Nanny agencies for years have provided a consistent source for helping parents navigating the matchmaking process of helping nannies find the right employers to fit their needs. But how do they help nannies? Are they really more effective than online listings? How do you work with the nanny agency to find the best job?
In this podcast, SitterCycle speaks with Judi Merlin, nanny agency owner and founder of A Friend of the Family Staffing Corporation. We ask Judi what makes a nanny successful and what makes for the perfect fit between families and nannies. Judi breaks down how she helps nannies and families find their perfect match, and build great relationships.
What does a nanny agency do?
Judi tells us about the role of the nanny agency in facilitating communication, managing employer-employee expectations, and helping both the nanny and the family come to an agreement that works for both of them. It’s a tricky job, but clear communication is key.
2:30 — What motivated you to found a nanny agency?
4:45 — “Each family has a definition in their mind of what a nanny is or what a family helper should be, and every nanny has an idea of what ideal family she wants to work for,and so putting those two together would be perfect fit. However, we are dealing with imperfect people.”
5:10 — “As an agency, we take two imperfect entities and try to help them learn how to make it work best for everyone.”
6:45 — “You want to create a job description that someone can succeed at and feel good about, so it’s about setting realistic expectations on both [the nanny and the parents’] parts.”
What are nanny agencies looking for in potential nannies?
Working with a nanny agency can go a long way toward finding you the best job. But how do you get a foot in the door at the nanny agency? Judi fills us in on her process; she emphasizes the importance of the in-person interview and of self-education.
9:15 — “Anyone could post on an online posting service, so sometimes that puts agencies at a disadvantage.”
10:30 — “We [the nanny agencies] are looking at a whole lot more than the online listing services. We are looking at your personality and your curiosity about life and that you have a thirst for learning that you can bring into the home and help that child develop.”
11:11 — “Loving children is not enough. You have to have demonstrated that love and passion in the world.”
13:02 — “The very best nannies combine being able to communicate with children on a very effective level with also being able to communicate with an adult… A lot of people have one skill or the other but not both.”
14:40 — What would you say to someone who wants to become a nanny but doesn’t have any formal experience?
14:57 — “Agencies do rely on references, but not everyone is going to come with that perfect list of 3-5 families that they’ve worked for long term… Look for professional references, but it could be in any number of environments.”
17:00 — “The other thing that can be of great importance is education in a child-care-related field, and that can help to offset limited experience…It shows that you’ve made a priority of child-care-related learning in some way.”
On professional nannies
The term “professional nanny” is quickly gaining popularity, but what exactly does it mean? Judi offers her take and gives advice on what nannies can do to help their professional presentation.
19:07 — “We do talk a lot about professionalism a lot at Friend of the Family and try to develop that if you don’t already have that…Basically [professionalism] is an understanding of the importance of your job and the impact that you have on shaping the future.”
19:25 — “You leave your personal life at the door.”
20:00 — “Many families don’t really know how to be a good employer.”
21:00 — “You should have a list of questions that you need to have answered in the interview, so that you can make a determination about whether or not you want to work with that family.”
23:00 — On letting the family know that you’re not interested in working for them. “We [the nanny agencies] handle that. We represent you, so we represent you for the good news and for the bad news as well.”
23:50 — Case study: What would you say to a nanny who is finding that the family keeps heaping more and more responsibilities on her?
25:50 — Merlin recommends having a detailed agreement drawn up at the beginning of the job and calling the agency to talk it over if anything comes up
Judi on agencies working with families
Families who are in the market for nannies come in with a lot of expectations. But what should nannies expect from their employers? And how can a nanny agency help both parties come to realistic goals and expectations? Judi fills us in on how her agency works with families to make them the best employers they can be.
28:00 — “What we’d like [the families] to be thinking about is, ‘How can I become a great employer?’”
29:50 — “[The longevity of the nanny-family relationship] is always a big concern for families. They want the nanny to stay as long as they need the nanny to stay, but the nature of things is that things are going to change.”
30:50 — “People’s lives don’t fit into little checkboxes, so the application process is something that we’re going to have a dialogue about with the family… Setting realistic expectations of what a nanny can and cannot do is very important in the process. Nannies are fantastic, but they’re not all supernannies.”
32:40 — “It seems like the nanny is at the center of much of what goes on in a family’s life and can have a very positive and far-reaching ripple effect.We always think about the impact we have on children, which is very important, but it goes far beyond that.”
Judi on nannies, technology, and self-education
That said, nannies have to hold up their end of the bargain. Being a nanny requires a lot of work, a lot of research, and a desire to learn.
34:10 — Parents expect that nannies will be able to keep themselves up-to-date and informed on the latest research and technology. “They have to know about allergies and ADD and sensory integration and nutrition and behavior management techniques and to be up-to-date on all of that, and that is an expectation that parents have.”
34:47 –“Pictures of other people’s children should never be posted on personal social media.”
36:00 — What do you enjoy about working at a nanny agency? What motivates you to do your work?
37:00 — Wrap-up
Have you ever worked with a nanny agency to find a job (or to find a nanny)? If so, what was the experience like? What do you think the hallmarks of a professional nanny are?
Judi Merlin is the founder and owner of A Friend of the Family Staffing Corporation, one of the oldest and largest agencies of its kind. Judi has been a member of the International Nanny Association since 1986 and in 1993 was a founding member of The Association of Premier Nanny Agencies (APNA), and National Nanny Appreciation Week. She currently serves as Ethics Chairperson with APNA and created The Agency Advantage program with Barbara Seigel . National Nanny Appreciation Week was originally created by Judi, working with a group of other veteran agency owners. Judi is the proud mother of four fabulous adult children and grandmother to 6 fantastic grandchildren with another on the way!