Caregivers: 6 smart things to do right now for your post-pandemic job search

April 16, 2020

If you’re a professional caregiver, nanny or sitter who has recently lost work as a result of state-issued “stay-at-home” orders and various economic forces at play during the coronavirus pandemic, you’re not alone. This time has been especially stressful for caregivers. 

“Many working people, like domestic workers, don’t have the ability to save up for emergencies, take paid time off or have affordable or reliable healthcare,” notes Palak Shah, Innovations Director at the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), which has established a much-needed Coronavirus Care Fund to support caregivers currently struggling with unemployment and surprise expenses.

The situation might feel dire, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. “Prior to the pandemic, excellent nannies were in high demand,” says Shenandoah Davis, co-founder and chief executive officer of Adventure Nannies. “We believe at the end of this pandemic, there will be more available nannying jobs than ever, as well as more qualified candidates in the job market than we've seen for the past few years.” 

It’s for that reason that you’ll do well to use this time to prepare to attract the type of employer you hope to find, and, if you haven’t already, take crucial steps to protect yourself down the road.

Here, all the smart moves Davis and other experts advise caregivers to make now.

1. Make sure you’re being paid legally

“When you are paid legally, if you are laid off due to no fault of your own, you will have access to unemployment benefits,” points out Eva MacCleery, Director, Client Service, Care.com HomePay. “If you need to take out a loan, and you have been paid on the books, you will have pay stubs documenting your work history. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, there are many benefits caregivers paid legally are qualifying for when they need it most, such as stimulus checks, paid leave and expanded unemployment benefits.”

Davis echoes that sentiment, observing that many nannies are now experiencing additional difficulty during this pandemic because being paid under the table has left them ineligible to receive sick pay or unemployment. 

That said, be sure to refuse any long-term cash or “off the books” jobs and advocate for yourself with employers to make sure you get paid legally. You can provide them with a signed W-4, which they need to withhold taxes from your pay, and, if they need more information, point them to Fair and Legal Pay, a new resource for household employees and their employers.

2. Get a contract

If you haven’t drawn up a nanny contract or babysitter contract, tackle this professional caregiver must-do. It can be as simple or exhaustive as you and your employer feel comfortable with, says Davis. But at the bare minimum, it should cover your job duties, responsibilities, schedule, compensation, benefits and any paid time off offered. It's also important to spell out the terms of separation, a non-disclosure agreement, and/or social media policy.

In short, the document should lay out the groundwork for your employment, which you and your employer can refer back to on an ongoing basis. Note that if you are working with a reputable agency, they should be providing the family with a templated agreement. But if you’re setting up the terms of your employment one-on-one, you can use a free sample contract from Care.com HomePay or the A to Z Nanny Contract, which costs $40. 

3. Gather your references

Now, while we’re all practicing physical distancing to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, could be the ideal time to reconnect with references to touch base. “See how their families are faring during this pandemic, let them know you will be starting a search for a new position in the next couple of months and get their permission to be contacted by potential employers or agencies,” says Davis. “It's a great time to remind them that a positive reference from them will help you and that you enjoyed the time you spent working with their family.” 

She also recommends double-checking that the positions on your resume correspond with your references, as most families and reputable agencies will be collecting a reference for each position you have listed.

4. Step up your marketing game

“With many nannies out of work, this increases the options parents have who are looking for caregivers,” notes Tonya Sakowicz, co-president of the International Nanny Association and founder of Newborn Care Solutions. “If your online presence is negative or unprofessional, a potential employer may move on without ever even considering your qualifications.”

That said, brush up your resume — Davis recommends learning to use a design platform like Canva to make yours eye-catching — and your online presence to sell your services by doing the following:  

Amplify your credentials

Boosting your child care credentials, if possible, is always worthwhile “Investing in yourself is never a bad move,” says Sakowicz. “Now is no exception.  Many companies are offering free or reduced cost resources and classes, or have instituted payment plan options.”

You might check out various child care training courses, like one on caring for newborns offered through Newborn Care Solutions. Or become a Credentialed Nanny through the International Nanny Association (INA) by passing the INA Nanny Credential Exam.

Update your job profile

Whether you have a job profile on Care.com or another platform, make sure to list your most up-to-date skills and experience, upload a professional photo of yourself and encourage past and present employers to leave reviews. In many cases, your job profile is the first chance to make an impression — so make it count.

Create or update your website

Check out platforms such as Squarespace or Wix to develop your own website, which will host some of your professional accomplishments, advises Davis.

Polish your social media profiles 

In addition to making sure that your Instagram and Facebook accounts are either privatized or professional, be sure to pay special attention to LinkedIn. “Many nannies get turned down for interviewing with families because a parent checked out their LinkedIn profile and saw that they had 'marketing associate' or a non-nanny job listed as their title,” notes Davis. “Ask friends and peers for recommendations on LinkedIn and join like-minded and educational groups.”  

5. Update your rates

Take this time to ensure you’re being paid appropriately by checking the current going rates for your local area and taking your skill set and workload into consideration. 

“Rate information in your area may change in light of the ongoing situation,” says Sakowicz. “The reality is that market rates have always been based on supply and demand. Check multiple sources, and compare rates against your personal experience and education and adjust accordingly if you need to. And if you are on the higher end of the range for your area, be prepared to justify that rate through solid references and up-to-date education.” 

A couple of resources: Find the most current average rates, depending on location and number of children, with the Care.com Cost of Childcare calculator. Or, Davis says placement agency job board listings can also give you an idea of accurate rates. 

6. Join a networking group

Becoming a member of a professional group, such as the INA or the U.S. Nanny Association, can provide you with a wealth of resources and support. For instance, the INA has ongoing webinars for free right now and offers members networking opportunities through their member-only Facebook group while the U.S. Nanny Association boasts expert webinars and a digital library with work agreements, interview questions and child care education.

The bottom line

Whether you’re preparing to work for an employer deemed an essential worker or to find a new client in the future, you can use this time to get yourself organized and bolster your career, says Sakowicz. “That way, when the jobs start coming, you are ready to launch.”

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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