Monthly Archives: March 2014

Au pair: Preparing for your departure

After you have secured a job, there may or may not be a waiting period during which you will have a chance to organise the practicalities of moving abroad and to prepare yourself in other ways. If you are applying to the International Au pair program as Nanny overseas and going to a country that requires immigration procedures like Canada, you may find out that you will need our agency support and a couple of months ahead to apply for your visa. Is always important to get professional help as there are a lot of Risks involved without the support of an Au pair agency. In addition to deciding what to take and which ticket to buy, you should think about health and travel insurance, necessary documents such as visas, and about having a contract drawn up.

Your contract

Once you have received a job offer and have decided to accept, what happens next? If you are dealing with our Au pair agency, the offer will come from us with the Au pair- Host family household handbook. If you receive a contract direct from your future employer, you should inform the agency that an offer has been made and accepted, since we will need to collect our fees from the family. You should be totally honest with the agency at all times, as they have been instrumental in finding you a job and you may want to have their help again.

This is the point a formal contract or agreement should be drawn up. This should set out clearly the extent of your duties and free time, the length of stay, wages, House guidelines for the au pair and the amount of notice which must be given on either side, and what will happen in the event of sickness. If the family has had a bad experience with a previous au pair, they might want to list acceptable reasons for disciplinary measures, their house rules to the au pair (i.e verbal warning in first instance, written warning and finally dismissal) such as unsatisfactory dress standards, unreliable timekeeping, after-hours behaviour which might harm the reputation of the employee, etc. the reasons for immediate dismissal are usually theft, drunkenness and philandering with the boss or his friends. Leaving prematurely is not to be recommended, since the family will also sign in good faith, and the contract should be maintained by both parties until it is mutually desirable to terminate it.

Au pair: Prepare yourself for the job interview

The first thing you should do is prepare any questions you might want to ask the parents. We have prepared some questions to help you during the au pair interview  and when working as a nanny overseas. Try to commit these to memory and introduce them into the conversation at appropriate intervals, rather than laboriously read them from a long list. The more enjoyable and interesting you can make the meeting, the better impression you will make. Some experienced nannies feel that it is much a case of the nanny interviewing the family as the other way round.

If you lack practical experience, it might be an idea to read a reference book on childcare or take an online au pair course.

It is very important to look presentable at any interview (even it it is by Skype) and nannies and au pairs are no exception. Avoid wearing jeans and trainers even though this will probably be your ‘uniform’ once you start work. On the other hand, don’t dress to kill. The parents will probably find it hard to envisage you cleaning up after the children and subconsciously dismiss you as unsuitable. Most families are looking for someone who projects herself as tidy and reliable. Try to present a balanced image of someone who is sensible but fun, polite but informal.

Sometimes families will prefer to make the online interview with their children present, and if this is the case, you must try to familiarise yourself with them. It will give you an opportunity to determine whether or not you would enjoy being their au pair and, besides, you would be wise to show an interest in them. A candidate who ignores prospective charges will not be rated very highly. On the other hand do not gush all over them, since this is sure to alienate them. Do not underestimate the power which children wield. If they take a shine to you, the parents might hire you in spite of a lack of formal qualifications. Similarly, if you pay them little or no attention, they are unlikely to support you, and the parents will notice your lack of enthusiasm.

The same applies to the current au pair. If she is present, make a point of chatting to her for she is a wealth of information. Try to interpret her attitude towards the family, and take note of how they interact with her. Does she seem to enjoy working for them, and do the parents treat her in a friendly manner? The au pair might also be in position to influence the parents ‘choice, so don’t be lulled into a false sense of security. Keep the conversation fairly business-like and don’t give anything away that could be interpreted as a negative trait later on.

Parents will usually begin the interview by giving you more details of what the job involves, try to leave with a clear idea of what will be expected of the au pair. Ask what your day(s) off will be and how much you will be paid, check out about Au pair in Australia working hours and pay rates. Remembering that pocket money vary considerably depending on the country, your experience and responsibilities, check out this page for Daily Responsibilities of au pairs. This is a good opportunity to mention what kind of activities you would be doing with the children, get some ideas about activities for au pairs. Take note of any fringe benefits on offer ( use of car, for example) since these might compensate for an otherwise low salary. Topics you might raise are what the children eat (i.e how much cooking will be expected of you), their attitude to television and discipline generally.

Don’t forget to raise subjects such as pets. They can mean extra work for you, and if you have any animal allergies this could be a problem for both the family and you to realize later on. If the children are not present, ask to send you photos of them, the parents will be pleased at your interest.

If you come away from the interview feeling that you are interested in the job, take some notes on what has taken place. It’s amazing how quickly important details can be forgotten. It’s also a good idea to write a brief note to the parents, thanking them for their time, telling them how much you enjoyed meeting them, ( assuming that is true) that you are enthusiastic about the job, and ask about next steps to apply for your visa. Writing such a note may seem a little crawling, but it’s a proof of good manners, which might give you the edge over the competition. If you obtained the interview through an agency, you should phone them when possible to tell them how you think it went, and whether or not you are interested.

Au pair agency procedures

The time taken to make a placement depends on how flexible you are about dates and location, and the number and size of partner agencies. Email has transformed the nanny overseas and  the au pair matching process, and instantaneous placement is possible if you have an appropriate background, meet the au pair requirements and happen to apply at a time when suitable unfilled vacancies are available. Quick placement is seldom possible for summer assignments in Europe, while in Australia we have families all year long. We recommend applying 2 months before the departure date and not more than 3 months in advance. The vast majority of au pair openings coincide with the academic year, lasting from January to December. The downloaded or posted application form should be filled meticulously. In all likelihood it will be principal information on which the matching with a family is based and making a good impression is of prime importance. There might also be a questionnaire which will help the agency to get to know your requirements in greater detail.

In addition, the application dossier which you are asked to submit usually includes one or more photos, at least two letters of reference ( which in some cases is required by law), a declaration of good health signed by a doctor, a curriculum vitae and/or a handwritten letter addressed ‘Dear Family’ describing yourself and your reasons for wanting to work as an au pair.

Recently, au pair agencies have been asking for a police check and indeed It is essential for nanny applicants. In the UK this document is provided by the Criminal Records Bureau and many entries in the directory mention a “CRB check”as a requirement of application. Normally it is the responsibility of registered agencies or employees rather than individuals to apply to the CRB. If applying to an au pair agency and supplying a photo, it does not have to be a professional shot, but you should take care to project the right image. A head and shoulders photo, preferably with you with one of your previous charges or a young cousin. Resist the temptation to send a party photo, in which the cocktail or pint of bitter you are clutching will probably create a negative impression no matter how flattering the photo may be. If you are in doubt, send along a selection from which the agency can choose.

About references, the normal procedure for au pairs is for you to collect them yourself rather than have them sent to the agency directly. School or college-leavers will need to provide a reference from their head teacher plus one of a domestic nature. This might be from a mother whose children you regularly babysit or perhaps from a holiday job which involved domestic chores.

The letter introducing yourself should mention where you were born and brought up, a description of your family and their interests, any travelling you have done either in an organised group or independently, what kind of schooling you have had and your attitude to it, any jobs, hobbies or ambitions and of course why and for how long you want to work as an au pair in Australia and why you think your personality is suitable.

 

Au pair : Choosing an Agency

With so much choice of agency, it is a good idea to contact several agencies initially, in order to compare their services. If you want to find a childcare and nanny overseas agency in a specific city or area, it is possible to check online first.

After comparing agency terms, warranty period, what is included with their au pair  program, benefits for both au pairs and families, offered support , available families,  placement process, and fees it is advisable to choose just one agency with whom to register. If you are unhappy with their service for any reason, you should contact them and tell them that you are going to apply to another one. Sharon Legg, registered with several agencies at once and shared her feedback:

I learned my lesson the hard way. While I was looking for work in France, I used three different agencies simultaneously and it all became extremely confusing. I was receiving phone calls from families and, because their English was often poor and my French non existent, I found it difficult to establish which agency they were connected with. It all became very awkward indeed and I upset a lot of people!

If you apply too widely, it can work to your disadvantage. One Italian agency refused to try o place one girl whose application she had received from six different agents.

In the first instance check the website, then email, phone or write, briefly describing any relevant experience you might have, what kind of position and country you are seeking and requesting an application form and general information about the agency. You should be able to conclude a certain amount from the tone and style of the agency literature. If in any doubt about an agency, ask them to refer you to one or more au pairs on their books who may be willing to describe their experiences with the agency and with their partner agency in your destination country. The services offered abroad differ drastically.

Pros of Using an Au pair Agency

Using an agency is certainly the most reliable way of finding work.  Is important to consider the danger of au pair internet matches

Angie Copley is just one satisfied customer who was favourably impressed with the ease of fixing up a job abroad:

‘’After passing a BTEC course in Social Caring,  I decided I would go to Italy for a year and work as au pair or nanny. I found your website and read all about the benefits of registering with Au pair Australia and sent my application . Before I knew it,  your agency had found me a family in Sardinia. I couldn’t believe that it was so easy. All I had to do was pay for a flight out there and that was that.

Thanks for all your support
Angie Copley’’

The primary advantage of using a conventional au pair and nanny overseas agency is that it works closely with a partner agent in the target country, who can provide a local back-up service if things go awry. If an initial placement does not work out for some reason, an agency should be prepared to find a replacement ( Au pair or family) quickly. Although the level of service varies among agencies, a good agency will go to a great deal of trouble to help the new arrival with the logistics, e.g advise on travel and visas, facilitate contact with other au pairs in the vicinity,etc. For example, our agency organises trips and social activities, and provides all our au pairs with contact details of all other au pairs in Australia. None of this is available to the isolated au pair who has fixed up a family over the internet.

Judith Twycross’s experience with our agency arranging a placement in Seville for her was a textbook success;

‘’the main advantage of going through the agency was the  support offered by Au pair Australia and the fact that  I was given a choice of families over a three week period whom I could ring up and speak to myself or ask the Australian agent to check various details. This was very important to me as I had certain specifications from which I was not prepared to waver, such as I wanted to have at least two set evenings off a week and all weekends free. I also did not want babies under the age of two and I wanted to guarantee that I would be able to attend language classes. The English-speaking agent in Madrid was very helpful when I was trying to choose a family. She rang to speak to me and the family during my first month to check everything was going well and to clear up any misunderstandings. She also arranged a meeting between me and another au pair working in Seville which made the task of settling in and developing a social life considerably easier.’’

 

However, alongside the advantages of using an agency, the system is not guaranteed to be trouble-free. Once you lodged an application it is a good idea to keep in close communication with the au pair agency to check on the progress of your application.