How can I get a sitting gig with no experience?
July 8, 2008 12:18 PM   Subscribe

How can I get a babysitting gig with no experience or references?

I want a babysitting or even a nanny position, preferably with babies or younger children. I have a potential gig, because I ended up interacting with a toddler in a public place and we really hit it off.

However, I'm worried about getting the job because I don't have any babysitting references or experience. I have spent time watching my nieces and nephews over the holidays, here and there, but never alone.

I will be infant/child CPR certified soon. I do have character references but not any related to child care.

What questions would you ask me if you were considering hiring me? What would be your biggest concerns? Is there anything (truthful, of course) I could do/say that would make you feel more comfortable with me?
posted by sondrialiac to Human Relations (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have worked as a nanny for the last year, and before that I worked in a preschool for 4 years. When I was looking for a nanny position, I ended up going to an agency. I found a job rather quickly, but that was likely due to my experience and references. That said, I think you'll find it hard to secure a job without any experience, especially with infants. Infants take a lot of extra care, and I wouldn't recommend that someone without any experience watch them. I would suggest that you start with preschool or grade school age children, as they are much more independent and can communicate their needs verbally. Going from there, I would enroll in a non-credit community college class dealing with childcare and development. If you get experience with older children, and then take a class about infants, that will give you a good start. Good luck!
posted by Delfena at 12:30 PM on July 8, 2008

How old are your neices and nephews? Are your siblings (said niece and nephew's parents) close enough to let you get some solo practice in? I'm sure they wouldn't mind some free babysitting and it would get you some tangible experience. You could even branch out by asking them to then recommend you to their friends with children to start to build a network of babysitting gigs.

The CPR is a good start, and on preview, an infant care class would be excellent resume fodder.
posted by jrishel at 12:37 PM on July 8, 2008

Is there some child-related group for which you can volunteer? I know it's not the same thing as caring for a small child on your own, but it might get you in the door along with your certifications.
posted by katillathehun at 12:38 PM on July 8, 2008

If you've never watched children alone, don't take a paying gig doing so. Most babysitters get their experience watching younger siblings or other relatives/friends. You don't give your age, but if you're old enough to be on here and looking for a job, then surely you can volunteer your services to friends/family - start with an hour or two and work your way up. Then you have references.

Watching kids is either something you know how to do or you don't. If you had camp counselor experience or tutoring experience or SOME dedicated interaction with children, you could probably spin it, but you don't.

There is no way I would hire you without this kind of experience.
posted by micawber at 12:39 PM on July 8, 2008

And first question I would ask you is your age. Next would probably be your grade point average (only slightly kidding here). I figure a person that is responsible enough to get great grades might be able to handle a kid. Also, hopefully, this can show you have some smarts and would have an idea of what to do in an emergency.

Most responsible teenagers (not an oxymoron) can handle babysitting. The older a person is the more likely someone would trust her, but that shouldn't be the only deciding factor.

Are you old enough to get a job in a daycare? That would get you the experience/reference you need.

Maybe prepare a "child care" kit? Reference numbers of poison control, people who can drive you someplace if needed in an emergency (assuming you don't drive), etc. And that CRP training certificate. Anything else that shows you know what you are doing.

And maybe spend some time alone with those nieces and nephews? Start with family. Your aunt can be a reference.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:44 PM on July 8, 2008

Everyone I know who nannies now did regular babysitting throughout high school. One of the questions I would have (wonder about, but probably not ask you in person) would be what were you doing when other kids were out babysitting, and why are you only now (assuming that you're older than high school age) taking an interest in childcare?
posted by phunniemee at 12:45 PM on July 8, 2008

Spend some time alone with your nieces and nephews, because it's a different dynamic when you're in charge than when you're just there to play and their parents are there as enforcers. You could also get some experience by asking the parents of these nieces and nephews if any of their friends would use you as a sitter. It's hard to find good sitters, and while I do occasionally use the 14-year-old down the street, I feel a lot better when I leave my son with an older sitter. If my sister, say, had a friend like you, I'd probably give you a shot as a babysitter.

The CPR certification is very good. It's easy to learn to change a diaper, and a lot of the other stuff you need to know is common sense. For example, my none-too-bright sister in law once gave my then-11 month old son a whole grape, and luckily I saw him struggling with it and removed it. She has never cared for an infant so it didn't occur to her that he couldn't manage a big thing like that. Stuff like that, you need know. Spend enough time around babies and little kids and you start to look for hazards, like a lamp that could be pulled down with a tug on the cord, or the sharp edge of a coffee table that's right at eye-height to a toddler. Or maybe it's being a mom that makes you see things that way. I think if you could find an infant care class, it would be very good.

Jack just turned 2 and I would not have left him with anyone without infant care experience when he was younger.

I will say this: it's hard. I have a very pleasant and easygoing toddler, and it's still hard. There are times when I think how much it would suck to be doing this as a paid job rather than as a labor of love. However, it's pretty good money. Here in the northern Chicago suburbs, sitters get from about $6 an hour for young teens, to $12 an hour for the premed college student we use.

Just know that it's often a lot harder than it looks. Babies and toddlers are notoriously ungrateful and it can be lonely and isolating to spend your days in the company of those who drool rather than talk. It's one thing to do it when you're a parent, because you love your child. There's a reason why there is such a shortage of child care workers - it's difficult work for very little money or prestige.
posted by Kangaroo at 12:49 PM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

What jrishel said. Do what you can to get more individual experience with your nieces and nephews, and then work your way up from there. Relatives will almost certainly be more willing to let you watch their kids, even with little experience on your part, because they already know who you are. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for other families who are looking for nannies, so you have to use the connections that you already have in order to slowly build up a good reputation for the kind of work you want to do.

If I were thinking about hiring you, I would definitely be concerned about your lack of babysitting experience. Hitting it off with a kid is great, but without proven childcare experience and solid references to back it up, I would almost certainly have to keep looking for someone I felt more comfortable with taking care of my child.
posted by sabira at 12:52 PM on July 8, 2008

I am 23 and I graduated from a good college with honors. I want to do social work with children and families. I will soon be taking classes, including classes in child development, to further that goal, in case that changes your perception of the situation.

My nieces and nephews range from 1 to 4, but they live on the West coast, so that's not an option. I enjoyed watching them, and really would love to do it more often if it were an option. I have adult friends of various ages but none of them will have children, no matter how much I encourage them to breed for my sake.

micawber, would you consider hiring someone with no experience to watch your child for a few hours while you were in the house?

Delfena, how did you get work at a preschool, and what was it like? Was it a good first step for you or did you already have some experience?

The advice so far has been great. Thank you.
posted by sondrialiac at 1:06 PM on July 8, 2008

1. I second the people who say that if you're new to childcare, babies and young children are *not* the place to start. Tiny mistakes made with babies can have huge ramifications. Plus, it's hard to know when you're making mistakes because the other party can't communicate, so things can get out of hand pretty easily. Besides, working with babies and toddlers is hard work. They require constant attention and can't be reasoned with, which means everything from taking a nap to eating lunch can (and often will) devolve into a very frustrating battle of wills. (Taking care of school-age kids, on the other hand, is easy money. They entertain themselves while you basically sit and read a book and occasionally check to make sure that they're not sticking forks into the electrical outlets.)

2. Having first aid certification, a few strong personal recommendations, and a couple of good anecdotes about how well you get along with kids will probably be enough to satisfy most parents of older kids. Don't emphasize your lack of experience-- emphasize the qualifications you do have. If the parents seem hesitant, offer to come over (for free!) and look after the kids for a few hours while the parents are home so that they can see your childcare abilities.

3. Maybe this will be helpful: I got my first sitting job in middle school after I got Red Cross babysitting certification. I was hired by neighbors who saw me play with their kid and who knew that I was responsible. They recommended me to others. My friends got their first jobs from parents who met them at their church's Sunday morning daycare. When I sat in college, I started by substituting for a friend who had a regular nannying job. The mother at that job served as my reference when I applied for my own nanny gig.
posted by chickletworks at 1:12 PM on July 8, 2008

On preview:
You have a college degree? In New York City that makes you, like, the holy grail of nannies. Put a profile up on Sitter City and you'll have more work offers than you know what to do with. Sitter City requires that you list references but a.) you could just use personal ones and b.) incredibly, no one in New York ever checked my references before hiring me to sit. Basically, moms just wanted to know that I was "one of them" (which, sadly, basically meant that they wanted to me to be white, middle-class, and college-educated); once they established that I was, they didn't care about anything else and were willing to pay me a ton of money. Sad but true!
posted by chickletworks at 1:22 PM on July 8, 2008

Wonderful advice so far, and great insights from Kangaroo. It sounds like you are truly serious about a career in the allied child wefare/education field and the fact that you are asking these questions, pursuing more education, and looking to get appropriate experience are all good signs to someone looking to give you the opportunity for more experience.

In addition to looking for providers with developed intuition and background knowledge about children through their childcare experiences, I am (as a mama) looking for providers who are inherently respectful of MY parenting choices. Of course you should have experience, education, responsibility, common sense, but it's also important to me that if I tell a provider, for example, that I practice gentle discipline and don't want my child to be yelled at, that my choices are respected. I am looking for providers who can create a consistancy of care for my child and who support me, versus undermining me, as a parent.

This sounds weirdly overbearing, writing it like this, but parents are vulnurable people who are looking for a loving community of adults to help them with the hard tasks of raising kids and I know I am looking to avoid power struggles with other adults in regards to my kid. It's not like I don't think I can learn from others, and ohmygoodness HAVE I learned, but feeling supported and learning something new is different from feeling like you're at cross-purposes with someone you are trying to trust with your kid.

In other words, communicating with parents that you are ready to respect their needs, wishes, and style of parenting, and then following through goes a long, long way to getting and keeping a gig.
posted by rumposinc at 1:42 PM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

You know what .. after thinking about this a little, reading the other answers and hearing that you're 23, a college graduate and probably headed towards graduate school, I think my previous answer was pretty negative. I think I'd be thrilled to hire you. I'd probably have you come sit for a couple of hours while I was around the house, then show you our routines, and then you'd be off and running.

Thinking back to when I was a teenager, and a busy babysitter, I didn't have any of the training or certifications, or anything like that. I just loved kids, loved playing with them and loved making $2 an hour or whatever it was back then. It sounds like you love kids too and there's nothing more important than that when you're caring for them.

If you can form some relationships with some parents, so that they get to know you a little bit, I think they'll end up being really happy to have you sit for them.

Please feel free to memail me with any questions or anything else. I wish you lived near me!
posted by Kangaroo at 2:42 PM on July 8, 2008

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