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Gwen­dolyn Hodge | Courtesy

When I worked as a camp coun­selor at a Christian sleep-away camp in New Jersey, I never imagined my expe­rience would help me get a job at the Supreme Court. Playing dodgeball and singing campfire songs with pre-teens might not seem related to attending office meetings in a suit with mid-level pro­fes­sionals — but they are!

With the arrival of spring comes the sudden onset of the dis­cussion of summer plans. This summer, embrace the unex­pected, the unusual, the unique.

What made my expe­rience as a camp coun­selor valuable to my employers was its prac­ti­cality and the way I talked about my job. Camp demands real problem-solving skills because you never can plan for a camper to kick a beehive and sud­denly swarm 50 others with angry bees. When I talked about camp in inter­views, potential employers could tell that I was pas­sionate about what I was doing and that I put my every­thing into it. Coun­selling wasn’t the most glam­orous or impressive job, but to me, it was. Learning how to market yourself and your expe­ri­ences is one of the best skills you can learn.

I would not have interned in the private sector, with the federal gov­ernment, for non­profits had I not taken two summers to work as a summer camp coun­selor. When I was hired as an intern for the Supreme Court of the United States the summer after my junior year,  I was told ver­batim that it was my expe­rience as a summer camp coun­selor that con­vinced them to hire me.

High-profile intern­ships at accounting firms or on Capitol Hill are often viewed more favorably than working retail or nan­nying, but most of these expe­ri­ences have some­thing valuable in them. Forbes reported on a study by The National Asso­ci­ation of Col­leges and Employers that examined the con­nection between intern­ships and full employment upon grad­u­ation.

The results they found were sur­prising: Those who had com­pleted an unpaid summer internship loosely related to their field had a hiring rate of 35 percent while those who had com­pleted some sort of paid job, also loosely related to their field, had a hiring rate of 67 percent.

Take a job you never foresaw yourself doing. I have friends who have worked in salmon plants and learned more in three weeks about man­agement than friends who have spent three months interning at some high-powered mer­chan­diser.

Junior Jackson Ventrella’s past summer in Alaska pro­cessing salmon pre­pared him pro­fes­sionally to do his best no matter the task.

“Even though cutting fish 16 hours a day is quite frankly a pretty low job, it cul­ti­vates the ability to work hard,” Ven­trella said.

Whether Alaska or abroad, stu­dents should seri­ously con­sider expanding their studies beyond just the Hillsdale College campus. My junior year, I spent my fall semester at the Uni­versity of Oxford and my spring semester in the Wash­ington-Hillsdale Internship Program. My expe­rience at Oxford helped market my résumé to the public affairs firm I worked for in D.C. This is not typical, however. On average, five stu­dents study abroad in Europe and around 20 par­tic­ipate in Wash­ington-Hillsdale Internship Program each semester. Very few Hillsdale stu­dents choose to spend semesters pur­suing these oppor­tu­nities.

While I missed campus, I would not change the way I spent my junior year.  It can be hard to com­plete all of your major and minor require­ments while missing a year of classes on campus, but if you plan ahead and talk to your department, it is doable and enjoyable.  

Every internship or job will teach important lessons and prepare you for your future in ways you never imagined, even if it seems trivial or worthless at first. Be proud of your expe­ri­ences and learn how to market yourself. In the long run, you won’t regret it. Do the unex­pected.