Career Camp: 3 Ways Being A Camp Counselor Helps You In The Real World

by Sara Uman
Groundswell Productions

Picture this: You’re headed off to your first real interview.

You’re not trying to get a job as a professional ice cream scooper at TCBY, or (even worse) a “sandwich artist” at Subway. This is not an interview for a job you want just so you can afford to splurge on a cool concert, or on a pair of shoes that has been sitting in your online shopping cart for the past three months.

You’re interviewing for an internship (unpaid or paid) that will help you kickstart your professional career as an adult in the real world.

The secretary lets you into the office, and you shake your interviewer's hand. You cringe because your hands always seem to get sweaty at the most inopportune moments. Your stomach is in knots, and you have to remind yourself to breathe as he or she asks the first question.

“What sets you apart? What can you bring to the table here?”

Even though you have done extensive preparation for this and many other similar questions, you draw a blank.

You think to yourself, "All is lost."

Maybe, you should pack up now and go apply for a job at the local McDonald’s, or maybe, you should just resign that you will be unemployed forever (and possibly homeless).

But wait!

An idea sparks in your head. You remember the one summer your mother still thinks you wasted as a camp counselor. Suddenly, you know exactly what you are going to say.

As far as “the real world” is concerned, the job of a summer camp counselor isn't very esteemed. All across the nation, parents of prospective summer camp counselors sigh and ask their children a simple, yet timeless question: “Shouldn’t you get a real job this summer?”

You see, these parents don’t know their children's seemingly casual summer jobs are actually the perfect preparations for “real” jobs. The reality is that over the course of the summer, camp counselors learn and fine-tune the skills of leadership, teamwork and responsibility.

These skills are essential to any job, and they are far more developed in summer camp counselors.

1. Leadership

Whether they are teaching activities to a group of campers or leading the whole camp in a silly cheer song, counselors must learn to be leaders. Counselors are essentially in charge of making sure over 100 children have a fun time at camp.

This might mean convincing children canoeing across the lake in the pouring rain is the experience of a lifetime, or improvising during a soccer class that feels just a tad bit boring.

Leadership is all about taking initiative, and taking initiative is necessary for counselors.

2. Teamwork

It’s 1 am, and after a long day of shaping young minds, you want nothing more than to go to sleep.

But are you going to sleep? No!

Instead, you are sitting in the dining hall with four other counselors, planning next week’s evening activities. In order for the camp to run smoothly, it is absolutely essential for all counselors to learn the value of teamwork.

Counselors rely on each other to plan activities, plan back-up activities and maintain enthusiasm for said activities. Despite the fact you are running on five hours of sleep (on a good day), and little Sally peed her bed for the fifth night in a row, you must be able to maintain good counselor relations.

Forbes has deemed the ability to work well with others as one of the "Seven Most Universal Job Skills."

This skill is developed extensively at summer camp.

3. Responsibility

We’ve all heard our parents and teachers go on about the importance of being responsible. What better way to learn this virtue than to have a hundred parents’ most prized possessions dropped right into your hands?

A counselor becomes a super-mommy, managing medications, allergies and untidy beds. The well-being of the children is entirely your own responsibility, and to keep your job, you must ensure it.

Furthermore, responsible time management is a must. If one doesn’t manage his or her own time properly, the entire operation collapses.

Counselors have no choice but to work efficiently in order to schedule in some vital, but so very scarce “me-time.” Without this personal time, you run the risk of going completely insane.

Using your experience at a summer camp is an excellent way to set yourself apart from your competitors in the job market. Go ahead, ignore your mother’s passive-aggressive comments about “real jobs,” and take that position as a summer camp counselor!

Your future you will thank you.