I learned while working at summer day camp...
Michael D. Eisner
Chairman, the Walt Disney Company
Working at a summer camp can be the very best way for a student to spend the summer, no matter what long term interests he or she may have. It can help develop valuable personal skills that will be invaluable in life and for any kind of career. All kinds of employers need and look for these talents that summer camp excels in delivering.
Many were counselors during their college years and vividly recall how their summers on the staff provided a foundation of personal skills to help them develop successful careers.
After an individual works at a summer camp, the experience can be used very effectively during the post-graduate search for an entry-level job.
On the resume:
Especially if more than one summer has been spent on a camp's staff, it can demonstrate some important things on a resume. A counselor wouldn't be asked back for a second or third year unless a strong job had been done. Such a screening device can be crucial to recruiters as they wade through resumes of many qualified candidates. At the same time, a counselor wouldn't return for multiple years unless there was a real loyalty to the camp. Such a sign of commitment can also be crucial.
In the interview:
The camp experience offers lots of interesting stories through which one can illustrate the abilities developed while on the staff. Communication skills used. Teamwork that has been developed. Responsibilities met with little or no supervision. Leadership taken. New ideas implemented. Problems handled well (and especially not so well, which in turn led to learning valuable lessons). Conflicts overcome. Cultural differences accommodated. And becoming a productive contributor to a community. Entering an interview so well equipped should lead to opportunities for a strong career start.
to develop valuable personal skills:
Every summer, students are faced with the decision of what to do. It's seldom an easy choice. And it's filled with lots of questions.
What do I want to do?
How much can I earn?
Where do I want to be?
What will I learn?
How can I contribute?
How will it help me?
Will I enjoy it?
Of course, there are lots of options - internships, high-paying labor, volunteer work, classes, travel. And summer camp.
Each offers its own set of rewards, but working as a counselor at a summer camp has proven to be one of the best. Spending most of the time in the outdoors, leading and participating in recreational activities, learning how to work with kids, meeting and working with other students, and, on top of that, actually getting paid for it!
Don't take our word for it. Read what a bunch of college students said recently about how working at a summer camp helped them. And think about how it may all apply to you.
recognize the skills they've developed:
Communication skills is a biggie. There is so much to that. You learn to talk in front of people.
While working at a summer camp, college students have to communicate effectively with a variety of different people in different ways.
Children. Colleagues. Directors. Parents.
One-on-One. Small Groups. Large Groups.
Conversations. Discussions. Public Speaking.
Reports to directors. Evaluations of others.
You learn what it is to be part of a team. You need to work together and find common ground.
Summer camps are built around teamwork. Teambuilding programs during camp training help. Whether on a large staff or in a small unit, people in each of a camp's many groups must find ways to work together. And on overnights, this need is even greater for everyone to enjoy the outdoors safely.
It was an opportunity to have a leadership role. You learn about your leadership style and leadership skills.
It's up to the counselors to make sure the groups work well together. They're the ones on the line with the children, and the children look to them to provide direction for the summer.
I got to see the tangible results of what I did. I learned a lot about how to work under pressure.
There's seldom anyone looking over your shoulder at camp. Certainly, there are people with more experience to offer support and guidance. But the success of each child's summer depends on each counselor taking the responsiblity to make sure that good things happen. The reward is easy to see in the eyes of the kids at the end of camp.
I had to figure out how to be adaptable. You stretch and grow and learn new things everyday.
Camp encourages innovation. Every group of campers and every group of counselors is different than the one that preceded it. Their talents are different, and so are their interests. If a new idea for an activity is sold to the kids, it can become part of the camp program.
No matter what the problem is, you can find a way to solve it. Trying to solve problems that arise really pushes you to your limit.
Every day, there are problems to solve. Some will be small, but others can be significant. You never know what to expect, but you have to be ready for anything. Perhaps even more useful - you learn to pay attention to all the details in order to prevent problems in the first place.
You can't choose who you work with. Learning to be flexible and accommodate different personalities gives me a good edge.
Kids in groups together for a week, a month, or the entire summer often disagree. Perhaps for the first time, they are participating in a group setting without the immediate safety net of their parents. Their counselors must find productive ways to resolve the broad range of inter-personal conflicts that inevitably arises.
You have a chance to build friendships with different types of people. You get to see new aspects of different parts of the world.
Camps are filled with children from throughout the entire country, and many campers from other countries. Because of special international programs, their staffs, too, can come from almost anywhere in the world. This day-to-day contact with such a wide range of people can add to a student's understanding of the increasingly global diversity of our culture.