On Tuesday I announced that we’re doing our 3rd annual Ghany Jobs Week this week and next (#ghanyjobsweek2019) with tips about camp counselor jobs, leadership jobs at camp, and insights on how to best do the job of counselor.
I also mentioned that I wanted to make some critical comments on the article written by Molly Sprayregen titled “Dear Employers, Please value Camp Counselor on A Resume.”
They DO Get it
I want to push back a little bit against Sprayregen’s opening premise — the premise that if you spend college summers (or after) as a camp counselor that you’ll later have to beg and plead with other non-camp employers to see the value in what you did while working at camp.
I’m pushing back because it simply isn’t true.
What’s actually happening among employers is that they are clamoring for the soft skills that camp demands and then trains you for and then hones over a summer (or in the best cases, several summers).
Skills like organizing and planning an event, activity or workshop, trip, performance, meeting, or bonding session. And not just planning, but executing — following through on — and then reporting back on to other higher-up stakeholders, like your camp bosses.
Those bosses are invested in crafting and monitoring and always improving the summer camp experience for children in the camp’s care. Those bosses are also accountable to and in communication with the parents who’ve chosen the camp program and who expect to see a caring and quality program that is managed to the highest degree of creativity, physical activity, encounter with nature, safety, personal care and investment, and FUN — happiness for their child.
That’s why your job as a camp counselor is so dynamic — it demands creativity, structure, and completion, all skills that you will take into almost any future jobs.
So yes, summer camp is about children, campers, kids, the summertime! But the soft skills needed to make camp happen to that highest place are NOT specific to children, campers, kids, the summertime. Well, they ARE specific during each summer, and planning for each summer, and wrapping up from each summer. But they are infinitely translatable to the widest possible job and career possibilities down the line.
Before we take an in-depth look at some of these soft skills, let’s tune in to Erika, a former camp counselor turned Head Counselor at Camp Alleghany for Girls who landed a job in the health and wellness industry as a health and well-being coach for pre-diabetes patients. She credits camp with providing exactly the kind of job training and job tasks (as well as job creativity and problem solving) that helped her land her dream job. Let’s let her tell you about it:
Thank you Erika, you tell it so well!
The question is, why is the worth of camp jobs still a seeming question to some reporters? Why did Sprayregen think that former camp employees need to beg and plead for recognition when we know bosses want the kind of skills camp staff alum bring?
Help at the Bottom
To her credit, Sprayregen’s article ends with really good advice about how to articulate the many soft skills gained and developed and even perfected during a summer as a camp counselor. Those skills are exactly what you can take away from camp. But then what? How you explain what you did is on you — on how you write your resume. I agree with author Sprayregen that camp counselors need to know how to write a good resume and do it well.
Lucky for you, at our camp we will actually coach our counseling staff on doing just that and then review your growing resume to make sure you’re clearly communicating to potential future employers the message of your many responsibilities, skills, and creative contributions learned and refined at camp. So apply with us and, if you’re hired, in addition to a great job this summer, you’ll also get top-notch job-seeking coaching to go along with it.
But writing a great resume is not what today’s post is about. Just as Erika spoke in the above video about how camp helped her make a case for her toolbox of soft skills, I also want to write a little about those soft skills. Let’s look at an example.
Works Well With Others
So there’s always team work as a soft skill, right? And there’s nothing wrong with the team work of bussing a co-worker’s table when a restaurant is slammed, or leaving behind your inventory processing in the back room at a retail shop to hop on the register and help provide customer service out front.
But employers offering higher responsibility jobs are even more impressed by the kind of team work that demands employees work together to problem solve and execute unique plans.
Let’s say you’re at camp and you and three other counselors have planned a river day for a group of campers involving a trek, meals, collaborative work (whether getting canoes across a running river or a group bonding exercise to communicate shared experiences), a swim session, documenting natural specimens, and a final snack and clean up before hiking back to base camp. Weeeeellllll what if that day got washed out by a HUGE storm? You’re not going anywhere and now you’ve got four counselors and 18 campers who need a Plan B.
What are you going to do? This isn’t just about slotting into place like you would with jumping on a register or helping with pre-set repetitive restaurant tasks.
Of course, you actually could just switch out that rainy day washout to another direction because you actually did…write a Plan B weather plan! And THAT — the Plan B group day —is itself a sophisticated soft job skill:
- It’s the skill of anticipating various scenarios.
- It’s the skill of then planning for those scenarios.
- It’s the skill of having an outline or even full plan at the ready when a very possible derailment takes your job day in a different direction.
And any worker can tell you that days can easily be taken in different directions. Knowing that, and being ready to work within it, marks the difference between an intellectually and creatively engaged worker and one for whom the job tasks are pretty rote.
But let’s say you didn’t make a Plan B — does that mean you failed? No! Not if you can think up and implement a plan on the fly.
Especially in a group where co-workers might have equal roles and all of a sudden have to organize themselves into parts — this one consults with the camp about alternative space, that one takes a group to the kitchen to let them know picnic food will not be needed and then swings by the office to coordinate with the master schedule on things like meds for one of the hikers not being needed now.
Then two other remaining counselors might pow-wow for 15 minutes on an alterna-activity, clearly one that’s going to be mostly inside.
- Can the canoe-carrying be switched into an indoor club hub with different stations?
- Is there a way to work off pent up physical energy inside like a yoga session, stretching, or a ball-toss and wordplay exercise?
- Can the encounter session stay as is but be moved indoors?
- Are there ways to get natural specimens before relocating indoors and still doing the identification — maybe grab something from the camp library?
- Or if not, what else might you do — write and perform skits? Practice storytelling?
What would you do?
Employers like scenario-planning creative types who follow through on what to do.
You could be in a law group with one expected case on the docket that day and it gets cancelled and one you hadn’t planned on is suddenly on your lap. Do you panic or do you adapt? Can you tell an employer about how you’d handle that? In law, in schools, in medicine, in academia, in media, in business, in development, in programming, in events, in non-profits, at meetings, in presentations, and in contracting and reporting flexible thought and flow is key to a successful creative career.
I could give lots of other examples of soft skills, like I did above — organization, planning, strategies, execution, reporting — and much more, but let’s let the above example suffice. That team moved into action and executed a new plan. You need to be able to think on your feet and go-to!
But not just at camp. In almost every challenging job!
Tell that to a would-be boss and I’m sure you won’t have to beg them to understand the value of camp jobs. In the smartest cases — that is to say places you’d want to work — they already know this and love camp industry alum. They are already looking for you!
Wear camp with a badge of pride and hey, make that badge yourself out of some felt, scissors, and glue! 🙂
And now on to this week
I hope you enjoyed today’s example of soft skills in action, I hope you are influenced by Erika’s experience, and I hope you’ll keep following the blog and tuning in to #ghanyjobsweek #ghanyjobsweek2019 #ghanyjobstwoweeks
— Elizabeth Shreckhise, Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls