Babysitter’s Club: landing the summer nanny gig

Searching for a job that allows you to work from the middle-end of May until the middle-end of August can feel like an added burden when that Psych paper and upcoming final is hanging over your head.

If you’re undecided on a major or aren’t quite ready for that internship, your criteria might consist of a job that pays “big bucks,” lets you tan, and doesn’t require that you work 7 days a week.

But you’re smart enough to know that you’ll have to create a resume some day and want something that will show potential employees that you’re not just addicted to exposing yourself to harmful UV rays.

Ever thought of nannying? Throw everything you think you know about nanny jobs out the window. It is not like the movies.

Not as horrible or glorious.

It offers you an opportunity to make a difference in a kid’s life, help a family survive a hectic summer, multi-task, and show that you’re responsible with toddlers, mini-vans, and various household pets.

Plus, if you’re at all considering a field in psychology, child development, nursing, education, family studies, social work, or any other family-kid related field, it won’t hurt to see what today’s real-life families look like.

So, you know you want to nanny (or you’re still not sure). Here are questions you must ask yourself before donning your Mary Poppins get-up.

  1. What kind of nanny job do I want?
  2. Every day, all day? M-W-F? T-Th? Mornings? Afternoons? Evenings included?
  3. Where will I be living this summer and do I have my own transportation?
  4. How many weeks can I nanny? When do I have to be back to school/move-in to the dorms, etc?
  5. Are there any summer events (vacations, weddings, etc.) that I need to take into consideration?
  6. What age kids would I prefer to watch?

Once you’ve answered those questions, the how to find the job comes into play.

Again, you’ll have to ask yourself some questions.

  1. Who do I know that has kids?
  2. Do any of my professors, academic counselor’s, or coaches have kids, friends w/kids, or other contacts?
  3. What online job postings are available on my school’s website?
  4. Does the Career Center at my school have any local connections?
  5. What church groups, community groups, family, or friends could refer me?
  6. Are any of my classmates, roommates, or teammates already nannying and could they “hook me up”?

For some, answers to those questions are all they need.

But if you don’t have some of those connections or all of your friends are majoring in business/marketing and you’re the only one leaning toward education, you may feel a little out of place and desperate.

Don’t worry. There are plenty of online options. Besides Craigslist (I’m not endorsing Craigslist as a nanny job resource).

My former college friends registered with various nanny sites and had good experiences (i.e. non-freaky families and kids). From what I can tell, it’s like online dating. Nannies seeking families. Families seeking nannies.

Some of the sites my friends used:


Nannies from the Heartland (Minneapolis/St.Paul)

College Nannies and Tutors

Other nanny sites:

Monster and other online job sites also have some nanny postings.

Of course, your local paper or city’s website are also great resources.

Things that will happen (or could potentially happen) as you’re searching:

  • Freak out situation 1: Someone tells you about a nanny job. You practically yell, “YESSSS, I’ll take it!” And then your friend tells you the family is “super weird! And the grandma lives with them in the basement, so you have to help take care of her, too. But I gave the mom your number, she was desperate.”
  • Solution 1: DON’T PANIC! These kinds of things pop up all the time. Calmly tell your friend that it probably won’t be a good fit, but you’ll wait for the mom’s phone call. Don’t commit to calling the mom or pursuing it. If your GUT feeling says, “Stay away,” listen!
  • Freak out situation 2: A professor would like you to babysit two days a week. That’s all. Maybe a weeknight for a date-night with her husband. You love this professor, and though you know she can’t dock your grades if you refuse to be employed by her, you don’t want to burn bridges.
  • Solution 2: Let your prof know that you would LOVE to watch her kids. “They’re so cute!” But gently tell her that you are looking for something full-time. Ask if she has neighbors or friends who would maybe need a nanny the other days of the week that she doesn’t need you. Don’t shoot her down! Say, “I need to find something full-time, so if I can find another family to watch on M-W-F, I could make that work. When do you need to know my availability?” This shows her that you are considerate of her needs, but still must find a full-time job.
  • Freak out situation 3: You talk to a family via e-mail and phone (they found you via a friend!) and they sound awesome! You agree to meet at their house for an interview. You find the house, no problem and pull into the driveway. Everything looks normal on the outside. The youngest kid answers the door and screams in your face. Another kid runs up to open the door and tells you that they wish their old babysitter could still watch them, “She was so much nicer than you.” The mom comes into the entryway with another kid in tow and shakes your hand. Then she starts in on what you’re going to be doing, the kids’ soccer schedule, and how to work their oven. During the interview the kids constantly interrupt and yell. One kid hits his brother and gives him a bloody nose. The oldest kid is eating junk food and listening to their iPod so loud you can hear it. The dog is barking at the neighbor’s cat in the backyard and you’re pretty sure you just put your foot in a puddle of Kool-Aid.
  • Solution 3: OK, this might be a panic situation. But remember, all houses with young kids are crazy! Because kids are crazy. Yet, this house seems like there might be some more red flags. Go through with the interview and hear the mom out. Listen for the silver lining. Ask clarifying questions – if she’s not giving you straight answers, just follow along as best you can. Whatever you do, don’t accept the job on the spot. Tell her you’re so glad she’s considering you. Ask when she needs an answer. Say goodbye to the kids and thank the mom.

Many times our first impressions are accurate. Many times, they are not.

Tried and true rules when searching/interviewing for nanny jobs:

  1. Always ask questions
  2. Listen to all the answers
  3. Tell them any relevant job experience – coaching, leading youth groups, volunteering at your school’s Child Development Center, babysitting in high school, tutoring neighbor kids, etc.
  4. Never commit on the spot – EVEN if you are 100% sure this family is perfect.
  5. Always find out when the family needs a yes/no answer by. Find out the best method of contacting them.
  6. Make sure the family knows any of your scheduling issues – “I have a friend’s wedding in California that weekend and I’m the Maid of Honor, so I’d need to leave on July 23,” or “I have softball and our regular season ends May 20, but if we make the playoffs, it will go later. I won’t know until we win or lose! Is that ok?”
  7. Be clear on expectations – are you just watching the kids or teaching them Phonics all summer? Do you have to drive the kids? Do you make dinner? What household tasks are involved?

Remember, nannying is about the kids and families. NOT about tanning, texting your friends, reading the mom’s Vogue and Glamour, uploading cute videos of the kids to You Tube (I DON’T recommend this at all), flirting with the cute lifeguard at the local Y, or hanging out with your other friends who nanny in the same neighborhood.

It’s not the Babysitter’s Club!

Good luck with that nanny job! Check back for more nanny tips!

*a note on pay: if you find a nanny family from your local Y board or from your teammate’s sister’s neighbor, chances are they will pay you in cash/personal check. Some may direct deposit into your acct (ask if you’d prefer this). If you use a nanny site, the set up is different. Usually the agency pays you – the family pays the agency and the agency pays you a portion of what the family pays you. Usually it’s not as much as if the family just paid you directly. While it varies from state to state, region to region, and neighborhood to neighborhood, most full-time legitimate summer nanny gigs pay a minimum of $8.50/hour. If a family with four kids offers $5 per hour, you’re getting ripped off.


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