The U.S. Camp Counselor Program is one of New Zealand’s most popular exchange programs, allowing post-secondary students, youth workers and teachers an opportunity to share Kiwi culture and learn about American history and culture at the same time. Annually more than 900 Kiwis travel to the U.S. to live and work as summer camp counselors throughout the United States. For more information, check out our Exchange Visitor Program page.
Why Summer Camp Was the Best Career Decision I Ever Made – by Lauren Rosegreen
There’s no question that spending your summer working abroad at camp will be a life-changing experience.
Your summer will be filled with fun, laughter and unforgettable moments – but it’s so much more than that. I’m a Law LLB graduate, and I can honestly say that working at a summer camp was the best career decision that I’ve ever made. Working abroad at summer camp will expand your career prospects further than you could ever imagine – here’s why:
Job applications are now a breeze
Before I applied for summer camp in the U.S., I had a few part-time jobs. From waitressing, to Starbucks, to working in a cafe, all of my previous jobs required me to hand in my CV and attend a trial shift. However, to be considered for a summer camp job, I had to complete an application process like no other.
From listing 10 in-depth skills, to writing about the positive impact I would make on campers, my summer camp application helped me to delve into my personal and professional achievements. It also helped me discover some of my future career motivations. I applied for summer camp through a sponsoring organization, where the staff helped me to push the boundaries even further and describe my previous experiences in more detail than ever before.
Camp directors want to ensure that they hire awesome candidates to work at their camps, so each section of your camp application has a specific focus. The aim is to bring out various aspects of your personality, and show who you are. Regardless of sector or job, the key features that employers will look for are your personal achievements, professional attainments, motivations and hobbies. I can almost guarantee that once you’ve completed the extensive job application for summer camp, you can take on any job application – you’ll have a whole new understanding of what you bring to the table.
Top Tip: Download a complete copy of your application, and save it to your computer. Since my first summer at camp, I’ve applied for lots of jobs that have similar questions to those on my summer camp application. It’s a huge time-saver to use your previous answers, and expand on them to fit the application you’re working on.
Job interview? Bring it on
My initial Skype interview with my camp program director is one I will never forget. The time difference was my first minor obstacle, as I had to work out the interview time in GMT (it seems like nothing now, but back then I was freaking out!). During the interview, I remember being asked: “what is your proudest moment so far?” I won’t lie – I blurted out a generic answer about getting my A Levels and going to University, and I got the job. But it really got me thinking. Throughout the summer, I became heavily involved in organising Banquet, an extravagant meal on the penultimate day of camp, where counsellors dress up and put on a show for the campers. On the day of Banquet, as I saw the faces of campers entering the Disney-themed dining hall for the first time, I knew we’d absolutely pulled it off. I realised that this was my proudest moment to date, and I’ve used that example in job interviews ever since.
Camp provides you with so many opportunities and experiences that you will be able to draw upon in future interviews. Interviewers often expect you to answer questions by providing real-life examples to back things up. Whether it be a time when you’ve worked as part of a team, or when you’ve been pushed out of your comfort zone, you’ll find that camp immediately springs to mind. You’ll be able to put a unique spin on whatever question they throw at you.
Confidence is key. We hear it all the time when it comes to interviewing techniques – but it’s the truth. At camp, you’ll find yourself in trying situations – completing a leap of faith on the high ropes course, standing on stage at summer camp and presenting the talent show, or leading your campers in singing a rendition of your camp song. You’ll find your inner confidence at camp, and it will remain with you. This newfound confidence will translate into future interviews and assessment days, and give you optimum confidence to secure future career prospects.
I became a better communicator
The global economy is growing rapidly, and with it, the importance of being able to communicate with people from different backgrounds and cultures. Summer camp was an ideal place to learn these skills, while having an amazing travel experience. In my current work, I communicate with people from all over the world, coordinating marketing ideas to ensure that the global company works harmoniously between our country offices. I am able to efficiently and effectively deal with any difficult situations that may arise due to the experience I have gained at summer camp.
At camp, you’ll be surrounded by numerous staff members, performing a variety of job roles, to ensure that the summer runs smoothly. Camp is made up of counsellors, office staff, medical professionals, and directors (just to name a few), from all across the world, so working with people from different backgrounds and cultures will become second nature. At camp, I learned how to work with different personality types, and remain professional and understanding throughout.
You’re guaranteed to leave camp with a wealth of experience in dealing with difficult situations, and you’ll have picked up your own tips to work harmoniously with people from all walks of life. Once the summer is over, and you’ve landed yourself a job, this level of diversity will be replicated in any workplace. So summer camp can be thanked, yet again, for exposing you to an element that will help your future career.
Responsibility & time-management are now easy
7.30am: Wake campers up with a song they love (queue Taylor Swift).
8am: Make sure campers are up, dressed, and outside for flag raising.
8.30am: Clean bunk with campers, ready for inspection, and head up to breakfast for pancakes, chants, and banging on tables.
This is what the first hour of my morning looked like every day at camp, and I loved it. The whole camp structure relies heavily on time-keeping. 10 months of planning goes into those 2 months at camp, so you’ll find that the daily schedule will be jam-packed full of awesome summer activities. It takes the utmost level of time management to keep up with the camp schedule, and when you finish camp, your new time-management skills will become a life-saver in the workplace.
Making sure that each camper had an incredible summer was a responsibility I didn’t take lightly. I loved creating new ways throughout camp to go above and beyond that responsibility. You’ll get into your own groove and routine at camp, to ensure that you’re adhering to all of your responsibilities, and having fun along the way. This acknowledgement and ability to take control of your own responsibilities will translate into your future career prospects, as you’ll be well-practised in holding yourself accountable for tasks.
I’ve received more leadership opportunities
I surprised myself at camp by adopting a leadership role without even thinking about it. I was selected as a colour war captain, took a team of 13-year-olds to another camp for a basketball match, and started a chant at the Saturday night campfires. At camp, you might be given a group of campers to look after or be put in charge of a group of your peers, and suddenly you’re in a leadership role. It’s guaranteed that your self-confidence will grow while you’re at camp – and this will stay with you once your summer is over. You’ll find yourself thriving to step into a leadership role by being a role model to campers and other members of staff. Your excitement to jump into a leadership role will set you up for success in your future career, as it’ll give you the desire to strive for internal promotions and enable you to attain those well-established leadership roles.
Though summer may have ended, your journey at camp will never truly leave you. Applying for jobs, chatting to colleagues, and applying for internal promotions will be so much easier once you’ve completed a summer at camp. From my experience, summer camp helps you stand out from the crowd, which is why it’s the best career decision I’ve ever made – and I’d be willing to bet you’ll find the same, too.