How to Become an Au Pair
The process of becoming an Au Pair can be quite stressful, especially if you have no idea where to start. When I was looking into becoming an Au Pair, I had no what was what. I had so many questions and nobody there to answer them, and I could have really used this kind of advice before I started the entire Au Pair adventure.
1. Find the Right Website
If you google Au Pair you’ll find approximately a million of different agencies ready to jet you off halfway across the world to live out your Au Pair dreams, but not all of them are trustworthy and you have to be extra extra careful when committing to such a large life change. They’ll be websites out there that try to persuade you to pay for extra premium features with promises of finding you the perfect host family faster, but I can guarantee you that there is no need to spend a single dime.
I found my family through aupair.com, and while there was optional premium features, there was no pressure to purchase them. If a host family has premium access, you can message them freely without any need for opening your wallet - personally, I tended to trust families who purchased premium memberships more than ones without, as if shows they are dedicated to finding an Au Pair.
2. Sell Yourself
Your profile is what will make or break you, it’s practically a CV that all the family’s on the website will judge you on. If you don’t get it right, you could be losing out on so many opportunities and offers, so make it count!
If you have any childcare experience, even if it’s babysitting or even just having a younger sibling, emphasise it! These families want to know that you’ll be capable of caring for their children, if you’ve had experience in the field at all before it’ll really make you stand out. Mention any previous employment or education and the skills you’ve gained from that, but make it relevant to the situation. Worked in retail? Spin that on its head by saying you can work well in high pressure situations (kids are nothing if not high pressure). If you do sports or you’re arty or musically inclined, talk about it! Parents love that kind of stuff!
No matter what you do, don’t lie. It seems so easy to make up all these elaborate tales of having hours upon hours of childcare experience, but doing so screws both you and the family over. And if they ask for references (which is most likely), you’re left looking a fool.
It’s also important in a profile to state what YOU are expecting as an Au Pair. State where in the world you would ideally want to work, how long you want to be an Au Pair for, what ages you’d want to care for, if you would mind helping with housework, if you are comfortable living with animals etc… In my profile I explained that it was very important to me that I’d become part of a family, not just work for them, and in turn I found the perfect family where I felt more like a big sister than a nanny.
3. Message EVERYONE
Now you’re all sorted and representing yourself nicely, you can browse through the families that are out there. Their profiles will state what kind of person they’re looking for, and if you fit the bill and like the look of them don’t be afraid to shoot them a message. The key to finding a host family, especially quickly, is to message every single family that interests you; it’s the best way to get their attention, and from there you can set up an interview. And when I say everyone, I mean EVERYONE. I was messaging 20+ families a day, every day, until my perfect family took interest in me. If you really want this, you’ll make it happen, so get them fingers typing and those offers flooding in.
It’s also good to note that the first family you talk to will probably not be the family you end up with, so don't let the excitement of getting responses blind your judgement. It’s up to you to find a family you fit into well to make sure you’ll fully enjoy your experience, and maybe that first family that seemed so perfect on paper isn’t ideal.
4. Skype Interview(s)
So you’ve found a good family, and now it’s time for the interview. Nervous? Don’t worry, it’s natural, I was so jittery during my first interview with family I’m working for and it worked out peachy. Just because it’s over video and not in real life doesn’t make it any less nerve-wracking, even if they can’t tell you’re wearing PJ’s from the waist down and formal from the waist-up.
Knowing what questions are coming up is a great way to prepare yourself for what’s to come. I’ve made a list of questions that might come up, if you can answer all of these then you’re all set!
Why do you want to become an Au Pair?
Why do you think you’ll be a good Au Pair?
Do you have previous childcare experience? Would you be able to provide references?
What were your responsibilities during your previous childcare experience?
What do you enjoy most about children/working with children?
What do you find the most challenging about children/working with children?
Your expectations from the family?
What would your perfect host family be like?
Do you have any hobbies? Any sports?
Do you know first aid?
Can you swim?
Can you ride a bike?
Can you cook?
Do you drive?
Do you drink?
Do you smoke?
Any dietary requirements? Allergies?
How flexible are your working hours?
Would you be comfortable taking up any other roles? E.g cleaning.
What is your family like?
The interview isn’t just important to answer questions, this is also your opportunity to learn more about the family and ask your own questions, this is as much an interview for them as it is you. Here’s some questions you could ask!
How much would I get paid?
How many days/hours would I be expected to work?
Where would I be living? Is it possible to show me on the call?
What do you expect from me?
Could you run me through a typical day working as your au pair?
What are the children like?
How old are the children?
Do the children do any sports?
Do the children have any hobbies?
What do you do for work?
Do you have any pets?
Would I have a curfew?
Have you had an Au Pair before? If yes, could I have a reference?
After the first interview is out of the way you’ll have a better idea in your head if that family is right for you, all you have to do now is sit and wait to hear from them. The typical next step would be a follow up video interview, usually where you’ll be introduced to the kids and the rest of the household - I was lucky enough to be able to speak to my family’s current Au Pair during my second interview, which was more helpful that I can even explain. If the family has had an Au Pair before, I would highly recommend contacting them! Doing so gives you such a the best insight into the job and the family you could ask for.
5. Contracts and Visas
If your interviews were successful (fingers crossed!) the next step is to sign an Au Pair contract. An example of a contract is available on most Au Pair websites, though your host family may have their own drafted up and ready to send you. Read through it carefully, if anything seems not right to you make sure you mention it to the family, it is important to be open about anything you’re uncomfortable with. If everything seems fine, sign that contract, you have the job! Congratulations!
Depending on where you are working and where you live, you may need a visa. I’m from the UK and my Au Pair position is in Austria, as we are currently a part of the EU I am free to go work and live within Europe without needing permission. Unfortunately, Brexit complicates matters, can you hear my aggravated sigh through the screen? If you are from the UK and are wanting to become an Au Pair, just be aware that it’ll be more difficult currently, mainly due to us not having any knowledge of what will be the standard when the UK does leave. My family was incredible even with the hurdle of Brexit in the way, signing me up for German classes so even if Brexit threatens my legal ability to stay in Austria I can apply for an education visa.
If you live within the EU, you’re lucky, and can work anywhere in Europe without needing a visa. However, each country has their own visa requirements for any other scenario, for example: to work in America you’ll need a J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa. You should make sure to budget visa applications, as they are a must.
6. Book your flights!
Now all the nitty gritty bits are sorted out, you get to finally book your flights and get ready to start your new job! Good luck!