Summer is coming to an end, and many of our IENA exchange visitors are heading home after a great summer at camp. As many of you settle back into school or work in your home country, you may be thinking how you can portray your camp experience as one of professional development on your CV. Don’t worry- camp is filled with MANY opportunities for professional development, but you probably didn’t even realize, as you are having too much fun! Below are some tips of how to highlight your camp experience on your CV (or resume!)
- Talk about your communication skills
Camp requires all types of communication, and I’m sure by the end of the summer, this is one many camp staff are pros at! For some exchange visitors, improving communication skills may be as straightforward as speaking English every day if it is not your native language. Actively choosing to work where the language is not your first language is very brave, and an amazing learning opportunity. For these applicants, spending a summer at a US camp is essentially an English language emersion program- but much more fun!
For applicants whose native language is English, your communication skills are tested in other ways. You learn how to communicate with staff whose first language is NOT English- there is a learning curve on both sides of the language barrier!
All camp staff learn how to communicate with people of all ages. Sometimes, the way you communicate with your fellow staff is not the same (or appropriate) way you would communicate with your eight-year-old camper. All camp staff learn appropriate ways to communicate with people of various ages and backgrounds, ranging from young children to the oldest campers or CITS.
Remember- not all communication is verbal! Have you ever had a camper who is normally social and involved, suddenly withdraw from activities? S/he physically distances themselves from the group, becomes quiet, or doesn’t make eye contact- which is not their normal behavior. Being able to recognize these non-verbal cues is equally important to communication, as someone’s body language may be saying something different to their verbal communication!
- Write about your adaptability and flexibility
This is one I feel quite strongly about- if you do not have an adaptable or flexible personality, summer camp probably isn’t the right job for you!
Anyone who has ever worked at camp knows that while you might have a set plan for an activity or outing, things are constantly changing at camp. Maybe you had planned a full day hiking outing with your campers, but when you wake up there are suddenly torrential thunderstorms forecasted all day. Suddenly, you need to plan an entire day’s worth of activities as your plan is deterred by weather- we’ve all been there! Or maybe you worked in the kitchen, and you were planning a cookout for dinner, but bad weather suddenly means everyone is eating in the dining hall, and you quickly need to prepare a full meal inside. Whether is it on a large or small scale, things are constantly changing at camp, and all staff (counselors and support staff!) need to be flexible and adapt to any required changes that come up. This is a great skill to highlight on your CV, as in most jobs, there are many moving pieces and things are constantly changing!
- Express your strong work ethic
Camp is a 24/7 job. Very few jobs require the same level of dedication and hard work that camp necessitates. Working at a residential camp means that you are almost always “on”; you are with your campers during the day, during meal times, and even sleep in the same bunk- all with a smile! Support staff are busy working in their various jobs to make sure camp runs smoothly. Working at camp requires a lot of dedication and hard work, but it’s worth it!
- Give examples about a time you took initiative
It doesn’t matter what job or industry you work in- a supervisor or manager likes to see an employee take initiative. If you took initiative to recommend a new activity for your campers, organize an event, schedule a new meal, or volunteer for the job no one wants- these are all examples of taking initiative on a project. Employers like to see employees sharing ideas, implementing them, or tackling a required task without being asked. Taking initiative is an important stepping stone for developing leadership skills!
- Display your personality and traits like patience
Growing up, if I was rushing or showing any displeasure that something wasn’t happening quickly enough, my mother always used to say, “Remember, patience is a virtue!” Patience is a positive virtue, and a trait many employers look for when hiring. Working at camp requires a lot of patience- patiently waiting for bad weather to pass so you can proceed with outdoor activities; patiently waiting for a food delivery; patiently dealing with a camper who is upset, angry, or frustrated; and of course, patiently waiting for a day off! Patience is a necessity at camp, and it is a valuable trait to possess for future jobs. Demonstrating a time when you were extremely patient in a frustrating or time sensitive situation shows employers that you can remain level-headed under pressure. Don’t underestimate this trait, and highlight it on your CV with examples!
There are many examples of professional development that take place at camp, but many camp staff are unsure how to write about these experiences on a CV. These are just a few examples how you can write about your camp experience on your CV, but there are many more!