The Management Skills of Camp Counselors in Business and at Work

A client reminded me last week about the value of camp counselor experience when hiring recent college graduates with no other supervisory experience. While camp counselor experience is not a substitute for actual supervisory experience of adults in the workplace, in my hiring experience of over 25 years, it is, more often than not, a predictive data point auguring well for future supervisory performance.

How so? Speaking from my own experience:  I was a Girl Scout camp counselor from the age of 11 (counselor-in-training) until I was 18 years old. My camp counselor experience as a teenager absolutely prepared me for my later responsibilities as an adult manager. There’s nothing like ensuring the welfare of children to properly attune you to ensuring the well-being of adult team members.  It was such a positive experience, that for the past 3 years, I’ve roped my husband into volunteering as a camp counselor (Art Track) for the high school division at our son’s overnight camp, while I resurrected my long-dormant camp counselor skills for the same group.

Below are some responsibilities of a contemporary overnight camp counselor:

  • Participates in the development and implementation of program activities.
  • Responsible to lead and assist with the teaching of activities; actively participates.
  • Assumes responsibility for a unit of campers and guides their experiences; supervises unit in their activities.
  • Is alert to campers’ and staff needs and assist them with personal and/or health problems; consult with camp health manager and/or staff and camp director when appropriate.
  • Maintains clear and positive communication with all participants and staff.
  • Contributes to the diversity, cooperation and collaboration emphasis of (the camp’s) values-based community by supporting materials, activities, and programs to maintain a sensitivity to and reflection of the interest, values, and needs of persons of all racial/ethnic groups, cultures, religions, and abilities.
  • Adheres to all Camp policies and procedures. Other responsibilities as camp demands.
  • RELATIONSHIPS: Develop a good working relationship with the program staff and camp director. Provides leadership and support to fellow counselors.
  • ACCOUNTABILITY: Counselors are accountable to the Camp Director.

The above camp counselor responsibilities definitely have similarities to manager / supervisor job responsibilities.

One memorable camp counselor experience among others was the first evening of camp with my group of 10 year-old campers as a 15 year-old camp counselor.  It was time for the group to take a shower together in the group shower (no private shower stalls) and no one wanted to take a shower. I quickly came to the conclusion that I needed to lead by example. Not thrilled either at taking a shower in a group setting (however, having no other shower options), I nevertheless efficiently proceeded to doff my camp duds and nonchalantly take my equally efficient shower. One by one, the girls followed suit and took their showers, too – with no further shower issues that week of camp. It was definitely an unexpected situational leadership experience.

How will you consider camp counselor skills for your supervisory needs in business and at work?

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4 Responses to “The Management Skills of Camp Counselors in Business and at Work”

  1. Kelly Reardon Says:

    I just forwarded this article to our career department who helps students with their resumes. We’ve all seen the bare resume with the sole job of camp counselor on it.

  2. Deb Best Says:

    Kelly, thank you for your kind feedback and action in support of your students.

  3. Michael T. Breslin Says:

    Hi Deb:
    I’m one of the career folks to whom Kelly forwarded the article. I love it! I’ll pinning it and recommending it to all camp counselors (current and former). Thanks very much!
    Michael T. Breslin

  4. Deb Best Says:

    Michael: thank you for your kind feedback as well!