How can I come across as less intimidating and scary?

Leticia Zamora
 I have never been a full time nanny, always a part time nanny. I have childcare center experience, and experience with all age groups, plus an in-depth knowledge of child development. I have great references. I also happen to be older, seasoned, a veteran, and by industry standards, a career educator. I am short, plus sized, and able to chase after small children with the eyes in the back of my head. I bring to the table what younger, less experienced nannies bring: a wealth of knowledge and experience. Any family would be crazy and stupid not to hire me with my credentials-yet they hire inexperienced young college students and professionals who have no interest in being a nanny for a career. Instead it seems families hire these youngsters knowing they will have to start the nanny search over again and over again and again in a short period of time because the nannies don't stay long due to lack of interest in being a nanny, a career change (finding a job in their field of study) or going back to school after not finding a job.

     During college, I had a communications class, and one of our assignments was preparing for a mock job interview. I prepared for mock nanny interview, as my plan was to move to Chicago and become a nanny after college, as I wanted to take my career in a new direction. During my interview, my teacher advised me to explain to families why they should hire me, and the benefit of hiring me. I have done just that in a positive tone, and nobody has hired me. In fact, I remember telling one family that hiring me is an asset, because I am older, I know what I am looking for and what I want, plus my experience and education, not to mention the fact that I wouldn't be coming to them in two months and telling them I was going to quit because I didn't like being a nanny. They didn't hire me, and two months later, they were seeking another nanny. I wonder if they felt stupid for not hiring me in the first place, especially since I told them they would be looking for another nanny two months time.

     Last weekend, I interviewed for nanny share position with a decent pay for my area. Again, I made mention of my experience, and the fact that as a nanny part of my job was to guide them as first time parents through early childhood. They appeared very impressed with my qualifications, and I even sent one of the families a thank you note. Today I found out that I didn't get the job because they felt it wasn't a fit, yet they didn't even bother to ask for references (I only provide them if a family has actual interest) nor did they conduct a "working interview" to observe me with the children. (I believe I was a fit, they were afraid of me due to experience and the fact that I could run circles around their current nannies, both of whom are young with little experience.) I feel like many families make mistakes in hiring by not conducting a working interview, as anyone can fake an interview, get the job and be a horrible nanny.

     It got me to thinking: do parents see older (I'm in my 40s) experienced, career nannies differently than less experienced nannies? I'm overweight but carry it well, and working on losing weight. Do parents see thin or HWP nannies differently than overweight or plus sized nannies? Can families see someone with my age, experience, background and size as intimidating and scary? I seriously think I intimidate families without realizing it, and do so by accident. I am one of the sweetest people you can meet who loves her job, I just don't care for flaky families who can't see what I have to offer, which is a hell of a lot more than the college nannies and young professionals in town.


Nan! said...

Just from what I read, the negative ideas you have about younger nannies is off-putting. I never discuss other nannies with potential employers. I talk about myself, my love of children, my educational background- relative to the position- and my future goals. I think you need a less is more approach. Try not to impress so much with everything you know. It comes across as' I know everything!' Over my nanny career, I've been slim/skinny/fat and in between. It's never affected my chances. I have always been an energetic, chase after kids type nanny. The only time appearance seemed to matter was in NYC where parents had an image they wanted to uphold and/or when I was really thin and the moms seemed to resent it. Either way, I think you need a softer approach. Criticizing other nannies makes you appear defensive and insecure. As I'm sure you know, you don't have to knock others down in order to stand tall.

this_nick said...

From your post here, your disregard for younger nannies and the "flaky" families who hire them comes across pretty loudly and is probably a turn-off. There's confidence in one's own abilities, and then there's disrespect of others'. It's useless to exhibit the former if you also exhibit the latter.

You're pretty much canceling out your strengths by coming across as someone who feels the need to downgrade others to upgrade you. That actually projects as the opposite of confidence - insecurity. I'd guess that's caused by frustration, and that's one thing you don't want to show to potential employers.

Luckily, there's a simple fix here. Stop selling yourself in relation to other nannies. Simply highlight your qualities and why they are assets.

Definitely portray your age and experience as the strengths they are and why; just keep the conversation on you. "I've learned through my experience that <-insert great child care wisdom->" and leave it at that. After all, if parents feel you're judging other caregivers, they may worry you'll similarly judge them. Hence the "not a fit" results you've seen.

Hope this was a little helpful -- good luck!

NannyC said...

Aw, sweetie... I'm a younger 'inexperienced' nanny and I am not flaky nor do I know any of my young nanny friends who have been flaky. I, too, am bigger, but this has never been an issue. I think it may be your attitude toward other nannies and even possibly toward previous employers that has you in your current predicament. Loosen up! In an interview be yourself but don't be aggressive! I always share my heart with families- I do this job because I absolutely LOVE working with children, not because I have tons of experience. BTW, I'm justbarely 21, have held this position since I was 20 and I have been seriously nannying both full time and part time since I was 17 years old. So age really doesn't = maturity and commitment. Just because you are 40-ish, does't make you the best fit or the most qualified for a job.

OP said...

My apologies for everyone misunderstanding my post: I don't have a problem with younger nannies, as I have worked with younger less experienced teachers still earning their "stripes" so to speak in education. Any one of them would make great nannies, and I support them in their efforts.

I have nothing against younger, less experienced nannies, nor do I believe all of them are flaky, beneath me or under qualified. I just have an issue with the nannies living in a college town who get a nanny job, and either quit because they don't like being a nanny, don't show up due to lack of maturity or leave the job shortly after starting with a family for a position in another field. I question as to why a family would hire them if they know the nanny is planning to leave in a few months?

Yes, I am frustrated, because I survived child abuse, bad parenting with a depressed father, was the product of a permissive-authoritarian household with consequences I didn't deserve half the time. I got whipped with a belt by my father in 6th grade for not turning in a homework assignment when he never gave me a consequence for not doing homework. He not only whipped me that day, but broke my guitar in lots of pieces. He always told me I was pretty, but would never amount to anything.

I got into education because I grew up babysitting, and love kids. I also enjoy helping families, and want to help them raise their children, which is what I do. My father was offered the resources to help me, but denied them due to the pain he was in losing my mother.

ADHD is fat, loaded with frustration, anxiety and tension: I have anxiety about and during interviews, feel very tense, and I have frustration as well. It's a hallmark of ADHD, nor was I taught to deal with this as a kid. I've been working on it for years, and will continue to work on it. I believe the frustration is appearing during interviews, and I'm working on that too.

Bottom line: I'm frustrated with the flaky nannies and the families who would rather hire them, thus going through the cycle of interviews when they know up the nanny is LTE. I don't even know if any of them even realize my credentials, and I feel like some of them whiz through my portfolio without thinking, or actually talking everything in.

Again, my apologies if I came off hostile to younger nannies in general. I didn't intend for my post to sound that way.

Taleia said...

Please don't be offended at what I'm going to say, because I DON'T mean it as an attack (just some feedback). I'm a full-time nanny, and I've been with my current family for eighteen months. Because of unique family circumstances, they really need 2-3 childcare helpers to meet the needs. In the past year, we've hired four other nannies, and (because they see me as the primary caregiver, and because we're a great fit and get along terrifically) I've made the "final call" on whether or not to hire them (after a working interview).

Based on what you tell me, I would tell them not to hire you. Not because of your appearance (I'm heavy, too!) or because I find you intimidating, but because your telling me that you see your job as "guiding parents through the first few years" tells me to RUN. RUN, and don't look back.

Parents want to be in charge of raising their own kids. I think you're probably shooting yourself in the foot by setting yourself up as an expert. Although my boss-parents regularly come to me to ask about how to better handle different aspects of childcare (and I have far less experience than you!), they've also deeply resented when one of the other nannies has criticized the way they raise their kids. Once you have a relationship with them, they'll value your opinion, but it's hard in an interview to tell the difference between someone who will be helpful, and someone who will be a know-it-all.

Anonymous said...

It could be something that you just don't want to face, like your appearance for instance. It is not an easy thing to hear, and it's not fair, but it's life that more attractive people get hired. To many of these families a nanny is an accessory and they want it to match their taste, which no matter how good a match you think you are for them, they could be like "meh" just because they don't like you.
Maybe you should try being more yourself, and not spew back what someone has told you to say. Loosen up. And definitely take a good look at your appearance and ask yourself if you are happy with it. If you are not, it will show.

Me! said...

I think nannyc may be on to something. Parents do not want to feel that the nanny knows more than they do. What I always say- and truly do believe- is that I may know children/babies very well but I'll never know their baby/child more than they will. I also agree that you need to focus 10000 times less on other nannies. Don't concern yourself with why they are hired/fired/anything because it doesn't affect your life. Parents who hire younger, less experienced nannies have many reasons for doing so. Maybe the younger nanny was more personable, easy going, flexible and more affordable. At the end of the day, that's not your concern. Apply with the attitude of someone who loves children and wants to help them grow. Share your past experience and talk only positively about your previous bosses. Dont run anyone else down.

this_nick said...

I'm not a twentysomething nanny so you didn't offend me, but I was just trying to critique what may not be working for you. It does sound like the interview may be what's tripping you up. You may come across as nervous even though you're confident in your skills, while someone who's not a career nanny may come across as more confident simply because they're not as invested as to whether they get the job. It might be worthwhile to see if there's a job interview training available near you, to help strengthen you in that area.

Ali said...

My thoughts exactly. Parents want to feel that they know what's best for their children, even if they don't. Many, not all, want a nanny they can mold and control to emulate their exact parenting philosophies. Hence the young, inexperienced nannies. It is what it is.

Alice said...

I am extremely heavy and have not had issues getting a nanny job ever. In fact I've held multiple jobs throughout the years working with a variety of ages; both children and parents.

I agree, coming across a bit too strong during an interview and getting nervous and over-talkative about negative aspects of the job are probably what's costing you the jobs.

I too am a know-it-all when it comes to children, and I view my position of 'guiding through childhood years' similarly to you, though I would absolutely never say that.

I would emphasize that you will work with families to find the best suited techniques for them. While some families have older kids and they do not cry/scream/fit when the parents leave, some require a different approach- at least in my personal experiences currently.

Parents value knowing that their parenting style won't be bowled over by the nanny's parenting style. After all, they will be leaving their children with you for an extended period daily and likely the children will begin to love/adore/respect you, and thus listen. If you seem the type to go out of the parenting style boundaries, you likely will not get the job because the parents want to parent their own children.

Some people are intimidated by older nannies who know more. Some families are intimidated by me, the young-ish nanny who knows a lot and devoted time to learning it, privately.

Some parents are just overwhelmed and go with who seems the most positive/upbeat. Not always the best nanny for the job, but it's their right to live and learn to be better.

I think you just need to relax a little bit. Don't try to overprepare, but have answers to general questions. Share experiences but don't share everything, etc.

Good luck. :)

angi said...

What your professor told you would be true in a business type job.... Not a family. I am in my 40s, a size 20 and loads of experience as well as work with special needs and situations. I have no issues finding work.

My suggestion is to stop "selling" yourself and discuss involvement. The trick is to make the parents know you see them as the parents and that you got their philosophies. Ask them questions and then comment accordingly. IE what is a typical morning like? After they answer, you can comment. This aims the interview at understanding the job and how you will integrate into it. It doesn't bring direct "me me me" but more "how I will implement into your family"

this_nick said...

Get job interview training from this poster. ^^^ Absolutely on-point!

angi said...

Dawwww thanks

LadyJane said...

Hi - I'm a mom/employer so I thought I'd chime in. First - at least for me, appearance doesn't matter at all. The first nanny we had for our girl was very overweight and it wasn't an issue. Appearance would only come into play if a nanny looked so slovenly that I worried about her ability to care for herself or others, which I don't get the impression is an issue with you.

I also specifically targeted someone a bit older with my most recent nanny search because I wanted the experience and maturity.

HOWEVER, one issue I had with my first nanny (who was on the young side but experienced) was I constantly felt like I was being bossed around. Friends of mine would joke about my bossy nanny. She had an opinion on everything and borderline resisted if I asked her to do things a different way. She would scold my husband and I if we departed from HER philosophy on things like sleep training, saying it was making her life more difficult. While it was often very helpful to have someone experienced who had views on every aspect of child raising (and I'd take that over the opposite), it just came to wear on me to feel like I had someone in my home bossing me around about my child. We parted amicably and for me, that was the main issue.

I raise this because what someone perceives about themselves as "experience" may come across to a potential employer as "this person is going to try to run the show." Some parents WANT to delegate all the child raising to their nannies, but many don't. So I would just be sensitive to that.

Establishing a employer-employee relationship can be difficult in a relationship as intimate as the one with a nanny, and for some parents, it is easier to establish themselves clearly as the employer if the person is younger. As someone who is likely older than some of the parents you're interviewing with, I would just make clear that, while you have a lot of experience to offer, you clearly understand who the employer is.

Good luck.