For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved two things with equal passion: reading and summer camp. Right now, I’m reading Camp by Michael Eisner, the former Disney CEO and frequent headline maker. So it probably won’t surprise you that I’m enjoying the book.
What does surprise me is how many connections I see between summer campers and job seekers. Take a look at the criteria that make an “ideal camper” for Eisner’s Camp Keewaydin (his alma mater to which he credits more educational take-aways than college and graduate school) and connections that I see in the job search.
An ideal camper must be honest and loyal.
Job Search: Never speak ill of past or current colleagues or employers. Especially not in writing. When you find yourself in an ethical dilemma, do the right thing but do it discreetly. (I once left an internship for academic credit after one day after observing questionable activity...I did it through working with the system at my school, and my faculty advisor taught me how to sign off gracefully.)
Job Search: Speak of your strengths but don’t misrepresent what you can do. Remember you’ll be asked to perform a task when you are hired. No one likes to be out in the wilderness indefinitely if not equipped.
Always be willing to help.
Job Search: Offering assistance to others even when you’re in need of help yourself makes others more inclined to help you—and makes you more likeable.
Job Search: Whining and complaining are rarely productive, and universally unappealing to most. Save your frustrations to share with your inner circle—not the world.
Be a leader.
Job Search: Taking initiative and seizing opportunities before they land in your lap speeds up the process to job offers, it also builds trust and the confidence of others in your abilities.
Job Search: Just as there are multiple ways to start a fire, there is more than one position that’s right for you. Don’t limit yourself to one way—or one opportunity.
Take your medicine when “deserved”
Job Search: Be open to feedback, it can help you improve. If market conditions have changed in your industry sector or field, be prepared to make adjustments and decide what level of change you are comfortable with.
Be willing to help the “other fellow”
Job Search: Share job leads and advice with others. If you see a position that isn't right for you, pass it on. Good karma goes around.
Like Camp Keewaydin, my summer camp, Merrowvista, has a strong creed that all campers see daily--a challenge to be "My own self, at my very best, all the time." Run by the American Youth Foundation, Merrowvista also teaches program participants to seek a balanced life--physically, mentally, spiritually, and socially. This may sound dry and lofty, but take a look at the camp's solemn dance (note: some of the participants are actually parents of campers).
I live in Manhattan now, but the camper I was at 16 has never fully left me. I may not carry canoes over my head for 200 yards anymore, but I do take buses and subways with luggage. I don't take my bike out on trips that average 65-70 miles a day anymore, but the lessons learned from a three week 1200 mile trip to Nova Scotia when I was 16 inspire me to take on big projects one step at a time.
The experiences I had at camp changed my life, what changed yours? And what fuels your job search? Share.