One of the biggest influences in my life has to be my summers spent on Great Pond at Camp Runoia. As a young professional, I can tie back many life lessons learned from those years and how they have made me a better worker, professional, and peer. Working in advertising can be very unpredictable, with deadlines, change requests, crazy clients, etc., but nothing can prepare you for canoeing down a river trying to make it to your campsite with ten 12 year olds during a severe lightning storm.
Lesson 1 – “Fake it till you make it”
This lesson really came from the summers I spent as a counselor – two years teaching sailing and one as a wilderness trip leader. Being fresh out of high school and enlisted with the responsibility of overseeing kids all day, you quickly learn how to fake it. Not in the sense of inexperience, (if you are going to be teaching sailing, you must have the credentials) but in the sense that when the unexpected happens — you are the adult that makes the decisions.
The first time I really faced this, and had the “Oh sh**, I’m in charge moment” was on a backpacking trip when half way up the mountain, one of the girls with asthma turned to me and said she needed her inhaler. When I checked to see if it was in our medical kit, I found it was not. In that moment, you can either panic or, look at the scenario and figure out how to fix it. This is when you learn the skills of ownership and the ability to make decisions, because there is not always time to think about things, but to find the best solution and keep moving.
Lesson 2 – You can’t choose your coworkers, but you can choose how to work with them
Working on a camp staff, you get the spectrum of personalities from all different walks of life, and essentially have to spend 24/7 with them for 10 weeks. Early on you learn there are many approaches to teaching kids sailing lessons, managing mealtime table manners, motivating cabin cleanup, and leading evening activities. You begin to understand that you may not always agree on how the other person works, but to be part of a team, you must respect them. The same goes for working in a professional environment. In order to successfully be a part of a team, you must respect and understand that everyone is working towards the same goal of doing the best work possible, and finding how to align with everyone to be successful.
Lesson 3 – How to Herd Cats – or Kittens
As a project manager, you must the have the ability to “herd cats” aka, lead an unpredictable, diverse team along in order to meet all your deliverables and deadlines. The same can be said as a camp counselor. Motivating girls who are completely out of their element as they hike the tallest mountain or go in a sailboat for the first time is challenging. People can always be resistant, but finding the right ways to communicate and motivate will get you far. I’ve successfully lead 13 year olds up Mount Katadin, and I’ve successfully lead a creative team to produce a 50 website page creative in 10 days.
Lesson 4 – There is always time for fun
No matter where you work or what you are doing, it is always great to remember to have fun. There is always time for silliness and dancing (as I am the queen of that) and to remember it is only a job.