So, maybe you spent last summer working at camp, and now you need to buckle down and apply for an internship for school or secure a job at home in a relevant field. Or maybe you’re hoping to apply to NYQUEST Camp Canada but still need to convince your parents that you won’t be spending your summer simply sun tanning and singing around a campfire. Although there does seem to be a common misconception that a camp counsellor doesn’t qualify as a “real job”, we can’t think of any better role where you have as much responsibility and gain as much leadership experience (and have as much fun in the process) than a summer camp job.
Read on to learn about some of the many skills that counsellors and camp staff come away with by the end of the summer that can transfer over to literally any job ever. Emphasizing these skills on your resume will help your camp job stand out to future employers and will demonstrate how useful and worthwhile this experience and accomplishment really was.
Whether you work on a counselling team, a lifeguarding team, a kitchen/maintenance team, or any sort of programming team at camp, you will need to be able to work in collaboration with your fellow staff to achieve your personal and group goals over the summer. Summer camp is a place where many different personalities come together, and everyone builds off of each other and feeds off each other’s ideas, to ultimately create amazing activities and memories that last a lifetime! Being able to establish and maintain professional and positive relationships with the people you work with – and live with – is a key to this success!
Communication as a camp counsellor is a two-way street. You must be able to effectively convey information to large audiences, as well as be able to listen to instructions and give your undivided attention to children who are trying to communicate something to you. By the end of the summer, you will be a lot more confident in your written, vocal, nonverbal, and listening communication skills, all of which future employers should greatly appreciate.
If you can control a rowdy group of 12-year-old boys during an impending food fight, motivate a homesick group of 7-year-old girls on their first night at camp, and/or lead a large group of 16-year-old counsellors-in-training on a canoe trip in the wilderness – I think it’s safe to say that you have the people skills to manage staff in the “real world”. Don’t be afraid to use examples from camp in your cover letter and interview. It’s all about taking yourself seriously, highlighting the extent of your responsibilities, and using appropriate wording and names for prospective employers (instead of the “Crafts Lady”, you were the “Creative Arts Program Coordinator”, etc).
Unfortunately, when a group of children spends 24 hours a day together over multiple weeks, you’re bound to have to deal with some arguing and/or bullying. Being able to quickly recognize these incidents and respond to them appropriately demonstrates good judgment and conflict resolution skills. Additionally, it takes a lot of creativity and a proactive approach to come up with ways to stop bullying from happening in the first place. The same can be said for those in senior positions, directly supervising other camp staff rather than kids. Camp staff also spend every minute of every day together, which can lead to some not-so-happy campers. Identifying potential problems and reacting to conflicts in the workplace that do arise, takes tremendous tact and effective strategies to manage and prevent.
One life lesson that you learn really quickly at camp, is to expect the unexpected. With the children’s behaviour (and the weather) being so unpredictable, camp staff needs to regularly be able to come up with impromptu ideas on the spot. Employers appreciate that future staff has the ability to adapt to changing environments and can think quickly and stay calm during times of uncertainty. Not to mention, if you are an international camp staff, you have also adapted to a brand new country, with strange cultures, customs, and traditions.