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Three myths about summer camp jobs

As spring starts the pressure to find a summer job increases. Many choose to work at a summer camp and have a wonderful experience. The following are three myths that hinder students from looking at summer camp opportunities, debunked.

Myth #1: I don’t have the skills to work at camp.

You need three things to work at camp: a positive attitude, willingness to work, and an ability to get along with – and like – children. And none of those require a four-year degree!

Camp counselor jobs are designed with low-experience, high-potential applicants in mind. Camps ask that potential counselors come ready to work hard, play hard, and stay positive. The camps provide their staff with on-the-job training which includes a time to set the ground rules, teach ways to handle common camp issues, and build a support network for when staff members encounter difficult issues. So as long as you come ready to work, play, and learn – and you like kids – you can work at camp!

BONUS: Training usually provides an opportunity to get First Aid/CPR/Lifeguard certifications for discounted rates, or for free. Otherwise you may be charged $155 or more for lifeguard training, so getting these certifications can be a huge hidden perk-and look good on a resume.

Myth #2: I won’t get the kind of experience I need to get a real-world job.

When the time comes to hand a resume to the recruiter, they won’t just be looking for your technical qualifications. Teamwork, supervisory experience and leadership experiences are all traits that are highly valued in the workplace. Guess where you can get all those skills! A summer at camp can do wonders for building “soft skills,” especially for freshmen or sophomores who will be looking for career-related internships during their junior and senior years.

Don’t forget that not every job at a camp is that of a general counselor. Many require specific education or experience, and allow students to explore their specialty in a camp setting.

  • Want to go into business? Look for a job as a business or operations manager. These individuals run the camp office, which includes managing paperwork, contacting vendors, communicating with clients, and reporting receipts.

  • Majors in the sciences, engineering, fine arts, or technology should look for a related program specialist position. Every year, programs offered by camps are increasing in diversity and number. Examples of specializations include crafts, dance, robotics, ecology, pottery, music, engineering, space, history, and natural sciences.

  • Someone interested in health might look for a health care supervisor position. Some camps will hire experienced college students with health-related majors to fill the ‘camp nurse’ role.

  • Those in HTM, or interested in the food service industry, can look for kitchen staff positions. These range in scope and level of responsibility, and could be a good entry position for someone interested in hotel or retreat food service.

Myth #3: I can’t afford it.

If money is the concern, take this into consideration: Camps offer room and board in addition to a paycheck. This means a summer without rent, utilities, or grocery bills. (Definitely look into subleasing your apartment if applicable.) Camp is an excellent place to build a nest egg for the coming school year.

Need time for a summer class for credit? Ask your adviser if your camp job can be used as an internship or for credit. Another option is to ask a potential director their feelings on counselors taking online courses while at camp. This is a very common occurrence, and directors will be honest about their feelings on the topic.

Camp is more than your usual summer job. It is an experience plus a way to give back. I personally worked at a summer camp for six years which led me to make it my life career. The chance to be a true leader, respected for ability rather than experience or position, is a wonderful thing. Most of all, it is wonderful to be paid for doing something I love.

What’s the best part about camp? The moment when I’m working with my campers, and suddenly everything clicks. When they leave camp, you know that they are going to be a little bit more confident, or outgoing, or self-assured, and that YOU helped get them there! This is powerful stuff, and the benefits described above are all bonuses on top of that.

So, give camp a chance!

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