By Jill Goldstein, URJ Camp Coleman alumna 1997-2008
We’ve all heard it from our fellow camp friends:
“I can’t go to camp this summer, I have to go get a real job.”
And perhaps many of us have heard from various camp leadership staff and organizations and retreats (for me it was drilled into my brain at the Foundation for Jewish Camp’s Cornerstone Fellowship conference) – camp IS a real job.
Well, for those whose first career path isn’t going to be camping, I would like to share a small example of how summer camp can at least help you get the job you want.
While studying Broadcast Journalism (and Jewish History) at New York University, I’d applied to work at the NYU-TV station. My resume listed all my related internships and coursework, but I also included an “additional skills” section… which included that I was certified to teach Archery. Archery? Yea, I’m not too athletic, but the previous summer at URJ Camp Coleman several of us trained to teach it during sports rotations. Somehow that little tidbit caught the eye of the station director, and it became a great topic of conversation between us. I’m convinced that that was a real help in us connecting during the interview, a way to break the ice, and a big contributor to my landing the job. But that was just a small college work-study job. Not a CAREER just yet.
I couldn’t find a full-time job before I graduated. Luckily Camp Coleman needed programming/education staff and accepted me back at the last minute. I had lots of internships listed on my resume when I was applying for positions at TV stations – internships at MSNBC, CNN, etc. Those were all well and good, but I felt I also needed to list my time at URJ Camp Coleman since that had been my only paid job (minus the work-study in college). Plus, I learned a lot while working at camp.
In 2008 I returned from Coleman in Cleveland, Georgia to New York City where I had a part-time job as a NFTY-affiliated youth group advisor and would also search for full-time employment in the television news industry.
I finally landed at interview at my current employer, a 24/7 cable TV news station, and it went great. But I think it particularly took off when my now-supervisor saw I’d listed many summers working at overnight camp. BAM! It’s like being in a sorority or fraternity, a secret society. He’s not Jewish but he felt he could understand because he’d been a part of Boy Scout camp.
The important thing about our conversation was that it didn’t focus as much on campfire s’mores and scary stories as much as it did on relating camp to the field we work in. I talked about the stress of being responsible for creating programming on short notice with limited resources and how those skills translate to being able to work in any high-stress environment (such as a television control room in the midst of breaking news). He totally got it.
And, I like to think that had he not been a “camp person” himself, I would have been able to convey the ways camp-learned skills could influence my success in any position.
-Communication – working closely with co-counselors from various cultural backgrounds who sometimes even speak different languages.
-Creative problem solving – like coming up with ways to entertain large groups of children stuck inside during a scary thunderstorm with access to five apples, some toilet paper and a hula hoop.
-Flexibility and being a quick learner – understanding that you never know which specialist is going to be sick and at any second you might have to teach dance or basketball or how to make a mosaic out of pom-poms and googley eyes.
-Teamwork – well, I think this is obvious enough to need no explanation and completely applicable to most professional workplaces.
-Fun – who doesn’t like being around someone who loves fun?
-And, odd as it may seem, working with children has also been helpful in a direct way. I’ve been asked to help coordinate the station’s “Bring Your Child to Work Day” activities, run portions of our college internship program, and lead tour of the station for boy scout troops and summer camp groups because of my experience working with kids and supervising peers and young adults.
All of these are fantastic skills needed at camp AND in other jobs within fields ranging from marketing to business, financial to food services, and so many others.
So the next time someone tells you that overnight summer camp isn’t a real job, remember: Situations you face in the world of camping can be as REAL as it gets!