Camp counseling is not just about wearing bandanas, weird sandals and matching staff t-shirts. There’s really no substitute for what a few weeks in this role can teach you.
I have felt pushed to my absolute limit, but ultimately knew I made a difference to others and grew as a person. The priceless lessons I’ve learned from working as a camp counselor have more than prepared me for every part-time, internship and big-girl position I’ve ever had.
You get the most out of the role when you take the time to learn from every situation. Here are seven things the role has prepared me for in the real world:
How to deal with an unexpected situation at literally any time
At a moment’s notice, you may have to deal with a hospital visit, a panic attack, severe dehydration and the tears of someone feeling self-conscious, and more likely than not, you will deal with two or more of these crises in the same day.
My position has more than equipped me to deal with various emergencies that can occur at work. It has deepened my ability to handle any storm of sudden drama efficiently and with a level head.
Additionally, dealing with an onslaught of emergencies teaches you when it’s time to ask for help. I’ve learned there is no shame in doing so.
How to respectfully disagree with authority
As a camp counselor, you do have a certain level of authority over others. Inevitably, there will come a time when camp authority asks you to relay a message to your campers or enforce a rule that, for any number of reasons, you may not agree with.
You have a chance to respectfully voice your opposition to those in charge of you. Although you may still have to enforce the rule, through the open dialogue that is encouraged between a camp staff you also have the opportunity to learn to disagree with your superior in a constructive way on behalf of yourself and those you represent.
This has proven extremely beneficial in almost every job I’ve ever worked as I tend to voice my concerns when I see a need for change.
How to handle your authority
While you are in charge of a group of people, you will ruin the entire time you spend together if you abuse your authority. You quickly learn as a counselor your job really has nothing to do with yelling, bossing others around or dropping the hammer.
Your authority is about efficiently moving a group from point A to point B, making decisions that benefit the entire group and helping your dorm work together and build lasting bonds.
Sure you can yell at the drop of a hat, but just like at work, yelling never accomplishes anything.
How to step up without hesitation
Camp counselors are often encouraged to have the attitude of, “I am here, what do you need.” You also may be called upon to step up into new responsibilities at your job.
Your readiness to take on more work or learn something new helps you shine as an employee by showcasing your willingness to jump in and assist, even if it means going outside your normal scope of responsibilities.
The necessity of concern for others
The sea of faces at a camp is ever-changing. No matter who those faces belong to, as a counselor, you must have an attitude of outgoing care and concern for each one of them.
You will most definitely find yourself applying this care to others outside of camp, without even realizing it, in a way that goes much deeper than offering help.
How to open yourself up to relationships
When you’re a counselor, you will be living in close and closer quarters with people for days and sometimes weeks at a time. You must open yourself up to the people around you so that you can all work together to have a rewarding and smooth experience.
If you are not vulnerable to your fellow counselors, it is very hard for them to work with you. If you are not vulnerable to your campers, they struggle to connect with you and view you as someone meant to ensure they have an awesome experience.
Learning to open yourself up to all kinds of people at camp helps you prepare to quickly meet and form relationships with your co-workers, whether it’s your first day or theirs.
It’s so much better for your team and company as a whole if you’ve learned to put forth a genuine effort to get to know everyone around you.
How to be positive in less-than-ideal conditions
If you are at camp, something is going to get drenched. It’s basically science at this point.
Sometimes it will feel miserably hot and no one will want to participate in any outdoor activities. Sometimes dinner will be terrible. Complaining will only bring you and everyone around you down even further than they already feel.
In these conditions that are less than ideal, your counselor job is to make the most of what’s going on and stay positive. You learn that while you may feel disappointed in your current situation, whether at camp or when you return to “real life,” you can quickly find at least one small way to improve it.
Staying positive also teaches you how to help lift the spirits of others who look to you as a leader.