Seasonal employment at a summer camp is an amazing experience that can transform your life - it completely changed mine! Many of my friends have, at some point, worked at a summer camp. I've worked at several, including multiple iD Tech Camp locations. There are many ways that working at a camp can have a positive influence on your life, but for brevity and ease of reading, here are ten that I've experienced.
1. You learn to work with kids
Working with kids (and teens!) is a skill that everyone should possess. There are so many little tricks that you learn in your first year - your first day, even! I've been working with kids and teens for two decades and am still surprised at what I learn, and how I can use that knowledge in my everyday life. Someone that knows how to work with kids, knows how to be patient, how to explain things clearly and carefully, how to be appropriate and how to be a role model, among many other things. All of these characteristics are valuable in the professional world.
2. You learn to be part of a team
Another important skill that applies to the professional world outside of camp is teamwork. No one can work at a camp without learning that they need to rely on the other staffers to create the best possible experience for the campers. Whether you're working together to teach a difficult skill or keeping the ratio down to ensure the safest environment possible, you are an essential piece that keeps camp running.
3. You learn how to be on your own
Although you are constantly expected to be a good team member, you are also expected to be self-reliant and responsible. Camp employees need to have the confidence to run activities, give instruction and even handle emergency procedures without hesitation. This doesn't mean that you're on your own - or that you're not allowed to ask for help. You are, however, constantly supposed to take initiative to learn and grow so that you react instinctually to every situation (in the right way!) and help the team by not slowing it down.
4. You learn how to be engaging
Every camp day is filled with many hours where you are responsible for keeping everyone in your care engaged. Sometimes this is through instruction, sometimes through special events, sometimes through a specialty area. The in-between time, though, is where camp employees really learn to shine! An unengaged camper can cause a lot of trouble. That's because when faced with no organized task, the tendency is to make one up. Normally, you are better at creating safe and appropriate activities than your campers, so you will constantly be coming up with engagement strategies to keep everyone happy. This is an incredible skill in life, especially when you find yourself singing camp songs while hiking with your friends!
5. You learn about safety
Safety is a difficult lesson to learn. There is inherent risk in every situation. A camp employee must learn to evaluate risk at every moment of every day. Beyond simply looking around to identify possible unsafe scenarios, employees need to be ever vigilant and aware of how the campers and other staff members are acting. Being able to constantly survey the world for dangers and signs of alarm makes you an asset to anyone around you.
6. You learn how to tell a story
The session-based, seasonal nature of camp life is a condensed version of the real world. Campers are learning life skills; arriving timid and leaving confident, they arrive strangers and leave friends. At iD, they sometimes arrive as n00bs and always leave with a better sense and excitement about a particular technology, from coding to game design and development. Not only do you learn the stories of your campers, but you learn how to share those stories again and again - how to collect them into a series of lessons and triumphs. Campers and staff alike love to revel in the world that they create and use that lore to make camp a better place.
7. You learn about timing
I don't mean to suggest that every camp employee is a comedian, but I do know that everyone seems to learn how to tell a joke, or at least calm down a room. It's not all about the punch line. There's a time to take charge and a time to lay back; a time to be serious and a time to be goofy. You have to read each situation and make a judgment call about what tactics are most appropriate. The more you can read a room, the better you will be at keeping everyone engaged and following instructions.
8. You feel exhausted (if you're doing it right)
There's nothing greater than the complete body drain experienced when you have given something your all. Camp requires you to use all of your energy at all times. When you're not actively with campers, you're planning or creating. There's always more to do - I've never met a camp professional that felt that they achieved everything in a single season. There's always a way to improve and more that can be done. You learn to fill each minute productively and that feels amazing.
9. You make people happy
Yes, there is a tremendous satisfaction when you can look back and realize that you've made someone's summer. The smiles, laughter, friendships and cool projects all add up into a wonderful ball of self-congratulatory joy. You'll be thanked and praised, but the best compliment is knowing that you did your best and you can see the outcome almost immediately.
10. You get something nice to add to your LinkedIn profile
You shouldn't work at camp to pad your resume. That's not the right reason at all, ever. It is nice, however, to let people know that you spent your summer following a long held American tradition - one that is filled with so many benefits and one that takes so much commitment and skill. If you can get through the summer, you become part of a club of camp professionals that all possess a handful of essential skills, regardless of what they go on to pursue in their life.
If this sounds appealing, you should check out the iD Tech Camp Employment site. We are taking applications for the 2013 season now!