If your college community is anything like mine, you're probably surrounded by peers who find themselves stressed out this time of year as a result of internship applications. 'Tis the season for figuring out what you're gonna do this summer. In today's cut-throat world, everyone seems determined to get one step closer to the promised land of corporate America by doing some sort of summer internship that will "advance their career" or "flesh out their resume". With all due respect to the employers out there looking for summer interns, I believe there's something better you can do with your summer to prepare yourself for the real world - go work at summer camp.
I wholeheartedly believe that the best thing you could do to improve yourself as a human being, and future employee out there in the real world, is to be a summer camp counselor. What does living in a cabin in the woods have to do with professional development, you ask? Why should you waste your time hanging out with kids, when you could be hobnobbing with adults all summer, making connections that'll pay off once you're in the real world? The simple is answer is this: at camp, you learn how to interact with other human beings. You learn to understand human beings. Whatever you do in the real world, the ability to connect with people will be of paramount importance. You could have all the book-smart knowledge in the world, but if you lack emotional intelligence, then (forgive my bluntness) you'll be worthless in the workforce. Certainly, there are other ways to hone these skills.....but just think for a second about what working at summer camp entails. Everyday, you wake up having no idea what will happen. As a counselor, your sole responsibility is the happiness of a dozen children. Though that job sounds easy enough, the unpredictability of each day causes you to think on your toes in ways that you're not required to do for most jobs--but in a way that most employers would love for prospective employees to be able to do. The job requires improvisation and empathy. You must balance the individual wants and needs of a variety of people, in an effort to form them into a cohesive group. Where else can you work on these skills in such a concentrated, intentional environment?
Admittedly, I'm speaking from a place of bias. I've had the unique pleasure of being a summer camp staff member for the past six years, and I have grown both personally and professionally in a multitude of ways. I've aided children in conflict resolution, improvised rainy day activities during unexpected pop-up storms, and helped children through intense emotional situations. All of this and more has prepared me to go out into the real world confident in my ability to bridge gaps between human beings and to think on my feet. When you're considering what you should do this summer, and you feel like you have to get an internship in a metropolitan office in order to advance your professional career, think twice--and consider applying to be a summer camp counselor instead. It'll change your life, as you simultaneously change the lives of others.