One of the most touted benefits of working at a summer camp is the network one may build even within the parameters of a single summer. Unlike many work environments, which tend to draw locals with a telescoped set of talents, summer camp attracts staff from virtually all over the world who possess an array of abilities. A successful summer at camp requires the expertise of athletes and artists alike. Because summer camps are 24/7 communities, staff members tend to form very close bonds within the two months that they reside at camp each summer. Camp breeds a sense of family, which is precisely why, for a good many staff members, goodbye at the end of the summer is seldom goodbye forever. Thanks to a little help from social media outlets such as Facebook, it’s possible to stay in touch with summer camp friends no matter where on earth they live. Whether it’s couch surfing while traveling, hunting for a job, needing a little bit of advice or support, or sharing an inside joke, camp friends are there. Working at summer camp is more than just a summer experience. It’s a way to form a global network of friends for life.
Spring is just around the corner and summer will be here before you know it, which makes now the time to start thinking about how you’re going to spend your summer. If you’re a college student, you could toil away as a server or cook at the local pizza joint or operate rides or peddle souvenirs at the local amusement or sports park. Interning in an office may even be an option you’re considering. And we all know the internships at Wall Street banks are now fewer and far between. But if you want summer employment that promises a summer full of fun and adventure while also helping you develop valuable lifelong skills that employers view favorably, consider working at summer camp. Just because your college days are behind you doesn’t mean that there isn’t a role at summer camp for you too, particularly if you are a teacher or high school or college athletics coach looking for a great way to supplement your income. In fact, the ages and backgrounds of the people who make up the typical summer camp staff are about as diverse as summer camps themselves.
If you don’t think being a counselor is really your thing or you’re pretty sure you’ve aged out of that option, don’t sweat it. There are a multitude of positions besides counselors that summer camps must fill each summer. For starters, camps have offices and offices require personnel to run them. If answering the phone and administrative tasks are more to your liking, perhaps working in a summer camp office might be the ideal option for you. Additionally, camps need people to help with daily scheduling as well as planning and executing special activities during the evenings and on special days.
If you like the idea of spending time with children but are an athlete or hobbyist who would rather focus on your passion, summer camps hire specialists to teach skills in specific sports and hobbies to campers. If your passion is photography or videography, as the camp photographer responsible for capturing the fun every day, your role is one of the most integral at camp. In fact, if you can think of an activity, there is probably a staffing need for it at camp, and sometimes some of the hardest positions to fill are ones most people just don’t think of when they think of summer camp, such as creative writing, cooking, robotics, eco science, skateboarding, or magic.
Although most hospitality positions such as food service, maintenance, and housekeeping are usually filled with international applicants, some camps hire domestic applicants as well, particularly for supervisory roles in these areas. If you are an international student who would love to earn some money by working in the U.S. before or after traveling, one of these summer camp roles may be the perfect option for you…as well as a lot of fun and a chance to make a lot of new friends from around the world!
Camps also have a need to fill key roles that require more foundational knowledge and experience. Aside from campers, camps also need division heads or campus leaders, people who lead a specific age group and supervise all of the counselors within that group. Although many camps fill all or most of their head roles from within, using individuals who have several years of successful camp experience because they require a more intricate knowledge of summer camp, occasionally they will search outside of camp, typically for teachers or other professionals who work with children. Camps also hire program or activity heads, usually college coaches and current or former professionals in their area of expertise, such as soccer, baseball, basketball, gymnastics, etc. However, since almost all activities require people to run them, those with interest and expertise in hobby or arts related programs can often find a summer home at camp in areas such as arts and crafts, dance, theater, etc. Those who manage offices, act as campus administrators, or arrange transportation are typically individuals with some type of related work experience as well. Most camps also employ camp moms or parent liaisons during the summer. These are individuals, often mothers themselves, who monitor the well being of younger campers to insure they are eating properly, staying well groomed, and having a fantastic summer.
So who works at camp? Chances are someone like you! If you’d like a summer job in which you can work among a diverse group of people from all over the world, make lifetime friends, be challenged everyday, and have the time of your life, apply now to one of America’s Finest Summer Camps!
So you’ve spent a summer—or maybe the better part of your college career—working as a summer camp counselor. You’re nearing graduation and you’re starting to pull together your resume for finding a job in the “real world”. You’ve been wondering, ‘How do I adequately articulate my summer camp experience?’ You’re worried that it will sound trivial to hiring managers, but you know that what you gained from your camp experiences are some of the most valuable skills you’ve learned. You’ve learned the art of communication, having worked with people all over the world and children ranging in age from seven to fifteen. You’ve learned the importance of discretion; your campers didn’t need to know EVERYTHING about you. You’ve learned how to negotiate, mediate, and maintain a positive morale, having coached your campers through swim tests, disagreements, activities, stage fright, and just about a million other things. You’ve learned time management skills. How many other job applicants can motivate twelve campers to move across campus from soccer to woodworking in five minutes or less, consistently coax them out of bed at 7am, and convince them that it’s time for lights out after an exciting evening of activities? You’ve learned how to use creativity to solve problems and are MacGyver with a few jars of paint, construction paper, a little bit of fabric, some scissors, and maybe a little glitter…add feathers and beads to that mix and you can practically re-invent the wheel. In fact, you’ve learned so many things as a summer camp counselor that you’re not even sure how you’re going to fit it all onto one 8 ½” X 11” sheet of paper, nevermind about your other job experience. So how do you convey the importance your summer camp job experience has had on your life in a way that hiring managers will see the value in it, too?
First, as sentimental as those experiences were for you, a hiring manager isn’t looking for the screenplay to the next The Blind Side. They’re looking for prospective employees who can efficiently yet effectively and specifically communicate their skills and abilities in a very concise manner. This means keep it relevant and as action packed as most of those days at summer camp were. Convey how active your summer camp job was through the verbs that you choose.
Second, without being too broad, make your resume sing of how well rounded your skill set is because of your summer camp counselor experience. Employers love diversity. A resume that sings of it will be sure to get a hiring manager’s attention.
Third, do your homework. Job hunting is not a one size fits all endeavor. You need to know and understand not only what you are looking for, but what the company to which you are applying is looking for as well. If there is a particular quality you feel you possess because of your summer camp counselor experience that makes you a good fit for a position or a company, highlight that one quality in your cover letter. Explain specifically how you feel your summer job experience and knowledge will translate into the new role. Having experience is one thing. Demonstrating that you understand how that experience can be integrated into others speaks volumes.
Fourth, don’t be afraid to remind prospective employers, either in your cover letter or at the interview, that being a camp counselor is a 24/7 job. Employers are attracted to people who aren’t afraid to throw themselves heart and soul into their work. What’s more heart and soul than being on duty 24/7?
Finally, be prepared. Be prepared to tell a hiring manager at an interview EXACTLY why you feel your summer camp experience gives you the edge over other applicants. When asked, don’t go into a lengthy mumble that basically amounts to a rehash of your summer(s). Show the hiring manager that you’ve thought long and hard about how your summer camp work experience is relevant to your future and that you understand specifically how to extract your experiences and apply them to other areas of your life. Most importantly, give examples, give examples, give examples!
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.