Why Work at Summer Camp?

Posted by December 23, 2014 • Share:

There’s no question that the job market is competitive these days. College students and recent grads are under tremendous pressure to find summer internships that will add depth to their resumes and help prepare them for a “real job” in the future. The truth is, working at camp is a real job. The experience one can gain while spending a summer at camp is invaluable, to an individual and to their resume.

Working at camp is HARD. The hours are long, the breaks are short, and it’s exhausting. But it will teach you leadership, problem solving, communication, relationship building, organization, execution of tasks, public speaking, how to speak to kids so that they’ll listen, and how to think on your feet. It will also teach you how to be more patient, compassionate, and creative.

And, it’s FUN! At JCC Maccabi Sports Camp, our staff can go swimming every day, run around with the campers, play frisbee, make tie-dye, listen to music, watch movies at night after the campers are sleeping, make friends from different cities and cultures, have delicious meals provided for you 3x a day, get free laundry, and get paid to play sports and be outside most of the day.

If you need more convincing, here are two articles that provide different perspectives. The first article is from the perspective of a camp counselor from England who spent a summer working at a camp in California. She came to the camp as part of the Jewish Camps USA program which sends young Jewish professionals from the UK to work in American Jewish summer camps.  The second article is about why employers should hire former camp counselors.

If you’d like more information on working at JCC Maccabi Sports Camp, contact our Assistant Director, Mara Berde, at 415-997-8844 or mara@maccabisportscamp.org. Mara is happy to tell you about the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of working at camp. She has spent 14 summers at camp, 10 of those as a staff member.

 

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Excerpt from “Why Summer Camp is a Great Addition to your C.V.

Here’s an undeniable fact: University summers are long. Almost as long as a semester. And these summers are probably the last time you’ll get 3 months to do anything you want. So, for me, spending those three months experiencing something less than fantastic seems like a waste.

However, at university, it seems that everyone’s feeling the pressure to spend their summers developing job skills. These days we need to make ourselves stand out from the crowd to get hired. To some it seems that the only way to do this is through internships and office work – but I couldn’t accept that. There had to be a way of spending my last huge summers having fun without sacrificing my future career. […]

Because camp affects everyone in different ways, I have put together just a few skills I have developed solely by spending 2 and a half months working at a Jewish summer camp in America. I’d happily bring them up in any interview and encourage everyone else to mention their camp experiences along with their internships and part-time jobs.

Leadership:
Working as a camp counsellor is an incredibly intense development of leadership skills. To be hired, leadership experience was necessary, but after spending a few days there I realised there’s a huge difference between having leadership skills and being a great leader. Kids at camp automatically respected everyone in a staff shirt, but I learned that true leadership requires far more than simply respect. As well as a respected logistics organiser, I learned to become: a teacher, a trusted confident, a friend to share positive experiences with, and a role model. To parents and campers alike, I represented camp. When they left and thought of their summer, a huge part will always be their counsellors. Everything I did left an impression, so I made sure to push myself to be the best version I could be. Without being a camp counsellor, I don’t think I could see how a great leader doesn’t just manage the group: they combine all their best qualities to make the experience unforgettable.

Work Ethic:
It can be quite hard to prove to an employer that you have exceptional work ethic, until you have something like ‘camp counsellor’ on your CV. A counsellor’s hours are long and work is draining – very different to any 9-5 job you’ll ever find! Imagine a day where 8am and 8pm could be worlds apart, as more was packed into those 12 hours than you could pack into an average few days. It’s wonderful to think that you actually squeezed the day’s minutes to their last drop. But you can’t have this without learning how to turn hard work into enjoyment. With a day so long, you realise that a job isn’t about waiting to finish, but about finding joy in what’s in front of you. True work ethic is about being able to dedicate yourself fully to the task at hand, for as long as is necessary. Camp taught me that putting my all into my job is not only rewarding, but something that turns a day job into a series of wonderful experiences.

Overcoming Insecurities:
As much as I might talk about my skills in applications, it would be a lie to say that I don’t have my weaknesses and insecurities. I am human, after all. And I’m not claiming here that camp solved all my problems, but it change my mentality in a completely unexpected way. When I had twelve campers to look after, being their point of call almost twenty four hours a day, I suddenly realised that I didn’t have the energy to be insecure and do a good job. I had so much to do, like making sure the kids were eating enough, how could I spend my time worrying about something that may or may not happen? And, funnily enough, the minute I decided I didn’t have time to be insecure was when I stopped being insecure. I realised that a lot of my limits existed in my head, simply because I spent so much time worrying about them. Camp pushed me to work harder, and in doing so I accidently discovered that my limits are far further than what I expected. It’s very rare that you can point to a time in your life and say exactly where things changed. However, I can honestly say that my summer at camp made me realise something huge: I can only be as great as I’ve decided to be.

 

So to all those sitting on the fence about how to spend their summer, and are determined to do something productive, I want you to keep one thing in mind. Whatever you chose to do, you will build skills. You’ll discover things about yourself and the world in new and different ways. But the real test of an experience is to see how long the effects last, and see how deeply it impacted you. Two and a half months working at a Jewish summer camp built me up in so many ways. By having the opportunity to put in so much, I left with every side of me developed: more dymanic professionally, stronger personally and wholey more open. Now more than ever, I’m ready to give my all to the next opportunity that comes my way. Without Jewish Camps USA, I’m can’t imagine what my mindset would be like right now.

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10 Reasons Why Businesses Should Hire Former Camp Counselors  by Anne Archer Yetsko

When I speak with friends who work in other industries, I always tell them that if you have an applicant who has been a camp counselor and has a positive reference from that camp, they should move to the top of that pile of applications that are overflowing on their desk. A camp counselor is one of the hardest jobs out there. It is not all fun and games. Here is my list of the top 10 qualities you get when you hire someone who has been a camp counselor.

1. A good communicator: Camp counselors have to be able to communicate well with children, parents, coworkers, and superiors. This is different from any other job because parents leave the most valuable thing in their lives with us, their child. At our camp they have about 10 minutes to speak to the counselors and feel confident in them before they leave their perfect child with them for two weeks. That 10-minute conversation is one that will have a lasting impact on that parent. THEY WILL CLING TO EVERY WORD! If a child is sick or homesick, that same counselor is the one to call the parent to update them on the situation and ensure them that their baby is safe and being well cared for.

2. A life-long learner: When someone works in a camp setting, they learn that to be successful in camp and in life they have to realize they have a lot to learn not only about camp and their campers but also about themselves. Once they make that transition they are able to approach every situation in life with an “I want to learn more” attitude.

3. A self-starter: Most camps have between 25-150 cabin counselors. While they are given very good supervision, no one is holding their hand every step of the way. They very quickly learn that as far as their campers are concerned, THEY are the “go-to” person. If one of their children forgets a toothbrush it is their responsibility to get them one from the infirmary.

4. A resilient individual: Camp counselors can handle anything. Just ask the counselor who has been helping a camper overcome homesickness while teaching their activity in the rain for 4 days straight, only to learn that there is a child in their cabin with lice. When they hear this, instead of curling up in a ball and hiding (the way any normal person would), they grab their gloves, strip all the beds in the cabin, get all of the laundry to the cleaners, and get all the campers lined up outside to check each one for nits. I repeat, camp counselors can, and do, handle anything!

5. A problem solver: At camp we try to keep things very scheduled and organized, but at the drop of a hat, plans can change. Imagine walking out of the dining hall with 250 campers and staff to play sock war (like capture the flag but you get to throw socks at each other!) when you hear a loud burst of thunder and have to come up with a new plan in an instant.

6. A creative thinker: When you need a new plan immediately, leave it to a camp counselor to come up with the most brilliant and fun game that anyone has ever heard of. If you think a boardroom of 10 lawyers is intimidating try standing in front of 200 children who are expecting to have the most fun they have ever had and your plan that you have been working on all week just got rained out.

7. A detail-oriented worker: Remember, camp counselors are responsible for THE most important thing in a parent’s life. Each and every detail is unbelievably important! Did a child have enough to eat at breakfast, drink enough water, make a new friend, skin their knee, play soccer, miss their mom, have wet shoes, lose their sweatshirt . . . ? Now multiply this by a whole cabin of campers!

8. A leader: It does not matter if you consider yourself a leader or not, the moment children arrive on property their counselor is their leader and their biggest role model. They watch their counselor’s every move. It is amazing how quickly camp counselors learn how to take on this role and own it. The way these children talk about their counselors when they leave is a testament to what great leaders they are.

9. A team player: Camp counselors are some of the best team players you will ever meet. They have learned that they cannot do it all on their own and that the best product is produced when you have a team working on it. In a camp setting, you need all different personality types to be able to meet each and every child where they are. To come up with the most fun game, camp counselors know it won’t come from one person but an army of people working toward the same goal. Most people come into this job thinking they can do it all, but it does not take long for them to realize that this job is physically impossible alone.

10. A solid work ethic: It is very difficult to explain to someone who has never been a camp counselor how hard this job really is. These college students work 24 hours a day for 3 months with very little time off and they do all the things mentioned in 1–9 with a smile on their face.

Employers who themselves have been camp counselors understand the qualities required to successfully do this job and, consequently, often seek these individuals out when filling positions. But now the secret is getting out and having “Summer Camp Counselor” on a resume can make a potential employee much more desirable!

Anne Archer Yetsko is the associate director of Camp Merri-Mac in Black Mountain, North Carolina. She has worked for Merri-Mac for 12 years and is also a recent graduate of Touro University’s Camp Administration and Leadership master’s program. This blog was originally posted on the Merri-Mac blog.