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Camp counselors gain real-world experience. .

Professional job skills can be learned outside the office. As the end of my senior year of college was staring me in the face and I still had not found a job, I was struggling to answer my parents' probing questions about what I was planning to do with my life come June 9, the day after my college graduation. After being a student for eighteen consecutive years, the required career change that came with graduation seemed daunting. I began to scramble to find an employment opportunity that was going to help me gain professional skills without locking me into a cubicle. When a friend suggested that I spend the summer working as a camp counselor, it seemed like a perfect way to ease myself through the transitional period from "student" to "adult." It would allow me one last summer to play and have fun before I had to enter the "real world." While my expectation that the job of camp counselor would provide me with professional skill training was low, I took the job as a fun placeholder until I could find a "real" job.

Now that the air is turning crisp, the kids have all gone home, and the summer is winding down, I can look back at the last two months and see the job I did for what it really was. As I begin to update my resume, I realize just how many professional skills a summer working as a camp counselor has given me. In my next interview, when an employer asks me why I would be an asset to their organization, I will answer truthfully and confidently -- my experience as a counselor has prepared me for success in the professional world.

Camp counselors are:

* Hardworking Being on duty 140 hours per week or more is not for the faint at heart. Kids are demanding, and when you live on site, you cannot simply leave the office when the clock strikes five. Camp counselors are on duty when mosquito bites get itchy, someone falls and cuts his knee, or homesickness strikes in the middle of the night. They must be flexible and adaptable to ever-changing schedules and situations.

* Conflict managers Whenever someone is living with a group of children, conflicts are inevitable. Being able to manage campers in a way that maximizes the campers strengths and minimizes personality conflicts is one of the art forms of camp counseling.

* Experienced problem-solvers Camp counselors are the authorities in all situations with their kids and must determine solutions to problems as they arise. Whether the problem is opening a metal can of tomato sauce on a camping trip without a can opener or seeking shelter from a storm that appears suddenly, counselors must be able to think on their feet and handle a range of issues quickly and decisively.

* Creative A camp counselor's creativity is constantly being tested. Between developing fun cabin night activities, helping the kids think of a skit to present to the camp, designing an idea for an activity booth on "Disney Day," or figuring out how to turn a three-day camping trip in the pouring rain from a nightmare into an adventure, counselors must use the resources available to them -- often on a tight time schedule -- to actively engage groups of a variety of ages.

* Teachers Counselors are teachers who have the responsibility for expanding the minds of young people and explaining tasks in a clear, easily comprehensible manner. They participate in, and often lead, training sessions and understand what it takes to present a group with new information.

* Team players with a sense of fairness Living in a cabin, teaching activities, or working with a co-counselor gives all camp counselors experience as a team member. They understand that a team is only as strong as its weakest link and can work to raise the team's level of performance. Additionally, no one is a better judge of what is fair than a child. Working with children enhances a counselor's sense of fairness and makes him or her more aware of the needs of all team members.

* Community builders Building a sense of community is one of the principal tasks of counselors. The counselors in residential camps are charged with the responsibility of creating an open, safe environment where their campers feel valued and important.

All of these skills are important in any job. I had underestimated the benefits of camp counseling when I accepted my position. I knew it would be fun -- now I also know that a summer as a camp counselor provides real-world experience and that professional skills can be acquired even in the most unique locations.

Kelly Hoell graduated from the University of Denver in June 2002 with a major in environmental science. She spent the summer after graduation at Camp Nicolet in northern Wisconsin, the same camp her mother attended for eight years as a child. This was her first camp experience. She is currently at home in Eugene, Oregon, working toward an internship in Costa Rica.
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Author:Hoell, Kelly
Publication:Camping Magazine
Date:Jan 1, 2003
Previous Article:Professional development calendar.
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