I spent my college summers as a counselor at Strong Rock Camp, and I automatically think highly of someone if they have experience working at a camp on their resume. For anyone who thinks working at summer camp is just making friendship bracelets and eating smores, you couldn’t be more wrong. First of all, have you ever tried to teach a six-year-old how to make a craft? It requires patience, care, and the ability to communicate clearly.
Here are some other reasons being a camp counselor is a strong addition to your resume.
You have an incredible amount of responsibility. When parents drop their children off at your cabin, they are entrusting you with the lives of their most precious things. If that’s not heavy enough, camp life is not full of pillows and bubble wrap. There are shooting classes like riflery and archery; there are athletic classes like soccer and tumbling; and there are camp-wide games like capture the flag (we called it Sock War) that include romping through the woods.
Of course there is a nurse onsite as well as camp directors and full time staff, and counselors go through training and lesson planning for the activity classes, but everything doesn’t always go according to plan (when does it ever when there are humans involved?). Counselors have to make decisions on the fly and improvise. I can remember being a lifeguard and having to entertain the campers with a game when they had to exit the lake due to thunder (Ships and Sailors for the win).
You learn how to work with others. At camp you work with your co-counselor in your cabin and with various other counselors during classes. Communication is key! If you and your co-counselor agree on cabin rules and then you decide to be the “cool one” who lets the campers run wild well past lights out, you’ve thrown them under the bus. If you both talked about it and agree, it’s fair game. 😉
Teaching classes with other counselors with varying personalities and skill sets is also a great learning experience. You learn how to tailor your teaching style depending on who you are teaching with, what you are teaching, and who is in your class.
You learn a lot about yourself. Working at camp is not easy. You’re on call 24/7. If a camper wets the bed at 3am, you’ll need to get up and help them change their sheets. You’re likely sleep deprived, and how you respond to being tired and teaching the same classes week over week matters. The staff stays the same for the whole summer, but the campers are new every week or two. It might be your 5th time building a model rocket, but it’s the first time for a camper. Do you have the same level of patience and enthusiasm in teaching? Do you care enough about the campers’ experience and the reputation of the camp as a business to push through your fatigue? How you perform when you’re low on energy says a great deal about your character, and learning to push through to deliver your best work is a learning experience that will stick with you.
If those reasons aren’t enough, keep in mind that you’ll learn other marketable traits like learning to work a cookie down from your forehead to your mouth using only your face muscles and soda chugging. And if you’re like me, you might just meet your other half as well. 🙂
Finally, I’m not dissing internships in general. Some internship programs provide valuable work experience, including the one I ran at my previous job. But if you compare a stereotypical internship – sitting in an air conditioned office every day filing papers, fetching coffee, and waiting for 5pm – to working at a camp, being a counselor will teach you far more.