Landing a job as an au pair really is one of the best ways to surround yourself around new people and dive into a whole new culture. Even still you really need to be prepared and have a good understanding of what you are getting into. There are thousands of wonderful stories about au pairs being shown the world by their adoptive families, touring the Swiss Alps, and lying around on Spanish beaches. Yet, if you look around and listen to former au pairs there are quite a few horror stories as well. This article isn’t meant to shoot down your dream or convince you not to become an au pair in any way; it is just a method of ensuring that you are prepared for what you may be getting into.
Taking care of children and performing light household chores in return for full room and board, as well as a little bit of pocket money, sounds like a pretty reasonable deal. There is a lot more to it than that. There is quite a lot of conflict that can come about when you take upon a job where you move to a foreign place, live with a foreign family, and join in with their family, customs, and traditions. Needless to say there are quite a few things that could go wrong, but an open mind and careful planning can go a long way into making sure you have a positive experience as an au pair. If all goes well you will be hard pressed to find a more rewarding and eye opening experience out there, without having to spend much money at all.
In order to help you get on your way to having a positive experience as an au pair, here are 5 tips for getting a job as an au pair and making sure it is the right fit for you.
Au Pair Tip #1- Make Use of All Available Resources
You have quite a few resources available to you when it comes to finding work as an au-pair, analyzing prospective families, and finding the right contract. You can opt to seek out work through an agency or use au pair networking sites that are quickly becoming more readily available.
If you opt to use an agency to find work as an au pair, then the company will take care of the contract and agreement and ensure that any demands you have are met. This brings with it an obvious advantage in terms of having a third party to negotiate through and mediate. However, the use of an agency also usually comes with a fee and very little flexibility. In some instances agencies will set a salary far lower than what actual families are willing to give out, and are unwilling to budge when it comes to negotiations.
On the other hand if you work through a networking site then you have the ability to negotiate terms, barter back and forth, and come up with a contract that works mutually for you and the host family. A great place to start is Great Aupair which helps families find au pairs around the world and vice versa. At first you may be able to find a few jobs without signing up to pay for the service, but if over time you have no luck than you may want to pay the minimal fee which will allow you to contact families, and thus appear more outgoing and driven.
While the networking sites will allow you to find a family on your own and work through the terms of the arrangement, you will be on your own with no one really insuring that the host family meets their end of the bargain. If you go this route things may end up better but you have to realize that it is up to you to make sure you are treated fairly. Au pair literally translates to “living on equal terms” so keep this in mind when negotiating a contract and working as an au pair.
Au Pair Tip #2- Be Prepared Ready to Learn
It will help a great deal when it comes to your experience as an au pair if you have an idea of what you are getting into and what you want to take away from the opportunity. Are you looking for a serious and professional working relationship with the family, or do you want to be treated like a member of the family? Do you want to live in a beautiful country home and enjoy the outdoors, or set up shop in the big city in the middle of a shopping district? These are all decisions and options that you need to weigh and decide upon before seeking out a family. If you are stuck in a country villa and hate the outdoors, chances are you are not going to enjoy the experience as much.
All in all being an au pair is all about what you are willing to make it. You will not always have the opportunity to get out and meet new people or make new friends. Be prepared to be alone sometimes and have an open mind when it comes to local activities and experiences that your new home has to offer. You have choice in the matter so make sure you are heading into a positive situation that offers you the things you are looking for. If you feel uneasy about where you are headed, take a few steps back and reconsider your options.
Au Pair Tip #3- Contract, Contract, Contract
There is no rush for you to agree on an au pair job, pack your bags, and move around. Ask as many questions as you can and really do your best to find out exactly what your host family is going to be like. It may seem awkward to ask about things such as career, parenting habits, and religion, but they are all important questions. It is important for you and the family that you know exactly what you are getting into. This is a big step for you and a big step for them, and they should be comfortable answering any question you have, and vice versa.
There are also a number of employment details that need to be discussed and placed within the contract that you and the family agree upon. This includes matters such as your schedule, chores you will be expected to do, flight compensation, pocket money, vacation time, and so on. This doesn’t mean you have to spend hours or pay a lawyer hundreds of dollars to write up a legal contract, but you should have it all in writing. Having it all written down can help you avoid a dispute with the family when the time comes for your Saturday night off or if they ask you to do chores that you are not comfortable doing.
Au Pair Tip #4- Be Honest
The last thing you want to do is lie about yourself and the things you enjoy doing when connecting with a family. Being able to share as much information about yourself and being as honest as possible will go a long way into creating a comfortable atmosphere. Honesty will often help you land an au pair job and will ensure that there are no unpleasant surprises when you arrive. If you tell them that you are a five star cook and they ask you to cook dinner, they are not going to be very pleased when you put Kraft Dinner on the table.
If the family knows all about you and understands what they are getting and you know what you are getting into, the transition for both of you will be made a whole lot easier.
Au Pair Tip #5- Go with your Gut
If you are uneasy about the situation or contract you are getting into, take note of it. Do not simply blow off your instincts as being too precautious. If you have a bad feeling about the family over the phone then that feeling is most likely going to carry over when you get there in person. Have an open mind and be willing to work through things and take on new experiences, but trust yourself if you get a bad feeling.
It is important to remember that the family is often taking a much larger risk than you are. They are inviting you into their home, allowing you to take care of their children and giving you a lot of responsibility. If they are willing to trust you and give you a chance, more often than not they will deserve the same trust.
Becoming an au pair can be one of the most gratifying experiences of your life and an excellent way to experience a new culture and new way of life. However even though the job sounds inviting, it is not advised that you jump into any situation head first. Figure out what exactly it is that you are looking for and what you want to experience. Then match up your preferences with the desires of a possible au pair family and get in touch with them. If you have a good feeling, feel you are prepared, and have an open mind, then it could turn out to be one of the most enjoyable experiences of your life.