Writing Camp Jobs On A Resume

Anyone who includes a camp job on a resume begins a fight. Thanks, in part, to movies like Meatballs, Friday the 13th, and Wet Hot American Summer, camp counselors must struggle against a pop-culture image of camp that includes food fights, panty raids, and crazed killers.

Yes, I know, the last time someone actually flew underwear up a flagpole was 1965, but most employers don’t know that.

Geographer and commentator Dr. Jon Malinowski has written wryly and wisely on this countervailing force against which all camp professionals wrestle. He refers to it as “The Curse of Kumbaya.”

That is shorthand for the misconception that camp jobs are not real jobs. Who would want to hire a young adult who spends his or her summer drinking, tanning, and singing hackneyed songs with 8-year-olds?

Wouldn’t those young adults who interned at Bear Sterns—er, Goldman-Sachs—make better managers?

The truth is leadership experiences at high-quality summer camps teach life skills, and hone a work ethic that pays dividends throughout an equally demanding non-camp career.

Reverse The Curse

To reverse the curse, staff members must choose their words wisely, copy edit carefully, and describe the magnitude of their responsibility. On a resume, everything matters, including printing on watermarked paper with at least 25-percent cotton-fiber content.

No one cares what you write on when you’re at camp—an index card, the back of your hand, or a piece of birch bark—but in the outside world, it matters.

Coach staff members to switch gears and embrace a professional presentation, not just a professional description, of their work at camp.

Choosing words wisely begins with shedding camp lingo. No one in the corporate world—or anywhere else outside your camp—will understand what it means to have been “Head Weebelo” or “Chief Bob” or “Scollege Monster” or “Master Firefly.”

I get it. You had a fun camp nickname, and so did your position. Now let it go. To a prospective employer, you were “Division Leader for Youngest Boys” or “Director of Arts and Crafts” or “Assistant Waterfront Director.”

Next comes careful copy editing. Here I must state the core principle with the utmost clarity: There can be no typos on a professional resume. Not a single one.

When I find a typo on a resume, I immediately think three things:

1. This person did not care much about how he or she presented themselves.

2. This person did not have a friend proofread this singularly important piece of paper.

3. I want to hire someone who actually cares, so who is next in the pile?

Those who think that my little thought-train sounds harsh are the ones who won’t get choice jobs. It’s as simple as that. Proofread every word of your resume for misspellings, omissions, and non-grammatical constructions.

Say It Like A Pro, Because You Are

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, is describing the magnitude of the responsibility camp staff members have. In the sample resume included with this article, I’ve presented contrasting descriptions of the same job.

Here are some additional examples of the distinction between an informal and a professional way of describing camp jobs.

A program director has either “Scheduled games and activities for campers, and worked with staff to be sure they covered everything” or “Orchestrated a dynamic program of sports, arts, and games for children ages 8 to 12, and “Coordinated activity leadership, and conducted periodic staff and program safety audits.” Same job; different description.

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  1. Staff Recruitment – Beyond the Resume
  2. The Beauties Of Camp Duties
  3. Continuous Professional Development
  4. Kids’ Big Fears, Part II
  5. Staying Relevant
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