It’s no small task to staff your camp each summer, and finding enough counselors to run your program seems to get harder every year. One challenge facing camp leaders is that young people underestimate the long-term benefits of camp counselor positions. They often choose internships or 9-to-5 summer work experiences over a stint at camp. They may think that being employed as a camp counselor is simply a fun way to spend a summer, which it is! But, you know it’s also a serious job that will afford them invaluable transferable skills.
As you work to recruit counselors for your team, here are a few benefits you can include in your pitch. Your goal should be to help potential hires see how their role as a counselor can end up helping both the people they care for at camp and their own life and work skills. If they’re on the fence about applying or accepting a job, here are a few ways you can tip the balance.
Remind potential hires that to navigate a summer successfully, they’ll need to adapt their communication skills to a variety of groups. Campers, supervisors, parents, and fellow counselors. These skills are incalculably beneficial no matter where their career pathways lead because the ability to jump into a conversation no matter who you’re speaking to gives off an air of confidence. Since camp counselors come from all around the world, these networking skills can even extend to groups of people who come from different places, speak different languages, and have different cultural customs.
When you position this skill, let them know that networking can help them get a job, can help with career advancement, and can help them build relationships within their chosen industry that can pay dividends down the road.
It’s the camp counselor’s responsibility to ensure that campers are having a great time, and your staff will learn that this goal can’t be achieved alone. Their peers will depend on them, and they’ll need input and help from fellow counselors when things get challenging. Camp culture is communal, not individualistic, which means that teamwork and diplomacy are essential to getting anything done. In more traditional work environments, the ability to work well in groups is essential, and being a camp counselor provides an amazing foundation.
These group tasks will also teach them how to determine each group member’s skill set, assign tasks, check in continually, make time-sensitive adjustments, and evaluate to improve the next project. You call it activity planning, but outside of camp, it’s project management, and grasping these tactics at an early career stage can set them apart from other applicants.
Strong Work Ethic
Being a camp counselor is certainly buckets of fun, but if you talk to former camp staff they’ll often tell you their camp jobs were their most challenging ones. Even if it doesn’t always feel like work, the hours are long and the responsibilities are non-negotiable.
This is a great element of camp jobs to mention to potential hires, and one way to bring it up is how it can come in handy during a job interview process. Most people have experienced a summer camp at least once in their lives and know that camp counselors are expected to be friendly, approachable, and alert. This familiarity can set them apart from other interviewees. When they’re asked about work ethic and commitment, they can say that they’ve already had work experience where someone was depending on them directly and where they had no choice but to give it their all.
Prospective employers definitely want to hire teams that will listen and follow directions, but they equally value employees who take that information and run with it. This balance is a great skill to highlight when you’re speaking with potential camp staff.
If a prospective employer sees in an applicant’s career history that they’ve previously held a post as a camp counselor, they’ll know this balance is part of their skill set. Companies value past counselors for their autonomous working style because while their supervisors teach them the tricks of the trade, they learn pretty quickly to make their own calls.
A Sense of Responsibility
As a camp counselor, your staff is responsible for keeping campers safe. Not even million-dollar bankers share that kind of responsibility every day! The great news is that bosses will register this detail, and trust in past counselors’ ability to handle whatever is thrown at them. In other words, they’ll deduce that if someone can handle a group of kids single-handedly, they can handle any given workload.
When speaking with potential hires, remind them that this sense of duty and responsibility leads to the development of other skills at camp. The most obvious is a knack for details. When they have to remember each child’s individual requirements, they swiftly become a master of minutiae and multitasking.
Very often, young people begin their careers at the bottom and work their way up slowly. One of the greatest benefits to work experience at camp is that a young person can be a leader at a much younger age. While their peers can speak of following directions and handling repetitive tasks, former camp counselors can speak about leading teams, making big decisions, directing large projects, and handling interpersonal issues among their peers. This leadership experience is by far one of the greatest differentiators between job candidates.
While at summer camp, the daily itineraries prepared beforehand will rarely go perfectly to plan. Changes in weather, staff sickness, canceled entertainment, anxious kids, wild animals, broken equipment, and all sorts of other common camp problems may force your team to think up a creative alternative on your feet and save the day
Make sure to remind potential staff that this is a skill they’ll develop and one that can come in handy in all career paths. Whether they’re trying to build camaraderie at the office, planning an activity for a company client, or working on a large event, their camp experience will set them apart.
One final benefit to camp jobs is how they provide great fodder for job interviews. Your camp staff will surely be sitting face to face with a new potential employer and be asked to give an example of when they used a specific skill. There is no doubt that they’ll have a useful and entertaining anecdote from camp that will be the perfect reply.
For example, they may be asked to name a time when their problem-solving capacities were tested, and most camp counselors will have dozens of examples to choose from. The same goes for a time when they were faced with an unexpected challenge, or one where they had to work with a group to achieve a goal.
Let them know that they’ll emerge from camp cool as a cucumber under pressure and a much more creative and practical thinker! What more could an employer want?