Real talk with nannies: 20 tips for getting your first nanny job
Care.com recently posted the question: “What advice would you give a caregiver just starting out?”
Here are my 20 tips for getting your first job as a child caregiver, based on my 10+ years of experience as a nanny:
- Spell check all communication. Check and double check your profile, applications and messages. If writing is not your strong point, have someone else review your profile information before you post it.
- Make sure profile photos look professional. Go easy on the makeup, and wear something clean and simple that fits well. Orient your primary photograph correctly. I cringe every time I scope out other sitters in my area and get vertigo looking at sideways and diagonal pictures. Your profile is NOT your "party time, sexy girl, let's get wild" Facebook photo.
- Clean up your online presence. Don't think for one moment that parents aren't Googling you. I know I check parents out before I even decide if I'm interested in exchanging messages. Take down any pictures of yourself smoking, drinking or wearing skimpy clothing. If you have friends who post questionable material on your timeline, putting restrictions on their ability to do so is A-OK. If it comes down to money and your J-O-B vs. your drinking friends and party buddies ... well.
- Put in the work that will make you appear higher in a search. Take a first aid class. Do a background check on yourself. Do the DMV check on yourself. Be proactive. These things all move you closer to the top of the first page of applicants that parents see.
- Join a local nanny support group. By support group, I don't mean meet other nannies to hang out at Starbucks. Meet other nannies who are going to help you up your "care game." Educate yourself on current issues in the caregiver community.
- Take the INA basic skills exam. It's largely common sense.
- Create a schedule for yourself. Build in time for self care, because you will need it.
- Keep a "floating resume." Anything could happen at any time, and the more contacts you have, the more stability you can guarantee yourself.
- HAVE. A. WORK. AGREEMENT. Read nanny contracts online, research what should be in them and look up what's common in your state, city and zip code. Know how much you're getting paid and make sure it’s in line with minimum wage laws. Know WHEN you're getting paid, and ask parents to set up automatic payments or payroll.
- BE. LEGAL. Check the IRS website to see what your rights and responsibilities are as a nanny, and make sure parents know their financial responsibilities, as well.
- Familiarize yourself with the neighborhood the family lives in. Where is the library? Park? Swimming pool? Schools? Zoo? Be able to suggest activities that you would take them to beyond "I'll take them to the park."
- Have parents observe you being responsible. If parents expect you to drive or swim, ask them to observe you two or three times before leaving you to do those things alone with the children. It will show that this is a job you are treating as a profession and that you value safety.
- Create and print some simple docs to have parents fill out. Like, who to contact in an emergency, a schedule they can fill out, their work info or a profile of the children (ages, birthdays, names). Have a signed form indicating that they give you consent to treat their child or agree to medical/ life-saving measures in an emergency (or that they DON'T). Have a sheet for any medical or behavioral conditions and any medications the children take.
- Meet the family more than once. Take the initiative to request an observation period (paid) where you shadow the family for few hours to see how they interact with one another and request a follow-up to allow the family to observe you.
- Remember: This is work. Remember you will be in someone's home, privy to their personal space and activities. If it's not illegal, abuse, neglect or endangerment, don't air their laundry to others.
- Take the very easy mandated reporter course. You can find it in lots of places on the internet. See something? Say something. I ask parents about every bruise, bump, scrape, mystery rash or change in behavior.
- Decide what kind of caregiver you are. Are you there for the children or there for the parents? Set up your boundaries, decide with parents what your tasks and responsibilities are and be prepared for "job creep." A lot of nannies lately are transitioning /agreeing to "personal assistant" or "house manager" positions. Know what the differences are and what the responsibilities will be. Don't agree to a task you're hesitant about just to get the job. If the parents want you to do more, sit down to talk about it without the children present. If you don't mind, negotiate a pay increase. Your time is worth it — because, without you, parents wouldn't be able to go to work/school/whatever.
- Check in for an early assessment. Request an initial four-week conference after you begin so everyone can touch base and see how it's working out. After that, agree on a time to do it regularly. Yearly, six months? Also, schedule "conferences" to share what activities you'll be doing with the children every few months. Are they really interested in shapes or trucks? Is the end of the music or swim class coming up and you need parents to enroll in the next one? Does their kid hate music or swimming and you think something else might be a better idea?
- Be firm about what you need, but also be open to compromise. You have to work late hours but they can't pay you more? Maybe the parents can let you use the washer and dryer in exchange if you don't to one. Can you shower while the kids nap or after they go to bed to save time? The parents need you to come on a day you don't work or for a weekend date night and you don't have a car? Can they pay for your Lyft/Uber or taxi ride if it's late or inclement weather, or let you spend the night and go home in the morning? No one works for free, and you are not a charity. Get creative together if they're in a tight place financially and if you have a good relationship with them.
- Keep in touch when you move or switch families. This is as much about building relationships and community as it is a job or profession, and the smallest effort can leave such a positive impression on the children and families.
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