If you happen to be involved in hiring and find an applicant for your company who has previously worked summer camp jobs, you’re in luck! Seriously. The applicant may or may not be qualified for the position you are offering, but if she is, then she is also likely to have a number of other skills that will be very valuable to your company.
When you hire a former camp counselor, you know you are getting someone who is:
A strong communicator. Camp counselors have to be able to communicate effectively with a number of different groups of people: campers, parents, supervisors, and each other. This creates the opportunity to practice many different communication styles and develops the ability to converse with different people or groups in a way that meets their needs.
A great team member. It would be difficult to get through a summer successfully as a camp counselor without developing strong collaborative skills. Counselors work in teams in their cabin, their age division, and in the activities they instruct. They work together to put on special events and supervise mealtimes. They work together to meet camper needs, such as addressing homesickness or social tension in a cabin. A former camp counselor is very likely to be someone who puts team goals first, and always finds a way to contribute and support other team members.
A solution finder. This could also be called a problem solver, but so many camp counselors I have worked with develop a solution-oriented way of thinking that I can’t help but think of them as solution finders. A cabin of 12 campers can generate a dizzying number of needs, requests, and potential problems; camp counselors get a lot of practice at being the point person to find solutions.
A self-directed worker. Camp counselors are given clear guidelines and expectations, but most of the time it is up to them to decide exactly how to instruct an activity or resolve a fight between campers. Counselors also learn when to take on a challenge themselves and when they need to look for help.
A resilient worker. Camp counselors have to learn how to handle just about anything that a child can throw at them (sometimes literally…). It’s often impossible to predict when a meltdown will occur, when an accident might happen, or when it will rain all afternoon, but it’s still the counselor’s job to make everything work and run on time.
Comfortable with trying something new or difficult, even if it means risk of failure. We have one of the longest orientation trainings that we are aware of, but it’s simply not possible to train for every single situation that might come up during the summer. Sometimes a counselor will need to cover an activity that he or she has never taught, or put on a new skit or game that has never been tried before. A counselor may be asked to work with an upset camper in a completely different age group, or mediate a dispute between campers he or she has not yet gotten to know very well. One thing is for sure: camp counselors are required to deal with uncertainty, and must become comfortable with trying new or difficult tasks.
Someone with a great work ethic. Counselors wake up before the campers and stay up until the last of their campers have gone to bed. They teach six activities a day, supervise three meals a day, and still reserve energy for the special event each evening. No one works harder for less pay.
Former camp counselors are also often flexible, creative, detail-oriented, have a positive attitude, and have learned hands-on leadership skills by taking the lead in a cabin, an activity, or with an age group. Most of all, camp counselors learn how to handle responsibility: they accept responsibility to look after of the most important thing in the world, at least according to the parent of each camper!
Spending a summer working at a camp is the perfect way to supplement an academic education with real skills that employers need to find in potential hires. We often say that even if a camp counselor is the last of a group to be hired, he or she is likely to be the first who is promoted.
Go find some former camp counselors!
Want more like this? See also: Camp Is Like College