The top two questions that I get all of the time when I tell people that I’m a camp director are:
“Cool, what do you do the rest of the year?” and “Cool, but what is your real job?”
I’ve scripted my answers over the years and I’m used to being asked this question – it shouldn’t, but I’ve learned that it comes with the territory and I”m happy to educate folks on what working at camp really means.
But, I find it frustrating that my summer staff gets these questions too – from their peers, their families, their teachers, even mentors. I was told when I was 16 by my guidance counselor that summer camp was a hobby and that I could maybe pursue it later in life. Internships, travel, work experiences that “fit” more into their college majors are the competition now. And I do believe that they are all important. But, it’s important to remember the value of working at camp.
According to LinkedIn, in 2020 the top soft skills (personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people) that companies were looking for were creativity, collaboration, persuasion, adaptability, and emotional intelligence.
At Netop, every staff member is encouraged to create new activities each afternoon for their groups and to take on an evening program during the summer. Camp is all about collaboration and working together towards the common goal of creating a safe, fun, and engaging environment for our campers. Try convincing a 9-year-old camper to take a shower after a week at camp and then come talk to me about learning persuasive skills and we are constantly adapting to new scenarios at camp every day. The mental spoke of our Four Spokes Philosophy touches upon growing our emotional intelligence and Netop staff work on it on a daily basis – listening to our campers, helping resolve conflicts, and growing as leaders.
My final message to future staff members – as you consider that internship that seems to fit better with your end goal – consider your goals. If it’s hard skills that you’re after, I can understand. I can’t promise that you’ll learn cloud computing or UX Design by working at camp. But, you will leave camp a stronger more resilient leader with all of the emotional intelligence and persuasive skills you will ever need. You will know how to command the attention of a large group. You will be confident in your ability to delegate and give instructions. You will manage your time efficiently, be flexible, and know how to think on your feet. You will show initiative and learn how to use your potential.
Camp IS a REAL job – the real-est you’re ever going to get and it’s the job where you’re going to learn how to be a future CEO, engineer, teacher, salesperson, tech wizard, and everything in between.
Stay positive and test negative,
Lisa, Camp owner/director