Three Ways Camp Jobs Can Benefit a Career
For management-minded college students, working at a summer camp often turn out to be a crash course in responsibility, leadership and communication. By the end of the season, many camp counselors are able to pack their resumes with the kind of "action verbs" that can make a job candidate stand out. "You are teaching, performing, executing, supervising and motivating a group of kids," says Wes Supper, camp director at YMCA Camp Ralph S. Mason in Hardwick, N.J.
Here are three ways a job as a camp counselor can help you prepare for a corporate career.
Summer-camp jobs can help young adults grow up, says Rob Peterman, a former counselor at YMCA Camp Ralph S. Mason, and now the senior vice president for the MGI Group, a fortune 500 manufacturing company located in Paramus, N.J. "College doesn't necessarily do that for you," he says.
Parents trust resident counselors to keep their children happy and safe, dropping them off for weeks at a time. "It's a tremendous amount of respect for a young person," says Kim Davignon, 31, a former counselor who is now an assistant district attorney in Tarrant County, Texas.
Working as a camp counselor is a 24-hour commitment. You may get a couple hours off here and there, but if a camper is sick in the middle of the night, you have to take care of the situation. "That is a work ethic that is not found with a lot of positions," says Ann Sheets, president of the American Camp Association, based in Martinsville, Ind. who is a former camp counselor and camp director for camps in Texas, California and Indiana operated by Camp Fire USA.
Problem-solving often becomes a day-to-day skill for many camp counselors. "Kids are kids, something will come up, and then it will rain, and you'll have to think of a new game," says Ms. Davignon who worked at Camp El Tesoro in Granbury, Texas. "You have to think on your feet, which now, as a trial lawyer, is all I do."
Counselors usually learn quickly that campers follow by example. "You must be a role model all day long," Miss Davignon says. "It taught me that people watch me, even when I think they are not."
Mr. Peterman remembers one summer spent keeping the peace with a cabin of 12 boys who were constantly at odds. "You really learn how to manage people and acquire leadership skills," he says.
On hot summer days, activities must go on -- even when it's 105 degrees, says Ms. Sheets. "You learn how to motivate a group of kids to do something they don't immediately want to," she says.
Miss Davignon says talking to juries came easily to her when she began her law career. She had honed her public-speaking skills addressing large and small crowds as a camp counselor. "I got in front of the entire camp and did a skit, or explained an activity, or gave a tour to parents and campers so many times," she says.
Dan Konigsberg credits his camp-counselor experience at Camp Takajo in Naples, Maine, for his ability to pick up cues from clients and communicate effectively.
"By working with kids, and watching them grow at such a fast pace, you get a good understanding of people," says Mr. Konigsberg, founder of Camp Minder, a company in New York City that makes software for summer camps. His clients each have their own distinctive quirks, he says, "You have to sell to them based on their personality."
Working with kids is good training for communicating with adults, says Mr. Supper, 38. Generally less subtle communicators than adults, children can teach you quickly which tactics work and which don't, he says. "They will tell you if they don't like your style."