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!