Find a Childcare Job
So You Want to Find a Childcare Job
Many different kinds of people think they would like to work in childcare, but not everyone has the same potential to be -- or be hired as -- a childcare professional.
The most likely candidate for a well-paid childcare position is someone who has recently cared for children in another person's home for two years or more and whose previous employers are available to provide valid references. For that candidate, the best way to find childcare work is through a good agency. Agencies in childcare set standards and are always eager to place a strong applicant.
But if you have never been paid to provide childcare in a private home, or if no references are available, or it was a long time ago, well-established agencies in childcare may not accept your application. Pay and reference issues intertwine because helping out a friend is generally not seen by childcare agencies as equivalent to a paid position in childcare.
Another thought: when people ask about being hired as a childcare professional they are sometimes hoping to get one of those celebrity positions -- childcare in the home of a movie star or socialite, with a presumed life of glamour and earning $1000+/week as part of a luxurious lifestyle including travel, servants, and all kinds of perks. Well-paid jobs are certainly out there but celebrity jobs can be extremely demanding even for the experienced childcare pro -- the better the pay, the harder the job. And normally, such jobs go to childcare professionals with five or more years experience, preferably experience with other high profile employers.
From Mom to Childcare Pro?
But let's say you have been an at-home mom raising your own children, all now successful adults, and you are looking for work that you feel qualified for. The plus is your experience in childcare over many years. Some of the remaining questions to consider are:
When did you last work with small children? Most jobs in childcare are with babies and toddlers.
Equally or even more critical, what is your experience in childcare for children other than your own? The last thing an employer needs is someone who understands her own children but no one else's.
How many children did you raise? If several, then you probably have experience in childcare for various age groups and with juggling the needs of more than one child, and more than one age group, simultaneously. That's a real plus.
If, while your children were growing you also took in other children, or were even a family day care provider, you were only one step away from professional childcare. But remember that you were still "running your own show," and it will be different working in someone else's home.
Finally, for a live-in childcare position, few employers will consider hiring a married applicant. They look instead for someone with "no ties." If you are not a single person, plan on a live-out job. You may also want to limit the hours that you are available to work.
From Business World to Childcare Pro?
Elsewhere on the spectrum, perhaps you're a single woman who's always worked but who has also spent much time helping friends with their children. Perhaps you've invited them to stay overnight and weekends or even longer while their parents traveled. You may or may not have some college under your belt, but you want a change from office work, and you think you'd enjoy childcare work in another person's home.
Your best bet may be to seek a local, live-out position in childcare, either full or part time. Your local experience and availability will serve you well; you may even find a childcare job with a family that knows the friends you've been helping and will value their reference reports. If this turns into your first real experience in childcare, it will contribute to your resume for full time employment in childcare, letting you reach out beyond the immediate horizon. Meanwhile your experience will help you define a specialty of your own, whether live-out or live-in, full time or part time or as a temporary childcare professional or governess or even a baby nurse. You may want also to take college courses to hone your skills and professionalize your approach to childcare with learning about child development, as education is a close second to experience in the list of most desired attributes.
Similar advice applies equally to younger applicants. The high school or college student who wants to aim for a career in childcare should take every opportunity to work with children. She should volunteer in the local lower school or at a hospital. She should learn how to organize birthday and Halloween parties, how to make something from nothing (simple crafts), and how to tell a story without having to look in a book. She should learn to read expressively, how to listen, and how to get children to talk to her. She should learn how to organize activities for every age child, for boys and for girls, for babies and for younger teens.
Even for a certified teacher, the road to a good job in childcare includes work on a less formal, non-classroom basis. Just as raising someone else's children is not the same as raising one's own -- different household, different rules, different expectations -- teaching children within the walls of the private home is very different from teaching the same children within the structure of an established school system. There's no union, the classroom is not your own, and if you are a live-in chilcare pro, neither you nor the children get to "go home" at night.
For the college student seeking a summer job or a break from school to pay for tuition, your commitment to education will attract families who value education, and any family that is willing to pay a chilcare worker a good salary is apt to be interested in education. Parents expect students to be open to their ideas and aspirations for their children, which can make a student an ideal candidate for a summer childcare provider. But just being in college does not make a childcare professional. You still need documented experience with children and their families to get the job you want.
Someone awhile ago published an article entitled "The Myth of the Male Nanny." There's some truth in this. The occasional parent inquiring about the availability of male childcare professionals can sound wistful, curious, or gutsy, looking for a challenge. This beast is not entirely mythical, but close to it, just as men who teach nursery school are a rarity, but a reality.
If you are a male seeking work in childcare, you won't have much male competition. On the other hand, it is mostly mothers who'll interview, a rare few of whom will identify with you. Worse yet, husbands seem to present obstacles, both direct and indirect. Ask agencies up front to tell you the odds of their placing you. And disregard advice not to register with more than one.
It's a Career
Being a childcare professional isn't just a job, it's potentially a career, a job for a lifetime of teaching and caring for children and their families. It should not be taken lightly, as a glamour trip or just a way to make money or kill time. If you take it seriously, if you plan and you use common sense in interviewing, you can build yourself a lifetime of giving -- and receiving.
Click here for Find a Childcare Job - Part 2