Working at Camp Puts Millennials on the Path to Success (Today More Than Ever)

There has been a viral video by TED Talk speaker Simon Sinek about millennials in the workplace that has been very hot over social media newsfeeds during recent weeks. If you haven’t seen it, it is a must- check it out here. Then, read on!

In summary, the video suggests the millennial generation is struggling in the real world because they were not given the tools and social skills needed to survive and thrive in a corporate work environment. It then goes on to challenge corporations to find better ways to nurture and mentor millennials instead of throwing their hands in the air.

As camp professionals, we have had the opportunity to work with, coach, raise, mentor and employ hundreds of millennials over the past 27 years. We have witnessed the evolution of what Mr. Sinek discusses in his interview first hand. He talks about how the millennial generation is often characterized as “entitled, narcissistic and unfocused”. They want to work at a “place with a purpose, to make an impact, that has free food and bean bags”. Immediately, our ears perked up when we heard this, because at camp, we’ve got most of that covered!

We make a difference in kid’s lives- check! What’s better than camp food – check! And 235 acres of rolling hills, lakes, ziplines and outdoors is way cooler than bean bags – check! But then he went on to talk about why millennials are finding the workplace so challenging (and why corporations are so frustrated by them as a generation). His theory is that millennials are the product of four factors: parenting skills, technology, impatience and their environment.

When we looked at these factors more closely, we came to the conclusion that camp already addresses the issues that Mr. Sinek is challenging corporations to fix, giving millennials who attend or work at camp an advantage. Here’s why:

  1. Parenting. At camp we aim to make everyone feel special, mentored and shine, but they need to earn it. We do not give out participation medals and you need to earn leadership positions. Not everyone gets to be a Group Leader or an Olympics General. Not everyone gets to be a counselor for the group of kids they may have wanted to. We make our decisions for the “good of camp” in order for our camp to run smoothly and thrive. We see potential in ways that sometimes our staff may not see in themselves. We give our staff the training, mentoring and tools to succeed.  We provide a nurturing, supportive environment that will always be there to catch them if they fall. We publicly acknowledge and reward our staff for achievements just as we would our campers. Staff deserve feedback and praise just like campers do!
  2. Technology. Social media and cellphones simply do not have a place at camp. That means young adults get the opportunity for the first time to learn how to build relationships with co-workers, campers and senior staff that are based on trust, honesty and genuine interest in one another. Moreover, they learn how to practice coping with stress without relying on technology. In Mr. Sinek’s interview he talks about “no cellphones in the conference room” so that coworkers can get to know each other and build trust before meetings begin. This is daily life at camp 24/7 for seven weeks.
  3. Impatience. At camp, life is blissfully old school. We are nestled in the woods in the middle of the Pocono Mountains. There is no Netflix to binge watch, or even TV! If they want someone’s opinion of their outfit, they need to ask them in person to give an actual thumb’s up or down. We have a daily schedule that everyone follows. Sometimes our evening activities run late and counselors may have to wait an extra 30 minutes before they can go into town for their night off with friends. And try being in charge of a group of 7-year old kids and get them to clean a bunk…now that takes patience!
  4. Environment.  Working at camp is a journey, not just a single summer. Our goal for our staff members is that they come back year after year to grow, make an impact and continue to be rewarded and challenged (which is no different for our campers). We give them experiences, opportunities and traditions to look forward to. Which is why if you ask a counselor who worked at camp for four years about their experience, it will be very different than if you ask a counselor who only worked at camp for one summer. Circling back to what Mr. Sinek said that the beginning of his interview, making an impact takes time, work, effort and patience. At camp, we do everything in our power to create an environment and culture where patience, loyalty and paying your dues has its rewards.

The opportunity and value that growing up and working at camp provides is greater than ever. The experience at camp helps produce long-term proven success.

A recent article published by Mark Weller on LinkedIn said it best, “If companies should be hiring anyone, it should be camp counselors. Camp counselors are arguably some of the most patient, caring, hard-working individuals out there, and companies would be lucky to have them on their staff.” When you work at camp you have an advantage in learning the skills that hiring managers are looking for; skills like flexibility, adaptability, initiative, self-direction, social and cross-cultural skills, productivity, accountability, leadership and responsibility. When we reach out to former counselors, they tell us that the skills they learned at camp set them apart from their coworkers and prepared them for the “real world” better than their office internships.

So we agree that every generation is given its own challenges and this generation has its own fair share. Parenting, technology, impatience and environment may be obstacles, but at camp, we see these as opportunities.

We hope that parents continue to see the critical importance for their millennial children to work at camp, as corporations (and internships) fail to find ways to mentor this generation. We hope millennials recognize the value of their experiences at camp and how they translate into the workplace. We hope that employers learn from the camp industry as they struggle to motivate millennials. In the meantime, if they happen to see “Camp Counselor” on a candidate’s resume, they should confidently move it to the top of the pile!

For testimonials on how working at camp made an impact on our former counselor’s careers, click here.

10 Ways to Make Camp Shine On Your Social Media

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#TeamTowanda #CampPride #TowandaCares

One of our recent blogs talked about how your social media can influence your chances of getting into your dream college or landing a job.  It’s time to change how you think about social media and use it to help shape how you WANT the world to see you. Social media should be a place to showcase your passions, interests, positive influences and what drives you.  How about telling the world about why you love CAMP!? Here are 10 great ways you can make your summer camp experiences SHINE on social media!

(tip: Include any of the ideas below on your Google+ and LinkedIn pages, which are both highly searchable and interesting to colleges and employers.)

  1. Make Camp Towanda part of your digital profile. If you are a camper, this could be “camper at heart” on Twitter or Instagram or if you were/are a staff member “worked at Camp Towanda”.
  2. Share the good you do at camp and postphotos, videos or write blogs about your participation with our camp philanthropy programs like Vision Walk, Morry’s Camp and SCOPE. Make sure you tag Camp Towanda and those organizations. Ask them to share your content.
  3. Chronicle your camp experiences on a blog or make your college essay about camp. So many of you use camp as a subject for school projects. Get them published online. Some thought-starters: how has Camp influenced your life, your interests, your involvement in the community and your professional aspirations? Share a time that you were challenged at camp that changed you forever. Write a persuasive essay on why today’s youth should spend a summer at camp instead of a desk internship. Share what has camp taught you about yourself that you could never learn in school.
  4. Publish a camp-themed BuzzFeed article. Here’s a fun one for inspiration! 
  5. Did you ever give a sermon at camp or write an article for the Towanda Times? Give us a copy and we will put it on our blog so you can share on your social media. Just ask!
  6. Write a blog giving advice to first year campers or counselors about what life is like at summer camp. We’ll share that too!
  7. Create boards on Pinterest that are a tribute to your camp passions. Friendship bracelets, Legos, nature art, KitKats!
  8. Write a Tumblr blog cooking show on YouTube documenting you making ourcamp recipes at home or camp-inspired food.
  9. Create a series of art that is homage to camp. Share your projects on Instagram. Don’t forget to tag @CampTowanda.
  10. Create a camp tribute video. It could be funny, emotional or inspiring. Just have fun! Create a comic strip about camp adventures (look out Cheese, Milk & Pickle!) and publish it on Tumblr.

These ideas are just the beginning. Share with us how YOU make camp shine on your social media. It you have any questions you can always email our Social Media Director lauren@camptowanda.com. For more social media ideas and advice, check out this entire article and more under “Social Media Smarts” on our blog and on Pinterest.

Also for our staff, check out our popular blog:  “How to Make Camp Counselor The Best Thing on Your Resume.”

Written by: Lauren Eckstein Forman, Social Media Director at Camp Towanda

About Camp Towanda:

Camp Towanda is an independent, traditional, co-ed sleep-away camp in the Poconos in Pennsylvania. It is privately owned, operated and directed by Mitch and Stephanie Reiter.  For over 90 years, Camp Towanda has continued to define what camp should really be. Our program offers state-of-the-art facilities, an excellent and professional athletic department, waterfront, extensive arts, drama and adventure programs, culinary cooking classes, and special events.  We are highly regarded and respected as an industry leader and are involved in giving back to various organizations throughout the year.  Camp Towanda is accredited by the American Camp Association and a member of the Camp-Alert-Network, Wayne County Camp Association, Camp Owners and Directors Association and the Pennsylvania Camp Association.

 

Why they keep coming back!

Ditter3Last weekend, Camp Towanda officially kicked off our staff orientation.  Even though we are a month away from our full staff orientation, this Sunday, we met with a group of young adults who were making an exciting transition from camper to LIT to CIT to full-time counselor! Over 50 Towanda alumni shared in an all-day workshop for personal growth and staff development led by Bob Ditter. Bob is a new addition to our team and an invaluable resource for camp professionals and training.

Keep in mind that this particular group of staff are in a unique position.  Many of them have known each other for over 10 years, seen each other at their best and most challenging times, grew up together, overcame fears together, celebrated success together, supported each other and lived together, summer after summer.  After their Dorm/Club summers ended, they still came back to be waiters/waitresses (aka LITS).  As 17 year olds, while their high school friends explored programs at college campuses or teen tour adventures, they came back as CITS (counselors-in-training).  We are often asked by parents and colleagues in camping, what makes your kids come back all those years?  Look around our camp, and you will notice our kids don’t leave. Now some of this has to do with our concerted effort to tweak the bunks every year, encourage inclusiveness in the off season and make a strong effort to promote group bonding (not just bunk bonding).  But if you asked THEM, why do they come back, they would say things like:

Bob Ditter at Camp Towanda staff orientationFriendship, memories, cherished time, independence, bonds, camp family, comfort, freedom, acceptance.  Yes- all those things kept them coming back.

But now, for the first time, those former campers, LITs and CITs won’t be living under the same roof, sharing late night jokes and group activities.  So why do they come back when there are so many options out there in the world?

It’s simple…to pay it forward. Collectively in the room this past Sunday, we had over 800 years of Camp Towanda experience among us.  That very experience, wisdom, tradition, and spirit is ready to be shared.  The kids of today are so lucky to be gaining this group of counselors to join the rest of our staff because they can’t wait to give back all they have been given.  What these new staff members are also starting to realize is how much they too will gain. How making a difference in a child’s world will have as much of a profound impact on them as it will have on that child. How working at camp will nurture their skills in collaboration, leadership, communication and problem solving. How this job will give them the 21st century skills to be better professionals, co-workers and parents.

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It’s so much better than being a camper.  Because you work hard, but you get back every bit of what you put in (and then some).

We are so thrilled, proud and impressed by this group of new staff members and look forward to watching them in action this summer.  

About Camp Towanda:

Camp Towanda is an independent, traditional, co-ed sleep-away camp in the Poconos in Pennsylvania. It is privately owned, operated and directed by Mitch and Stephanie Reiter (who are celebrating 25 years as owners and directors).  For over 90 years, Camp Towanda has continued to define what camp should really be. Our program offers state-of-the-art facilities, an excellent and professional athletic department, waterfront, extensive arts, drama and adventure programs, and special events.  We are highly regarded and respected as an industry leader and are involved in giving back to various organizations throughout the year.  Camp Towanda is accredited by the American Camp Association and a member of the Camp-Alert-Network, Wayne County Camp Association, Camp Owners and Directors Association and the Pennsylvania Camp Association.

About Bob Ditter:

Bob Ditter is a nationally recognized trainer and consultant and works with organizations that work with young people. His clients have included Sea World, the Disney Channel, the Salvation Army, Girls Scouts of America, YMCA, American Camp Association, Jewish Community Centers, Camp Fire USA, Children’s Oncology Camps of America, the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, private and public schools and others. He has appeared on the “ABC Evening News with Peter Jennings,” “Good Morning America” and twice on NBC’s “The Today Show.” He has been quoted in The New York Times, Parent Magazine, the Ladies Home Journal, Money Magazine and USA Today. Sports Illustrated called him “…camping’s most articulate spokesman” because of his work with children’s summer camps since 1982. He has visited over 600 summer camps in the United States and has authored four books for camp professionals and 14 brand new training DVDs. He is best known in camp circles as the author of the popular column, “In the Trenches,” which has appeared regularly in Camping Magazine since 1987.

 

Truth is…our Staff are the Best!

goodsportcounselorsAs Visiting Day approaches, and we begin to reflect on the first half of the summer….I have to take a moment and thank our incredible staff!  This weekend was filled with activities that really reflect their contribution to our camp and why they help make it so special.  On Saturday, we had many new families at camp for our S’more Tour Rookie Day. Several families were alumni; in fact, they were our campers back when Stephanie and I first started…what a treat to have them show up as future camp parents!  The feedback we recived was that they were impressed with our staff (from LITs to CITs to General Counselors, Specialists and Department Heads); they saw counselors involved, spirited, attentive and really caring about the kids!

I often say that I think parents choose Camp Towanda because they trust Stephanie and I to be THEIR parenting partners; to positively impact, influence their kids as well as set the tone for everyone and everything here at camp. BUT, I think one of the many reasons  the kids want to come back for years and years, is because of their counselors.

klasnerWe are very proud of our staff; they get it, they care and while they are definitely learning a lot about themselves (after all being a camp counselor is like taking a Parenting 101 course), they are impacting and caring for your children.

Saturday night’s evening activity was “ultimate camp in action”. The event was TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES which pitted the campers against the staff; the kids lobbed whipped cream pies and buckets and pitchers of BUG JUICE on their counselors. If I told the staff when I interviewed them that on a Saturday night you would voluntarily stand in a kiddie pool while an 7 year old through a pie in your face in front of 750 people, all cheering, dancing, screaming and laughing…I don’t think they would get it…… BUT that is what happened and as youngest and oldest laughed together; the synergy and electricity of our camp relationships boomed into the night.

thumbs upAfterwards we had a pumped up staff meeting as they are eagerly awaiting the upcoming week with your kids.  As the Owners and Directors of camp, we are excited, pleased and proud of how this summer’s camp family is learning from each other, growing together and coming together.
After the staff meeting, we had a comedian from NYC come up and do an hour of college stand-up humor to give our staff a light break….. funny guy, good night and thanks to our Senior Staff who covered the bunks into the wee hours!  Because when the staff are happy campers…our campers are happy campers.

I gotta tell you, we really do pinch ourselves everyday……this place is amazing!

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Got Internships?

In today’s world, we understand and appreciate the decisions young adults make about how to spend their summers.  Summertime is often thought of as a time to decompress, enjoy life, connect with friends and have fun.  But it is also a time to grow.  For young adults, summer usually also means growing professionally and preparing for your career.  But how can you do this while you are working at camp?  Have you considered getting an Internship at Camp Towanda? Here’s everything you need to know about interning at Camp Towanda and why we think it could be the best thing on your resume and for your career!

What kinds of internships are available at Camp Towanda?

Our camp offers internship opportunities in education, media, marketing, graphic design, photography, human resources, food services, sports management, hospitality, coaching, counseling, speech pathology, occupational therapy and nursing.  Did we miss something? Let us know and we will see if we can create a program for you.

How do I become an Intern at camp?

Becoming a summer intern at our camp requires that you first apply for a staff position.  If you are hired as a counselor, our Senior Staff will assist you in applying for an internship, processing the necessary paperwork, and connecting you with your summer mentor.

What’s the difference between an Intern and a counselor?

First and foremost, you are being paid to work at Camp Towanda as a counselor.  As an Intern, you will be juggling your regular daily job responsibilities and it will be up to you to motivate yourself in completing your Internship responsibilities.

How does the Camp Towanda Internship program work?

Once you fill out the necessary paperwork through your school, we will assign you a Summer Mentor.  We have an amazing Senior Staff with incredible talent and ‘real-life’ experience to share.  At the beginning of the summer, you and your mentor will create a program that meets your school’s requirements and Camp Towanda’s expectations.  Together, you will create a list of responsibilities, projects and milestones that will help you achieve your Internship goals.  Coming out of the summer you will be able to walk away from camp with at least one tangible project (a presentation, a video, an essay, etc.).

What are the cost implications for becoming an Intern?

It’s great you are looking at completing an internship at camp…Before you get too involved you need to evaluate many factors, including the costs.  Most universities will charge you for the course credits.  It can be well over $500 per credit hour.

Why should I Intern at Camp when I can intern at a big office in the city?

When you Intern at camp you get the best of both worlds.  A real world job that’s also FUN! Plus, you have a lifetime ahead of you to spend in an office or in the field, right?

Still need convincing (or do your parents need convincing)? 3 more good reasons to Intern this summer at Camp Towanda:

1.  You get paid (plus free room and board!)!  So many internships these days are unpaid and don’t even give you the experience you signed up for.

2.  You get to make a real difference in children’s’ lives while learning real-world career-building skills.  Things like leadership, public speaking, responsibility and accountability…and that’s just your job as a counselor! When you Intern at Camp Towanda, you will also get REAL, HANDS-ON, CAREER-BUILDING experience.  We have plenty of opportunity to go around and we genuinely care about nurturing your success and future.

3.  Coming out of your Internship at Camp Towanda, you will have a networking community (aka Your Towanda Family) behind you to help you network in your career!

Sounds great…where do I start?

You will need to speak with the internship supervisor at your school to determine whether an internship at camp is relevant to your studies…. what objectives they would like you to complete…. how many hours would be required, what projects will you need to work on while at camp…and after camp, etc.  You will then need to prepare a proposal and submit to school for approval.  You can list our Staffing Coordinator as the on campus internship supervisor.

Anything else?

If you would rather follow a more specific course, we are affiliated with two college-credit courses: Gene Ezersky Safety College and Touro College’s Masters program.

Also, check out our blog entry here on “How to Make Camp Counselor the Best Thing on Your Resume”.

Still want more information, please contact jared@camptowanda.com.

The “Prog Blog”

I DON’T WANT TO BE A “BUDA-PEST”, BUT OUR STAFF IS THE BEST!

Everyone at Camp Towanda is integral, important and inspirational to the impact on the summer experience for all members of the Camp Towanda Family. From campers, bunk counselors, qualified instructors and specialists, leaders and senior staff to those behind the scenes who cook, clean and maintain our beautiful camp.

Everyone, one way or another, interacts with our kids; from the guy who cuts the lawn, picks up the garbage, cooks our food, mops the floors to those who work in the laundry, housekeeping or maintenance departments.

It is important, as Owners and Directors that we know everyone at camp…and they know and are comfortable with us as well.

We just returned last night from an inspiring support staff recruiting trip to Prague and Budapest.  Stephanie, Jared and I met with alumni and returnees; seeing, learning and experiencing their culture while interviewing and hiring new staff members to join the 38 returning KMP!  KMP is our term for Kitchen & Maintenance Personnel.

38 returnees; that says a lot about how we care about our KMP Support Staff! Our Operations Director, Mark “Z” Zides, is legendary in the camping industry for overwhelmingly taking care of the KMP; just like Bob & Amy, or Head Counselors, take care of the counselor staff! Z has raised the bar each of his 18 years at Towanda!

Our international staff feel safe and happy while they get into their responsibilities; enhancing, improving and positively impacting the summer’s experience for everyone at Camp Towanda, even though they are so far from home!

Respect, cultural exchange and opportunity  is what sets Camp Towanda apart! Our KMP get involved in our evening activities, special events and exchange of cultural information.  Towanda is woven through people from over 25 states and 17 countries that empowers us all to be ambassadors of our hometowns.

The Americans, former campers or not, welcome, get to know and work side by side with our international staff; adding to the already incredible dynamic experience at camp!

Our staff make life long friends around the world; which evolves into a great itinerary in their future!

Now, after this trip, we are even more excited, pumped and eager to get LUCKY 2013 going; we have a great staff; in the bunks, on the fields and behind the scenes!

Next stop; bring on orientation!

How to Make “Camp Counselor” the Best Thing on Your Resume

By Lauren Eckstein Forman (Dorm 92) and the Social Media and Communications Director at Camp Towanda

I just got back from Staff Orientation and loved meeting the new group of 2012 counselors. We talked about social media responsibility and the role this amazing summer will play in their careers and futures. Following my session with the staff, some of them asked if they should put “Camp Counselor” on their resumes or Linked In profiles (you can imagine my answer!? YES!!!).  Our discussion was timely and one that is being debated in the press (read NYT Article: The Camp Counselor vs. The Intern). I shared with some of the staff my summer job experiences and gave them advice on how they can make “Camp Counselor” the best thing on their resume!

When I was 18, I spent the summer as a counselor at Camp Towanda and then at 19, was a counselor at a local day camp.  It was the perfect way for me to bridge my high school and college years and delay getting “a real job”.  What I didn’t realize then was that those would be the years that really helped shape my leadership skills.  I was in charge of 15 young girls that had different personalities, perspectives and needs.  This required personal experience, empathy, humor and persuasive skills to foster teamwork and to gain their respect and the respect of my fellow counselors.  These were all skills that I would later use in my career as an advertising executive.

When I was “tapped” to become Olympic General (Go Red Flintstones!), I continued to hone my leadership, creative and organizational skills. Orchestrating the apache relay, artfully assigning responsibilities for five days of Olympic activities, handling the high emotions and excitement of friendly competition among peers, and then writing and directing 200 campers for Olympic Sing all prepared me for the fast-paced business world.  It was that summer at Towanda that also gave me the confidence that would propel me throughout my career.

After my two summers as a counselor, I commuted to New York City for an internship at a prominent advertising agency. My internships gave me invaluable experience that ultimately helped me land a job at that same agency after graduation.  But my job as camp counselor primed me for success in the “real world” and was the most fun job I ever had (after all, you are only 20 once!).

Here are my top 5 tips for making “Camp Counselor” something to be proud of including in your Linked In profile:

  1. Become an Intern at camp. Think about your career goals and how you may be able to achieve them at camp. I know that Camp Towanda provides a diverse range of opportunities for not only campers, but counselors too.  You just need to think out of the box.  For example, if you want to go into marketing, I can offer hands-on experience in social media and communications. If you are interested in Hospitality, our Operations staff will take you under their wing.  If you are interested in Film or Graphic Design, inquire about interning for our very own “Erica Media” and help produce amazing content for our camp community. I could go on, but you get the idea.
  2. Camp is a place for networking. There is no better networking than with your camp family.  The bond you make with campers and fellow counselors lasts a lifetime.  I cannot tell you how often I have networked with former campers, counselors and alumni.  Any true former camper will also appreciate the value of “Camp Counselor” when they see it on your resume.  In fact, it is a huge icebreaker on interviews and allows you to convey the passion and energy you would also bring to the workplace.
  3. Take something away from the experience. I loved that the father in the NYT article encouraged his daughter to make a documentary of her experience as a Camp Counselor.  His daughter wanted to go into film, and this was the way he ‘allowed’ her to go away to camp. Having something like a documentary to parade around to interviews takes that “Camp Counselor” on your resume to the next level.
  4. Help employers understand what “Camp Counselor” means. Like the girl in the NYT article, understand the skills and experiences you gained from being a counselor at camp.  Think about which of those translates to the job you are applying for.  I promise you, there will be more skills and experiences from camp than your average internship.
  5. Learn more about yourself at camp. After camp you may understand things about you that you never realized before.  It may help re-focus or shift your career decisions in the future.  For example, before camp you may have wanted to go into PR (Public Relations), but after a summer of dealing with different personalities, sharing, developing, coaching and mentoring, you may decide to go into HR (Human Resources)!

Having rejoined Camp Towanda recently in my post-corporate-world years as Director of Social Media and Communications, I’m finding it every bit as challenging of an experience as when I worked for BBDO, Gillette or The Hershey Company.  By “thinking out of the box”, I was able to unite my career skills and my passions for camp in my most rewarding and fulfilling job yet!