It can be easy to dread those moments when you have to explain your summer on applications or resumes, or even in classes.
Some are able to say they took a summer class or three. Some proudly describe their internship in Washington, D.C. Others, though (including me), quickly and reservedly explain that they worked at a summer camp.
“Oh, that sounds like a chill summer,” fellow students will tell me.
“That’s OK. I’m sure you’ll be able to find an internship next year,” someone told my coworker.
“So, are you going to get a real job next year?” others ask.
Professors, employers and even other students and family members cannot comprehend why I would “waste” another summer working at a camp, counseling middle school and high school kids.
However, after working at camp for two seasons, I don’t look back on those summers as a waste. In fact, I believe time spent working as a summer camp can offer greater rewards and work experience than many internships. Here’s why.
It strengthens your communication and marketing abilities.
When the kids are dropped off every Sunday afternoon, they are not the only nervous ones; the parents are, too. The parents know they are entrusting you with their child’s life.
As a counselor, it was my job to greet the parents and reassure them of their child’s well-being. To do this, I had to go up to the parents, introduce myself, shake their hands, and explain why they should leave their kids with me for the week. I had to represent the camp in the best way possible.
These skills are transferrable to a job in which you might have to introduce yourself to customers and explain why they should trust you and the product that you are selling.
It builds your confidence as a leader.
As a counselor, I was assigned 10 girls to take care of physically, emotionally and spiritually. Every night, I was expected to lead them in a Bible study. Before every meal and activity, I had to make sure they were there on time (and presentable).
Whenever there were issues of bullying or fighting, it was up to me to solve it. During other parts of the day, I was helping other staff members lead large groups of kids in camp-wide activities.
Being able to lead groups of kids demonstrates to employers that you have the leadership ability to take charge of a variety of situations.
It helps you to mature.
Kids can be challenging. There were many times when I wanted to (and sometimes did) hide in the bathroom because I needed a break. Often at mealtimes, I had to eat everything so fast that I couldn’t even taste the food. Instead, I spent the majority of the time getting refills and seconds for a camper or cleaning up a spill.
These challenges helped me develop patience and made me less focused on myself and more concerned for others. Through my camping experience, I was pushed to mature as a person more than I ever have in an internship, job or even a class.
It gives you hands-on teamwork experience.
In class, we are put into groups and assigned projects more often than we would like. After these projects, rarely do we come out liking each other — much less knowing how to better work as a group.
At camp, I was one of 40 staff members who were all expected to work together throughout the day, week after week. Sometimes we got on each other’s nerves, but we always knew that we could count on each other when we were having a hard day.
When employers see that you worked well with as many as 40 staff members, they do not doubt your ability to work as a team to benefit their company.
You’re not working for the money.
Although camp counselors are paid less than most summer positions, they work from the time the alarm goes off until they collapse into bed at night. The long hours are emotionally draining and physically challenging. But camp counselors persevere and come to enjoy every second of it.
Employers like to see this kind of dedication. When you love your job, you will work as hard as necessary.
If you worked at a camp this summer, be proud of it. When you are asked in job interviews about your experience, be confident that your work as a camp counselor has shaped you to be exactly who they are looking for.