“Summer Camp is fun but when are you going to get a real job.” I have heard this or similar statements for years. From family to friends so many times I have been asked why I was wasting my time “having fun” instead of developing my resume or getting my name into professional fields. Even now as a director I still have some people ask “how long is this going to last before you get a good job.”
The culture we live in now pushes college-age kids towards the need to decide their futures as soon as they enter their university and in many cases before that. With that pressure comes the need to develop a career through each and every opportunity that they take. That means everything from classes they choose to summer employment needs to be directed towards an end goal of their job. We have made college a time that is no longer about discovering what you want to do for your future but merely a place to further your predetermined career aspirations. And in that culture, we have created the perception of a fun summer working with kids at summer camp just doesn't fit. The opinion still stands that summer camp will never prepare you for the ever-present “real world” that is waiting to devour unprepared young adults.
I would like to offer a counter-argument to this idea. I may have some bias as a long time summer staffer and now a camp director but I have seen the impact of camp employment not just on me but on my friends who are involved in all aspects of the “real world.” This isn’t just something that I believe its something that people in cooperate America are realizing as well. Companies around the world are looking for camp counselors they just don’t know it yet. The skills that employers see as valuable are the same ones that camp staff are developing working with their co-workers and campers every day. Michael McCutcheon, a career coach at Wanderlust Careers in New York City, says "The great thing about overnight camp counselors is that they have actual, real, valuable skills, Like the ability to work with people from all sorts of backgrounds, the ability to hold the attention of antsy audiences, outside-the-box thinking." I don’t know when the last time you tried to entertain a group of 2nd graders with some construction paper, markers, and your own wit but I can tell you that it is a challenging experience. That's just one of the thousands of situations that summer staff deal with on a daily basis.
The skills developed as a camp counselor are ones that translate to the “real world” because summer camp is a perfect example of the “real world.” Camp is a place that people of all different backgrounds and cultures come together and coexist with the guidance of the summer staff. If that doesn’t prepare a student for the world that we live in, I don’t know what else will. Staffers practice conflict resolution, communication, problem-solving, and working through exhaustion every day while keeping a very inattentive audience happy and entertained. So don’t let people tell you that “summer camp won’t prepare you for your future” or that “you need a real job this summer” tell them you will get that experience and more working at summer camp.