At a recent one-day workshop from the American Camp Association, I was challenged to reflect on how working at camp prepares staff for “real life.” We were presented with the top five soft skills that companies are looking for in 2019:
- Time Management
Everyone in the room could hardly contain themselves…these skills scream CAMP!! But to many who see camp as a “fun” summer job, allow me to make the connections for you.
In my mind, I keep coming back to one part of our program that really encapsulates all of these skills, and that is the cookout. This is the one meal during the session where every cabin group cooks their own dinner over a fire on one of our many campsites.
Yes, I know we talk about cookouts a lot, but they really are the culmination of a lot of pieces of our program, and it is usually the highlight of the session.
Creativity: We all know that tin foil dinners are the fave, and for good reason! They’re yummy and clean-up is a breeze! But by week six, many counselors are looking for something different. I’ve seen the most delicious and creative items cooked over a fire. Some favorites from last summer include monkey bread, stuffed peppers, and apple pie!
Persuasion: Try convincing eight ten-year-olds to collect wood for 20 minutes? Or better yet, thirteen-year-olds? Challenged accepted! Oh, they just came back with a handful of leaves? That won’t cut it. It’s amazing to see the persuasion skills at work when you have to motivate young people to do somewhat undesirable tasks. Most often, it’s the hunger pangs that motivates them, but often our counselors are out there with them, side by side, modeling servant leadership as they collect provisions for the fire. Our dinner depends on it!
Collaboration: Did I mention that the entire cabin group has to agree on one menu? I find this challenging enough with just three people in my house! Yes, on the very first day of the session, when most of these girls have just met, they share their opinions and come to a consensus on a menu that will accommodate everyone’s tastes, preferences, allergies, etc. We could easily pick one menu for the whole camp, but that would take away from the important lessons that are learned by the cabin group and their counselor as she seeks consensus.
Adaptability: Why does it always rain on cookout day? Maybe it just seems like it, but yes, we’ve had cookouts in the rain, and sometimes we haven’t! Counselors have to adapt to now cooking at a fire site inside with three other cabins. Or maybe you have to “adapt” to the fact that your dinner just burned and you will be eating carrots and celery for dinner. Cookouts rarely go as planned and I think we’re better for it!
Time Management: As someone who loathes cooking, I will tell you that it really is all about time management. Making sure that food is prepped in time and the fire is hot enough. Being quick enough with wood collecting so you’re not rushing through dessert. Also, we have to clean up and get back before it’s too dark! Back to persuasion…
Also, did I forget to mention, cooking skills?? I know it’s not a soft skill, but for many counselors, this may be their first experience with real cooking, I know it was for me!
So to my former staff, put these skills on your resume! Weave them into your interviews. Don’t sell yourself short, this is just a brief list of the many skills you gained through working at camp.
And to those of you thinking about joining our staff, you have very few summers in life when you can work at camp, and I can guarantee you will at least learn these top five skills. What I don’t know is exactly how you will grow and how God will use you in the lives of our campers this summer as we seek to “tell the next generation.” I hope you’ll consider joining us for what will be a life-changing summer!
Amy “Ellie” Culhane is the Director of Camp Cedarbrook in the Adirondacks. She started as a Pathfinder camper and finished Camper-in-Leadership Training in 2002. When she’s not at camp, she lives with her husband and son in Illinois.