As college students across the country prepare to join the workforce, many are deciding between the different paths to reach their goals.
Do I try to get an internship over the summer?
Do I wait tables, find a retail job, work a cash register?
There’s no single right way to get from college to full-time work, but there’s a niche and somewhat nostalgic summer job that trains young people to be the creative, problem-solving leaders employers are looking for: Camp Counselor.
“There’s a lot of misunderstandings about camps,” Camp Timberlake Director Jarod Wunneburger says. “People think you’re just playing with kids.”
But at Farm & Wilderness, a nonprofit summer camp and conservation organization that operates 7 day and overnight summer camps in picturesque Vermont, counselors are given tremendous responsibility. They design and lead activities and trips, respond to organizational and camper needs, and work through problems on a daily basis. Camp counseling is not a mindless summer job. It’s an immersive personal and professional development experience.
Plus, we happen to think that 4,800 acres of natural woodlands, mountains, and lakes make for a nicer working environment than your average grocery store.
What skills do you need to be a camp counselor?
Farm & Wilderness doesn’t expect its counselors to come aboard armed with hardcore nature and survivor skills. You won’t be expected to build fires and forage for food on day one. All counselors participate in a two-week training session. Skills Week teaches counselors how to build a fire, care for livestock, and master the skills to turn around and teach them to the campers. This is followed by a week of Staff Training, where counselors learn how to manage kids, give clear directions, deal with campers who are upset, and protect every child’s dignity and safety while keeping the day rolling.
“It’s not a one-time training,” Wunneburger explained “We have support staff in leadership positions to provide constant coaching and make sure you do well.”
“Entrepreneurs work at camp. Leaders work at camp. Visionaries work at camp,” he adds. “You’re in an environment where resources are limited and you have to create something with a quick turnaround and respond to the needs of the people you’re serving.”
These are high-value skills that are harder to develop in the transactional roles like Cashier or Retail Associate that frequently attract college students.
“You learn how to work on your own, and with different teams. It prepares you for a modern workplace where not everyone is going to tell you exactly what you need to do, so you need to figure it out, and how to do it empathetically with others.”
How do camp skills translate to the post-grad workforce?
“Lots of staff have gone to be teachers,” Wunneburger says. “There’s an obvious track from camp to education.” But even then, working at camp gives future teachers a leg up. “That ability to think on your feet and adjust is invaluable to take into the classroom. If you’ve taught kids how to build fires and work with knives in the woods, you can teach them math in the classroom.”
Counselors have gone into countless fields after camp. They work in leadership positions, management positions, levering the communication skills and creative adaptability they honed at camp in the corporate, nonprofit, and educational environment. Many have gone on to be entrepreneurs.
What does summer camp look like on your resume?
Camp provides young job-seekers with a story for every interview situation. Think about the questions you know recruiters will ask:
Describe a time work was especially challenging, but you worked through it.
That will happen at camp. You will have days when it’s raining and your plans have fallen through and you don’t have supplies, but still need to get 12 kids to get on board with an activity and give them a good day.
Describe a time you had a conflict with a coworker and had to resolve it.
That will happen at camp. You live and work with your coworkers while you’re here. You’re going to have conflicts, but you’re also going to learn how to work together to sort it out.
Tell us about a time you made an impact at our organization.
Here you’ll be designing programs, creating activities, teaching kids with varying levels of comfort in nature how to survive and thrive. You’ll be fostering a love of the outdoors, helping them build relationships, contributing to their personal development.
Spend your summer in nature, gaining the work skills that will last you a lifetime. Your resume will thank you. Learn about open positions and apply at: https://www.farmandwilderness.org/hiring/job-opportunities