How camp can help you be unafraid of the unfamiliar
Learn how a camp internship can give you the confidence and skills you need to succeed after college. This blog was written by the 2018 Marketing Intern, Elizabeth Mattern.
Professors often say, “college degrees don’t come with job offers attached.” That phrase has stuck with me and initiated my fear of the unknown. The pressure to get the right internship made me hesitant to take job risks. My fear of change caused me to struggle with embracing new challenges. I often asked myself, how will I know if this job will help me meet my goals? Will this position give me the experience I need to succeed?
This summer I decided to conquer my fears. I took a job at a summer camp as a counselor. It is something I had never done before, and my knowledge of camps was slim to none. I was chasing after a new experience, and I wanted to face a fear I struggled to overcome: the unfamiliar. The decision to spend a summer away from home, and at a place so far outside my comfort zone, ended up being the best decision I have ever made.
I did not expect the experience of being a camp counselor to directly impact how I would be in my future career and professional life. I gained leadership skills through experiences as a counselor that I know a future employer would value. Through camp, I have a newfound confidence in applying for internships, and job interviews.
As a counselor, I had to face two issues with campers in my cabin. Homesickness, and the campers forming cliques. This was my first lesson in applying newfound knowledge to complex situations that could hurt the camp experience for my campers. As a counselor, my biggest motivation was to create the best experience possible. Anything that was getting in the way of that, had to be addressed.
My counselors and I worked together to establish our cabin as a safe place. I made sure each camper felt comfortable to effectively communicate if she was not getting the most out of her camp experience. My counselors and I also had our campers create their own cabin rules. This helped equip the way for everyone in the cabin to be a leader, and a change maker.
I learned that having this open communication between campers and counselors was vital. Through open communication and problem-solving, I was able to talk with a camper to get to the root of her homesickness. What was causing the camper to feel this was her fear of being bullied in the cabin. I encouraged this camper, and the rest of the cabin, to speak out and recognize what is and is not a healthy friendship. This particular camper later went on to enjoy the rest of her time at camp and made many new friends in the process.
To disperse cliques, I initiated conversation between campers that did not usually talk to each other, and the counselors and I created a game to switch up the seating in the dining hall. After the campers sat down, we would have them pick up their plates and silverware, and gave them 30 seconds to find a seat by someone they haven’t sat with before.
In some fields, a job can change and evolve every day. Working at a camp was no different. Many counselors gave me advice, but they did not serve me in every situation. I had to dedicate myself to being a leader. Being a leader at camp has nothing to do with your experience, but rather being ready for the unpredictable, and achieving the best result in a given situation. I was able to achieve my goals within the cabins, even when those goals changed.
Working at a camp has taught me how to be a better leader in the workplace. Employers want leaders who can adapt and inspire others to be leaders as well. Inspiring the campers to be change makers and work together through difficult situations to achieve a goal, is the kind of person companies want on their teams. I learned that when something is no longer working, it is important to recognize this, learn from it, and move on.
After working at a camp I feel ready to show an employer that I have what it takes. I did this by doing work that matters. Inspiring others to embrace challenges and making change happen made me a more confident leader. Through camp, I was able to unlock my professional work-life potential, while generating a positive atmosphere in the face of many setbacks. If you’re ready for an internship that can give you the confidence and skills you need to succeed, consider spending your summer as a camp counselor.