"Leave it better than how you found it"
You're in the market for a new nanny position and while you wait on the perfect placement, you're on your way to babysit for a family who you've helped out a few times over the past month. You've minded the children while they finished their dinner and got them in bed, hung out until almost midnight when MB and DB came home from a well-deserved date night, but what else did you do? You know this family has been in the market for a new nanny since theirs moved back home, but they're waiting for "the right one" to come along. You're both in need of on another, so it's a no-brainer, right? Wrong.
The questions you ask, choices you make, and work ethic you have make all the difference in landing a job verses a great job. Families who respect and care for their nanny do so because they see their nanny as an invaluable member of their family - not just because she's the one taking care of their children while they're working or enjoying time with one another, it's because of how you do your job. Asking questions to get to know how their household works and what you do in your "free time" when the kids are not your direct responsibility are two key components of what makes up a nanny's work ethic. Common complaints I hear from parents may be the reason you aren't getting hired.
Common scenarios that parents know all too well and agree is the reason they don't ask you back:
Scenario A: "See this? The sitter just puts anything anywhere."
Translation: MB (Mom boss) is not stoked you don't take notice to their basic organization tactics that help keep the house clean and uncluttered.
Outcome: There's no insight to tell mom how helpful you can be in other areas besides watching the kids if you can't manage to put things back where they belong. This is also something that should be taught to children through leading by example. Mom may have you back in a pinch as a sitter, but there's no chance you'll be back full-time.
What to do instead: Be mindful of your surroundings, most household's have a system and it's important to at least attempt to follow it. Make a game out of putting things away, or clean up when the kids are napping. Don't skip this step because it's an important part of showing your employer that you're attentive to their home and that you care.
Scenario B: MB & DB come home yawning from a really great dinner and movie to you sitting on the couch, the only problem? The house is a mess.
Translation: They literally just paid you to be an adult in the house while they were away and are questioning whether or not you put their kids to bed crying. Mom wants to cry herself at the thought of being up another hour to clean with the black cloud of the 2 am feeding looming over her head.
Outcome: There is usually no circumstance in which the parent's would ask you back to be a sitter, not even in a pinch, they would rather cancel than come home to a huge mess they have to now take on themselves after being dead tired because bottom line they're parents and currently get less sleep than you got in college.
What to do instead: LEAVE IT BETTER THAN YOU FOUND IT!!! You walked in at 5 PM to dishes in the sink? Do the family a favor and place them in the dishwasher. Want to go the extra mile? Grab a dish pack, set the dishwasher to pots n' pans (safe setting to get everything and anything off the dishes) and click "start". You have no idea how far these three simple actions go- you're literally a miracle worker in the eyes of a parent who barely has time to shower themselves. They will thank you, and appreciate you, and maybe even realize you're long-term potential, in the simplest of tasks you so kindly complete for them (with out without being asked to do so). Go the extra mile. I promise you'll still have time to relax on the couch before MB & DB get home.
Scenario C: You're late; for the sixth time in a five-day work week.
Translation: You don't value what you have, you're not organized and prepared, and you're disrespectful of other peoples' time.
Outcome: You're in serious trouble of losing your job. Being on time is an expectation across all fields of work, and working in someone else's home is no exception. There are a plethora of different reasons why you need to be one time , #1 being the time was set for a specific reason due to work or school schedules, but there really is no excuse for repeated tardiness.
What to do instead: If you're going to be late, own up to it. When I was a nanny I think I would go too far sometimes with telling my employer if I was going to be only 2 minutes late. They literally wouldn't even look twice had I not told them, but I still felt the need to be honest and prepared. Maybe they did need to get right out the door at 8:10 AM and by 8:13 they were destined to be late to wherever they were going. Even if I was a little annoying with it, I think they appreciated it much more than wondering where I was because I didn't call. Be on-time, and if you're held up by traffic, a last minute emergency at home, or simple because you slept in, be proactive about it and let the family know your ETA as soon as you know you'll be pulling in later than expected.
How to not fall into these scenarios:
ASK ALL THE QUESTIONS! Mom showed you the laundry room, but do you know if they wash darks with lights? Does baby get a different detergent? MB may look at you with a certain twinkle in her eye as if saying "someone gets my life" through eye contact. It will make her day. She's on to showing you the pantry and you didn't have an opportunity to pack yourself a lunch, ask her! Do it! "Do you mind if I have something for lunch? I forgot to grab mine out of the fridge in my bustle to leave this morning." It may be uncomfortable to ask certain things, or seem odd, but just like your best teacher in high school said to you, "there is no stupid question." If an employer makes you feel belittled or uncomfortable for something you asked about, don't let it deter you. It is important to be able to communicate effectively with your employer, and asking/answering questions is vital to being able to perform your job to the utmost.
GO BEYOND YOUR EXPECTATIONS! Do everything and anything you can that is within your means to help out your employer. Make note of items they're out of, maintenance that needs to be addressed, directions to a new park on the other side of town, mentioning a recall that you heard on the radio about a product they use, speaking up about a new method of potty training you've been reading up on... the list goes on and on. Be aware, be present, be helpful, be attentive, be respectful, and be honest. All of these, when used correctly and mindfully, are the elements to the best performance of nanny work ethic that you can get.
Although I briefly touched on only a few of the nuances that families experience when hiring a sitter or nanny, I'd love to hear from MB/DB about other issues that may have happened to you specifically that have caused you to fire/not permanently hire a nanny.
Nannies- I would love to hear how you go above and beyond in your workplace to ensure that you are "leaving it better than you found it." No shame in letting the world know how great your work ethic is! Let's hear it.
Keep up the great work, and practice these skills to land your dream job!