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OK, you want to work at a summer camp? That’s amazing! We know you’re going to have an incredible experience. So, you do your research, find a camp, apply online, and now you have an interview scheduled. Wouldn’t it be helpful to know what qualities camp directors look for when interviewing potential summer staff? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! We surveyed camp directors from 15 different camps and asked them, “What qualities make the best camp counselors?” Here are some clear themes that emerged:

  1. Fun / Energetic: This should come as no surprise. Some of the most successful summer camp staff bring energy and enthusiasm to their work. “It’s always great when a staff member has a fun and outgoing personality to get the campers engaged in any and all activities. When they smile, the kids smile”, says Hayley Burrows, Junior Camp Director at Shibley Day Camp. Fun and upbeat have a contagious energy that is felt by both the campers and staff. Carly Meltzer, Director at Camp Wicosuta, agrees. “So many successful staff know how to have fun, and not just with their kids, but also with their co-workers.”

  1. Takes Initiative / Team Player: Summer camps are always looking for summer staff who take initiative and work towards the larger goal of supporting the whole community. “Staff members who get things done without being asked tend to gain my respect the fastest. Whether it’s moving beds and dressers, grabbing a toothbrush, or taking the extra time with a camper. The counselors who have the drive to go the extra mile stand above the rest”, says Max Harder, Staffing Director at Lake of the Woods & Greenwoods Camps. Debbie Sasson, Director at Camp Akeela, also appreciates staff who take initiative. “The best staff notice things and take action without waiting for a supervisor to say something!” Cory Dockswell, Director at Camp Wicosuta, shares how they look for staff who are team players, “[We look for] someone who enjoys working with others and derives satisfaction from rising as a group, as opposed to being mostly focused on individual success.”

  1. Adaptable / Flexible: Camp is a dynamic place that changes all the time. The camp directors we surveyed agree that the staff who excel during the summer can be flexible, compromise, and adapt quickly to change. “No matter what we share with staff beforehand, camp will present situations that require them to adapt and carry on with their jobs in a way they didn’t expect”, says Kevin Trimble, Director of Beyond Akeela. Jared Gelb, Director of Camp Ramaquois, agrees. “When working with children, things often don’t go the way they’re planned. Some of the best staff are adaptable to new situations.”
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  1. Empathetic: When working with children, it’s helpful to be able to put yourself in their shoes and see things from their perspective. Empathetic staff can naturally connect with many different campers. “Staff with empathy, and those that truly care about what they do and the people they lead are the best camp role models.” says Jared from Camp Ramaquois. Randi Chase, Associate Director at Shibley Day Camp, shares how empathy creates connections between campers and staff. “Empathy – trying your best to understand your camper by putting yourself in their shoes will no doubt help you understand them better and create a special bond between you.”

  1. Patient: Working with children is a very rewarding and fulfilling experience. Our directors agree that patience is one quality that is incredibly supportive to staff in the camp environment. “All of us have good days and bad. Campers can be super fun, and also challenging. Patience helps counselors accommodate and respond to these challenges effectively”, says Randi from Shibley Day Camp. Sydney Bozeman, Social Media & Communications Coordinator at Camp Kippewa, has seen firsthand how patience is important for staff. “The best counselors are working passionately all summer long, and this requires a lot of energy! Having patience in all areas will help yourself and others around you.”