“Being a camp counselor isn’t a real job,” “You don’t get any benefits with seasonal employment,” “What skills would you even learn when you spend all day running around and playing?” These are just a few misconceptions that you may have heard about working as a camp counselor, but luckily, we know from experience that none of them are true. Being a counselor at summer camp is a demanding job, but it’s one that comes with real benefits and opportunities for growth. As this summer is winding down, several of our older staff members who have graduated college are looking for a full-time job after school, meaning that unfortunately for us, they aren’t planning on returning to work at camp. That means good news for you as employers though: these incredible staff members will now be available to enhance the job market with their array of skills!
1) Patience and Responsibility
So what does being a camp counselor really teach you? To start, you have to be extremely patient, positive, and motivated to make it through a long summer, all while being as fresh and enthusiastic on the first day as you are on the very last. There are few jobs with schedules as demanding as summer camp, but our counselors handle their responsibilities and time commitments with diligence and ease. In a normal desk job, you’ll clock in at 9am and head home at 5pm, with plenty of time to relax in the evening and sleep in your own bed. At camp, you’re on the job 24 hours a day, and you have to be able to respond to campers’ needs at 3pm and at 3am with equal attention. Patrick McGrady, a long-time camper and current paddling counselor at Falling Creek, reflected on how patience was the biggest thing he learned while being a counselor: “Every extra minute that I invested into the whole experience benefitted myself and the people around me. Of course, there is also the whole theme around brotherhood and friendships that I have gained at Falling Creek, but the patience I gained through this job tops all else.”
Not only are the hours demanding, but the responsibility our counselors are given is huge. Our staff must model incredible responsibility, dedication, integrity, accountability, and adaptability in order to care for the most important members of our camp community: the campers. Accepting responsibility for other people’s children is a huge commitment. In their role at camp, counselors gain experience in caring, mentoring, coaching, and teaching. Few other jobs can offer the same impact or level of meaningfulness. During the summer, our counselors have the opportunity to be a mentor, a role model, and a big brother or sister. Campers often look up to their counselors and build strong mentor relationships over the years at camp. The bonds created at camp are lifelong, and the positive impact that counselors have can’t be overstated.
2) Communication and Collaboration
While away from the distractions of technology, counselors and campers are able to grow in a communal environment, boosting their teamwork skills. Because camp is technology-free, counselors are “unplugged,” and have to practice communicating face-to-face with their co-workers and employers. These uniquely human skills are necessary for today’s job market, which requires the ability to connect and collaborate. These life skills can’t be learned from a textbook or through standardized test prep in schools. However, this is why supplemental experiences, such as camp, have so much value. The camp experience provides staff with these necessary life skills, giving them that extra edge for the competitive job market, and for life in general.
Working at camp provides a new depth of knowledge beyond the classroom, educating through face-to-face interaction in a community, and hands-on experience in an activity.
One of our counselors attributes his communication skills to his past camp experience, sharing that while at camp, “one really has to adapt their language in social interactions and speak up at the right time. As a counselor, you also gain so much experience working as a team.” Counselors often say that “real life skills” like these are invaluable to as they move on in future careers, which set them apart in the competitive job market.
3) Critical Thinking/Innovation
How do you get a whole cabin of 8 year olds to shower and get ready for bed? How do you help a young boy away from home for the first time tackle homesickness? What do you do to problem solve when a trip doesn’t go as planned? These are just some of the questions that counselors have to answer during the summer, coming up with innovative solutions and getting used to thinking on their feet. Caring for campers takes more than just clocking in and following a task list. Our staff members consistently innovate to come up with more efficient ways to manage daily routines with campers, create more effective methods of teaching in their activities, and adapt their outdoor trip itineraries as plans or weather change.
Counselors also have to be innovative when coming up with creative ways to market their activity. Since there are 28 different activities at camp, each one competes for the attention of our campers. During special-signups on Sundays, counselors have the chance to offer programs or activities outside of the “norm.” That gives them the opportunity to get creative not only within the activity, but also with the announcement, which draws campers to your activity!
4) Personal/Professional Development
In May, we host a ten day Staff Development and Camp Orientation. In addition, some staff members must arrive two to three weeks prior to orientation to attend certification clinics for their areas of expertise at camp. This includes Wilderness First Responder training for our Outdoor Trip staff, Certified Horsemanship Association training for our barn staff, and lifeguard training for any staff members working in sailing or on the swim docks. During the summer, we continue to offer growth opportunities for our staff,as well as, bible studies, workout sessions and in-service training.
Counselors also have the opportunity to gain peer leadership skills in a Tribal Leader or Activity Leader position. As a Tribal Leader, counselors are expected to be leaders and role models among others their own age, gaining peer leadership skills as they manage their own tribe. Activity Leaders plan the curriculum for their individual activities, coordinate working as a team to turn in the weekly paperwork tracking progressions and evaluations, as well as manage the day to day lessons and fellow staff in their activities. The opportunity to be an activity leader or trip leader offers further experience with planning, organization, communication, risk management, and proactive thinking to ensure that your activity is taught effectively or your trip goes smoothly. These leadership opportunities ensure a certain level of expertise in the activity itself, but also allow staff to excel in the areas of communication, teamwork, and “people skills” that are necessary in today’s world.
5) More Than Just a Summer Job
Being a camp counselor is more than just a “summer job” before your “real job.” Being on staff at camp is a real job with real opportunities and benefits. Working as a counselor is an important educational experience that teaches skills for the 21st century through leadership, communication, responsibility, and teamwork. Few other jobs or internships can give you the same opportunities for growth, or the same leadership experience.
It may seem like all fun and games, but the lessons learned during a summer of work at camp are invaluable, especially as the new job market demands more human skills in an increasingly technological society. Where else can you get the hands-on experience of teaching, coaching, and caring for children, the excitement of leading trips, the communication skills from planning activities, or the peer leadership experience from working with fellow staff? Parents notice the difference in their sons and daughters as they return from working over the summer, and we are always happy when they reach out with comments about the positive impact from the camp experience.
If you’re an employer interested in hiring one of our accomplished counselors, we encourage you to visit the staff section of our website to learn more about each of our staff members and contact our office for more details on which of our counselors are looking for full-time jobs after the summer. We would enjoy the opportunity to tell you why we think these young men and women would be outstanding members on your team.