Writing Camp Jobs On A Resume

A front-line camp counselor has either “Got kids from one activity to another, and made sure the kids weren’t bullying each other” or “Led children and teens through a creative sequence of challenging activities” and “Responded decisively to misbehavior and social conflict by implementing collaborative problem-solving, logical consequences, and one-on-one counseling.” Which will spark the interest of a future employer?

An activity specialist has either “Run girls’ archery most of the day, swept the equipment house, and re-fletched broken arrows” or “Supervised the progressive instruction of target archery and range safety for girls ages 10 to 14,” and “Actively maintained a clean and safe collection of recurve bows and cedar arrows for period use and inter-camp competitions.” Which sounds more impressive?

A Real Job

No responsibility rivals that of caring for children. If staff members have fulfilled this responsibility successfully, they should be able to communicate that success clearly. Indeed, resumes, cover letters, and interviews should convey professionalism so clearly that they eclipse the distorted, pop-culture image of summer camp.

When I graduated from college and continued working summers as the waterfront director at YMCA Camp Belknap, I was often asked, “When are you going to get a real job?” As if preventing drowning, treating homesickness, and teaching swimming and sailing were not real.

Almost as irksome were my camp colleagues, who kept making a distinction between “the camp world” and “the real world.” As if camp were imaginary.

How can staff members present themselves as youth-development professionals if they believe they do trivial jobs in a make-believe world? Wake up, camp staff! You must first take yourselves seriously if you want others to take you seriously.

You are leaders and youth-development professionals, but no one will ever know that unless you present yourself professionally. And if you must make a distinction, please have it be between “the camp world” and “the outside world.” Both are real; one just has far less violence, strife, and cruelty.

I decisively silenced the doubters in my circle of friends and family by authoring research papers and a book about camp. Somehow, peer-reviewed publications made my commitment to camping unambiguous.

What about front-line camp staff? Well, whether the members stay in camping or apply their skills elsewhere, all staff must ensure that their most scrutinized publication—their resume—also passes muster.

And each must be ready to answer “When are you going to get a real job?” with the solemn and inspiring retort: “I change kids’ lives. It doesn’t get any more real than that.”

Dr. Christopher Thurber is a board-certified clinical psychologist, father, and educator. He co-wrote the Summer Camp Handbook and co-founded ExpertOnlineTraining.com, a source of video training modules for camp staff. Chris also created a DVD-CD set called The Secret Ingredients of Summer Camp Success, which reportedly lowers the intensity of first-year campers’ homesickness by 50 percent. He can be reached at chris@campspirit.com or follow him @drchristhurber.


Consider the following sample résumé entries that describe a camp job. Note the format, writing style, and content of each entry. What do you notice when you compare the weak and strong entries?

Weak: This summer and last summer I was a camp counselor at Camp Chinook, which is somewhere in New Hampshire. These were the summers of 2010 and 2011. It was a fun experience because I love working with kids and I had a lot of free time.

Strong: Cabin Leader—Camp Chinook summer 2010, 2011

Coordinated activities and supervised ten 9- and 10-year-old boys at a traditional overnight camp on Lake Winniper, NH. Designed and led adventure programs on a 26-element low-ropes course.

Weak: Camp Counselor

Worked really hard with some other college-age girls at an all-girls camp in Maine (also known as Vacationland).

• Lerned a lot about woking with kids and deligating responsability and working as part of a team and the importance of sleep.

Strong: Division Leader—Camp Placid summer 2010, 2011

Collaborated with a team of six peers to implement safe and exciting individual and group activities during four two-week sessions at a traditional girls’ overnight camp in New England. Responded rapidly to parents’ concerns with telephone calls and emails. Completed end-of-summer evaluations for divisional staff.

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