Whether you are beginning your first nanny, governor or governess job or simply switching to a new role, you want to make sure you get off to a good start. We spoke to the candidates from some of our most successful long-term placements to find out what top tips they have for those in a new job, and compiled them here. Read on to find out more and to take the next step towards happiness in your new position.
1. Establish the schedule and the ground rules
As you start your new governor or governess job, try to agree a time to sit down with the family (and any nannies or assistants you will be working with) for a quick discussion about the kids’ schedule. Explain politely that in order to do your job to the best of your ability it is important for you to understand the family timetable; including when the children are at school, their homework time, any extra-curricular activities they regularly take part in and when they have free time. This will allow you to plan the lessons or activities you need to properly. A discussion like this can also be a good opportunity to ask about any house rules – both for the household staff and your charges – to ensure everybody is on the same page.
If your new job is an overseas position, don’t be upset if you find any of the rules a little different to those in your own culture; people from different backgrounds may have their own systems that can seem odd to a staff member coming in from a different country. Explain politely to your employer(s) that you, whilst a professional, are from a different culture yourself and that if there is anything they want you to do differently, they have only to let you know. Tell them you will not be offended, you simply want to work in a way that ensures the family members are happy and comfortable.
2. Over prepare
Struggling for things to do when you are beginning your new job looks terrible and should never be the case. Be sure to have a lot of activities planned for time when you know the kids will be with you. Of course you may need to work on homework and reviewing school work, but also have your own lessons ready to go; arts and crafts ideas, design ideas, games to play or books to read. You can find hundreds of ideas simply by searching on Pinterest or YouTube. It is, of course, better to have too much to do than too little – and any materials or ideas you don’t use now can be put away for a rainy day.
Equally, if the kids you are working with are busy with other tutors or extra-curricular work, get your computer out and do some research for cool arts and crafts ideas or plans for next week. This is much better than being seen sitting around and doing nothing.
3. Take a small gift
A nice way to establish quick rapport with your charge can be to take them a thoughtful present. Whilst not obligatory, this demonstrates to the parents that you are well-organised, forward-thinking, serious about the role and keen to build a good relationship with their child. At the same time, you are showing the child that you are coming into their world as a friend and someone that they can enjoy spending time with. It is advisable not to take gifts too often – make sure you aren’t in any way buying the child’s friendship – but in general, kids love small, occasional surprises.
The best gifts tend to be those that you and your charge can work on together – things like Lego, a drawing or painting kit, models to build or some sort of board game. Presents like this can help to strengthen the relationship with your charge early on.
4. Be on time
You wouldn’t believe how many people are late on their very first day in their new role – not a good way to begin. It is important to take your role seriously. Particularly in the early stages, we recommend you make sure to be on time or even early for meetings and your working schedule. If something does go wrong, let your employer know sooner rather than later. Nonetheless, be sure not to pester your employer with unnecessary updates or messages. As a general rule, you should allow extra time for emergencies and aim to be at work and ready to start ten minutes beforehand; at least until you are established and comfortable in the role.
During your first days in the job:
5. Get creative and have something to show your employers
One of our top tips for starting a new governor or governess job is to work with your student or charge to create something tangible that the parents can see. This could include a drawing or painting that can go up on a wall, or vocabulary displays (grammar displays for older kids) if your charges are learning English. You could even make video or music clips if this is within your personal skill set (it’s actually really easy to make videos with music on iMovie). These kinds of ‘show and tell’ projects are usually all well received. If you like, you can ask the parents if it’s OK for you to send photos or videos of the kids to them on WhatsApp (do make it clear that the files will not be shared with anyone else) in order to keep them updated on your progress at work. How about a creative reading space to encourage a love a books?
6. Coordinate with teachers at school and other household staff
Demonstrate to your employers that you are professional and keen to get yourself up to date on your charge’s situation by suggesting a meeting with his or her teachers at school. Have a look through their books, find out their strengths and weaknesses in the classroom, and, if appropriate, take the teacher’s phone number or email address down to coordinate with them at a later date. In this way, you can focus at home on the areas that the child struggles with at school. It is probably a good idea to go into the school at least once a month and talk to the teachers working with your charges to check in with their teacher and look at their schoolwork. You can also have regular check-ins with any other household staff involved in the kids’ education.
7. Be smiley and positive
This simple nanny tip is essential. Naturally, no parent wants their child to be educated by somebody who is grumpy or miserable. Be sure to present yourself as a positive and active individual, someone fun to be around (for both the kids and other staff!). Try to show the parents that you are a positive energy in their home and keep their kids involved and smiling. Show us those pearly whites!
8. Be respectful at work
When starting a new governor or governess job (and later on in the role too!) we strongly advise presenting yourself well in front of your parents and household staff. Although it may seem obvious, coming across as condescending or rude to any other house members can be highly detrimental to your working situation. Remember that these people have all worked in the family home for longer than you have, and that they almost certainly have a stronger relationship with the family.
And of course, it is very easy to be respectful! Smile at those you work with, help out wherever you see the opportunity to, and always make sure that you are smartly dressed. Be sure not to tread dirt or mud into the house at any time. If the position suggests that you are likely to be spending significant amounts of time outside, take spare clothes to work that you can wear for sports or outdoor activities.
Make sure you clear away your plates after eating, and wash up after yourself if this is standard household practice. Try to explain to the staff (Google Translate may help if your workmates are not English speakers) that you are there to help, and that they are welcome to ask you if they need anything. Building good rapport with your workmates and household staff will make your stay with any family a more comfortable one.
9. Remember, the charges are not your kids!
Whilst at work, do not forget that you are a staff member, not a parent. The parents are the ones making the rules here. As a general rule of thumb (this can vary across different families and cultures) you should avoid kissing or hugging the kids unnecessarily (however cute they might be!) Be sure to remind the children that it is their parents who are in charge.
Nonetheless, the parents will probably appreciate you preparing arts and crafts with the kids (especially including gifts for birthdays or special occasions), and will most likely respect you for reminding the kids that you are a friend and a teacher but not a parent. For this reason, some things are not your decision or appropriate for your position.
And at the end of your first week:
10. Write reports – both for yourself and for the parents
Last but not least, show your employer your organisational skills and professionalism by preparing reports – either short daily reports or a summary at the end of each week. Doing this without the parents asking you to is a surefire way to impress them. Your weekly report can cover what you worked on with the kids over the week (including their different subjects, what they have achieved in their free time and any notes on behaviour or suggestions for improvement). This can also be a good way to note down any problems you come across at work.
Don’t be offended if your employers don’t always have time to read your reports – many VIP families have extremely busy schedules. You may even wish to take the pressure off the parents (especially if English isn’t their first language) by informing them that you are writing the reports for yourself, and that you would be happy to email them a copy just in case they have time to look. In this way you can be content that you are demonstrating your own capability and professionalism, and the family will respect this.