a place where children and adults come together to form a unique community. It’s a job that you can take seriously and share what you know—but also learn—from staff and campers.
Here are some benefits you can expect from the job:
- No research then writing arguments here! You’ll have to master real-life, problem-solving skills in the moment, like how to get your campers to clean up and go to activities on time.
- You’ll be a role model and surrogate parent for children who grow to love and respect you while you have a significant and positive influence in their lives.
- As you care for and encourage others, you’ll develop greater self-understanding. You’re moving into adulthood and it shows in the way you treat others and make choices for yourself!
- Professional development and training are required—no taking a back seat here. Hone your leadership and people skills.
- You’ve heard about “networking,” and this is where it starts—you’ll develop and expand a network of peer relations that can last a lifetime.
Do you want to know more? Find out about camp counselor opportunities here and how you can combine earning money for college, professional and personal development and yes, a little camp fun!
What do camp counselors learn at camp that helps them later in life? The specific answers to that question are varied, but one thing remains constant—camp has a big impact on individual lives long after campers grow out of their camping and counselor years. Recently ReadyMade magazine featured Kelly Stoetzel in its regular series about awesome jobs. Kelly works for TED, a nonprofit devoted to “ideas worth spreading” and spends her days interacting with fascinating people from around the world who work to make things better. What was her first job? Camp counselor! And what does she list as her “Best Job”? Camp counselor!
Kelly learned that “being a camp counselor is all about leading a group of people into enthusiasm,” and that continues to be important in her job today. Just as campers and staff still gather each summer—sometimes for the first time and sometimes after waiting all year just to come back—Kelly went to camp! There, learning, personal growth, fun and friendship blossomed during intense times and life-long skills and ideas were forged. Camp operates as a microcosm of experiences that mirror real-life situations as everyone negotiates friendships and different personalities, tries new things and finds their unique role in the group. If you’ve been a camper or a counselor, you know what I’m talking about. You also know that facilitating fun and teamwork takes creativity and enthusiasm. (If you’re thinking about being a counselor, camp is an incredible way to learn skills and prepare for future jobs!)
One counselor puts it this way, “Many aspects of camp allowed counselors to forget life outside of camp and just live in the present focusing on how to facilitate fun in the moment. I don’t think you get to do that as frequently in other life experiences, or at least you are not encouraged to do it as frequently.” She goes on to state that these skills are important in any profession and that camp administrators also served as references for her later jobs. For this counselor, camp led to asking questions about larger social structures at work in the world which led to going to graduate school and a career as a professor!
Another famous camper, Disney’s Michael Eisner, credits his many happy years at camp for teaching him to be honest, loyal and “willing to help the other fellow.” He’s quoted as saying, “Working in business can be another canoe trip!” You can read more about the impact camp had on Eisner’s life and career in his book Camp where he shares his memories and multiple lessons learned. If you’re a social and outgoing person and drawn to the opportunity to lead with enthusiasm, camp counselor could be the summer job for you–check out the AFSC website for more information.
Do you already have “camp counselor” on your resume? How has that experience contributed to your life or career?
Recently some camp counselors shared what they’ve learned on the job and I’d like to highlight two important concepts they talked about. Think of this as your basic introduction to camp counselor skills and also how important professional development is to your overall future:
1. Time management
High school students often focus on preparing for college by earning acceptable grades and participating in additional activities. While these strategies are essential to the process, students too often rely on parents/care givers for structure and reminders and fail to understand that managing time is one of the most important skill required for college success. Across the United States, students with ability and good intentions often struggle in college, just because they have not learned to schedule assignments, work, reading and most importantly the time they spend having fun or relaxing.
In contrast, one past camp counselor explains, “time management is crucial at camp,” and even if you are familiar with regimented schedules, “a camp counselor is responsible for keeping others in line with the daily schedule.” So the job requires not only learning to manage time personally, but also for large groups and that becomes a skill counselors develop. Camp counselors also “learn to be disciplinarians in strategic ways.” These skills are essential and applicable to keeping an undergraduate student motivated to complete assignments and participate in college activities. So, since professional experience at camp requires “all counselors to be responsible,” and to “learn to be accountable for personal actions as well as those of others,” camp counselors benefit in multiple ways.
Working as a camp counselor is also the perfect component to rounding out a year of personal and professional growth by managing the time between semesters! As students mature and move into the realm of adulthood, they often have to face the reality that they are not completely self sufficient.
2. Independence and freedom
Once a young adult goes to college, no matter how much they miss home or home cooking, they are changed forever! One past camp counselor puts it this way, “After my first undergraduate winter break back home I decided I didn’t want to return home for three months during summer. College gave me independence/freedom from parental supervision, and I wanted to continue the experience through summer employment.”
So, as you can see, being a camp counselor is a great fit for young adults who expect to do more than the minimum. Since campers often want to prolong their time at summer camp, they can also take it to the next level as counselors. After repeat summers a few even go on to fill additional camp staff positions before making their mark in other careers!
What’s your plan for personal growth next summer? Do you see “camp counselor” in your future?
Thanks for the image Michel Filion.