Posted by Anna Clayton Nagle on March 14
"Candidates entering the job market fresh out of college often have little work experience. However, camp counselor experience illustrates leadership, commitment, flexibility and teamwork, which are important qualities for anyone entering the highly competitive job market today, regardless of their career path. When I see such experience on a resume, I know the candidate is worth a closer look.”
When I was in college and applying for jobs for the “real world,” I wasn’t sure if I had any key characteristics and qualities that would set me apart from other applicants. I personally had not spent my summers working at a cool internship in an office or “gaining experience in my chosen field of work” like my peers so I felt almost behind on those typical “resume builders.” I just wanted to go work at camp. I’m using many quotation marks right now to show that, at the time, I had no idea the worth and weight of my summer job. The fun little camp that quickly became my home away from home prepared me and shaped me in more ways than I had any idea. Looking back now, I notice many job applications are looking for some of the same leadership qualities or skills. To give an example of the type of leadership skills many jobs search for in their candidates, I am going to share an article listing these said qualities and show how camp counselors actually set themselves apart from others in this case.
The article states, “Whether you’re starting out in an entry-level position and looking to move up the career ladder or you’re seeking a promotion, your leadership skills will be among your most valuable assets.” Doyle shared her top 10 leadership skills and while all of them relate to working at camp in some way, I’ll just focus on a few key ones.
Communication - Communication is something we ask of our applicants before we even hire them. We mention needing this skill in the interview in order to be successful while working at camp. It is important for counselors to be able to communicate well with their co-counselors, their campers, us as admin, or really anyone they are in contact with. Communication is crucial when it comes to working as a team and with a group of people. A great example of communicating effectively in a team setting could be, I don’t know, working with 50+ other college aged girls during their summer. I think this is something that we may find lacking in many due to many social interactions moving to virtual style within the last two years. So being able to communicate effectively and work well with others in this type of setting is going to set our counselors apart from other applicants for their future job search.
Responsibility - In elementary school, I always got counted off of “responsibility points” because I did not do my homework. I remember having to go to detention due to my lack of responsibility. I say this because I am emphasizing that this may not come naturally to some people (me.) But it is something that is needed when working at camp and obviously in other full time jobs in the future as well. For many of our counselors, this could be their first real job. This could be the first time they are in a situation where real responsibilty is taught/ As counselors put their campers’ needs ahead of their own and are sacrificing their time and summer to serve in this capacity, they are learning responsibility and how to serve those around them in the best way. Working at camp can’t really get any more hands-on responsibility training than it is now. Which is why I think that gaining these skills before you graduate college and have to learn how to work in different settings that may not be the comfortable environment of school or home is crucial. One of the sub-points in this article under responsibility is “resolving problems.” If you have ever worked at a camp before go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back for becoming a professional problem solver. You’re one step ahead of the game.
Flexibility - Flexibility is needed for any job anyone will ever have for the rest of their life. There will always be a time when things happen and plans change so having adaptable staff members can make or break the organization (or summer staff in this case.) Ivy mentioned this and the importance of being adaptable on her past blog about what camp taught her about being a mom. Counselors must be able to adapt to quick changes as well as understanding that the role you have in a specific setting may not be the one you wanted. We ask for flexibility when placing counselors in their activities, their cabins, and other camp placements. Employers are looking for those hard working individuals that can think quickly on their feet. This is a valuable skill that is taught day-in and day-out in the summer camp setting.
Ivy talked to Becca Grogan, a former counselor & admin, and now sends her daughter to camp as well, to hear about her experience as a counselor and how it may have shaped her skills in leadership as she continues to excel in her occupatiion as a school principal. Becca said, “In 1996, I wanted a summer job to help me grow as I was beginning my college career as an Educator. I wanted a place where I could grow with strategies to help students in my future classroom. The first day I was at camp, I was immediately welcomed to a family of young ladies! During the next 9 weeks we learned to work together, worship together, problem solve together, laugh together, cry together, and become best friends. At the end of the summer, I knew some of these girls better than I did girls I grew up with. The next three summers I came back to Skyline to be with my friends! It was and is the BEST place to spend the summer. Throughout the last 25 years we are all still connected. We now vacation together, celebrate together, pray together, send our daughters to Skyline together, and lean on each other. They are my sisters and even though we live in 3 different states, we make time for each other! Skyline changed my life!”
She also got to talk to Taylor Weatherby about how camp has benefitted her in the long run with her career as a pediatric cardiac ICU. Taylor is a former camper & counselor and now gets to return as one of our camp nurses in the summer. She said, “Being a camp counselor was very important part of my life. I was a counselor for years and learned alot about myself over those summers. Through out all the years I learned that putting others first was a huge part of being a counselor and camp helped me do that and be better at it. I am very thankful for that because in my day to day life of being a nurse, I am constantly putting my patients/patients family first. My camp counselor experience helped me be a better person today. Camp is still such a big part of my life as I return each year as a camp nurse!”
A couple of weeks ago, I asked on our Instagram for former campers & counselors to help us out with this list of things that camp taught them and multiple people gave amazing examples on how their role as a camp counselor played a vital role in developing leadership skills in their chosen field of work or just in life as they naviagte college or post graduate roles.
Some of our favorites: “Working as a team/problem solving skills! (All jobs require this!)” -Allene Arnold // “Patience & leadership” -Kate Monroe // “How to be a leader” & “Resiliency!” -Arianna Jackson // “How to make friends with people that I did not know.” -Morgan Atkins // “Independence, confidence, and leadership.” -Emma Grace Harrell
Something I wish I was told while in college: Your sucess is not measured by the person next to you’s sucess. Your summer spent at a summer camp does not put you behind. Your summer spent at camp goes beyond closing day. Not only do you join a family that is with you for the rest of your life but also a brand new set of skills are developed that you get to bring with you wherever you go. I am so thankful for the things that I have learned while working at Camp Skyline. About leadership, about myself, about my future, and most importanly, about the Lord. If you would like to be apart of what the Lord is doing here at Skyline, I’d love to tell you more.Apply for Summer 2022!
Assistant Director. Former horse whisperer. Dog mom to Charlie. Mississippi native. Mississippi College alum. Brownies with the M&Ms biggest fan.