From Peg

Peg L. Smith, CEO

It’s not a job — it’s a resume builder! It’s an opportunity to have a positive impact on the life of another, as well as your own.

Working at camp this summer may be of far more value than you realize. Don’t underestimate the short- and long-term advantages that your summer employment may deliver. Think about this quote from True North, a recent leadership development book by Bill George with Doug Baker: “The missing link in leadership development is having a safe place where people can share their experiences, challenges, and frustrations, and receive honest feedback.” The only thing they failed to say is that this describes the “camp” work environment.

As an emerging leader, camp gives you real-world experience, an opportunity to receive immediate and relevant reflection and feedback designed to ensure success, and a chance to learn to work in groups sharing interactions and problem solving. Camp directors and owners invest in the training and development of their counselors knowing that you are the key component to successful, positive camp experiences. Developing you as a leader is important and directly related to the growth and development of all the campers you are working with this summer. You are molding and shaping moral and engaged future leaders who will contribute to the health and success of our globe. This is an important job.

We also know that smart leaders must possess emotional intelligence if they hope to use their IQ successfully — maximizing performance and future business success. Understanding these competencies and knowing how to articulate them when developing a future resume or during an interview is critical. Let’s consider the value of your expanded self-awareness: Through coaching and mentorship, you will learn to be aware of emotions and attitudes and how they can affect people’s subsequent abilities to participate, contribute, or perform. As a leader, this kind of understanding gives you insight into relationships and the opportunity to diminish unproductive and wasted energy.

Knowledge of emotions also advances your ability to apply self-discipline and regulation to your own performance. You will understand how to work with others to identify constructive improvement strategies that people appreciate versus punitive, frustrated criticism. Verbal and non-verbal acumen will be a critical ingredient to your leadership development. Social skills as simple as direct eye contact, easy introductions, and firm handshakes demonstrate confidence and interest in others. If you are present, participatory, and open to learning as much as you are teaching, the camp experience will be your own self-discovery process. This job is a journey that gives you guideposts to help you throughout your entire career.

We always tell campers that they can redefine themselves at camp — they can shed old labels and discover new talents, skills, and friendships. Camp counselors have a similar opportunity. As you fine tune your leadership skills, such as communication, problem solving, conflict resolution, team work, and reflection, you, too, will make friends who will be lifelong members of your influential network. Envision who you want to be as a leader and create that future this summer.

Originally published in the 2012 May/June Camping Magazine.

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