The Job Market

Many Jobs in Nanny Economy, Few Qualified Applicants


Sarah Jessica Parker and a nanny take her twins Marion and Tabitha for a walk in the West Village in New York  last year.

Photograph by Rexusa

Sarah Jessica Parker and a nanny take her twins Marion and Tabitha for a walk in the West Village in New York last year.

It’s tough to find a decent job these days, but if you’re a hard-working college graduate who can swim, play golf and tennis, make macaroni and cheese and clean up the kitchen afterward, who can deal with chaos and changing plans, devise games for a four-year-old and is cool enough to be adored by a teenager, there may be a position for you. The parents who posted this job description on sittercity.com have six high-energy kids, but you’d work just weekends and earn between $2,400 and $3,200 a month.

Here’s another possibility. Care for two adorable, creative girls; feed them fresh, healthy meals without sugar and bad carbs; guide them to good and polite behavior; have conversations with them about what’s going on in their lives; empty the dishwasher, wipe the counters and sink, and store leftovers appropriately. Also: You have to be able to swim and to stay overnight when necessary. Salary commensurate with experience.

Brace yourselves, job seekers: The high-end nanny (and manny) economy is thriving. “In the past six months, we’ve done extremely well,” says Cliff Greenhouse, president of the Pavillion Agency, which places all kinds of household staff. “Summer is usually quiet in this industry, and we had a really busy summer.” Pavillion serves New York families and New York-type families around the country, says Greenhouse. If you’re not familiar with the breed he’s referring to, here’s a description: “We have very high standards. We’re not easy to please. We recognize that what we’re looking for is hard to find and we’re prepared to reward those who can please us.” Greenhouse says his nannies’ average salary is between $65,000 and $75,000 a year, and some earn well over $100,000.

If, that is, you have a college education. “Parents are really focusing on candidates with a strong educational background, degrees in education, law, engineering, computer science,” says Greenhouse. “Before, that might have been looked at as a threat or a red flag that the nanny wouldn’t stick around long. Now families are seeking out highly educated people and giving them incentives to make nannying their career.” The fact that “nannying” is a word should tell you something.

Nannies also must have demonstrated “a history of passion for kids,” says Greenhouse. “I’m working with someone who was laid off from an investment banking job. She’s not going to cut it as a nanny. I have to tell her: ‘Come to me five years from now after you have some experience.’”

Some busy parents want to delegate all sorts of responsibilities, and they want to delegate to someone who has been through it all before. “In the past year, we’ve seen families searching for a nanny who can make the decisions for them,” says Greenhouse. “They have to be qualified to make decisions about pediatricians, nutrition, discipline, schools. Parents only ask that the nannies keep them in the loop.”

A specialization helps, too. “The top earners have an education degree or experience working specifically with infants or twins or big families,” says Ingrid Kellaghan, founder of the Cambridge Nanny Group in Chicago. A nanny can’t just speak Mandarin, she has to have a proven ability to teach a child how to speak Mandarin. ”Some parents may have specific milestones, such as their kids being able to read before they enter school. A nanny has to show she has done that before.”

Nannies, like their employers, have to work longer hours. Five years ago, the typical day was 10 hours. Now, it’s not unusual for nannies to work 14 to 16 hours a day. Ads regularly mention the need for a flexible schedule, staying overnight, working weekends, sometimes traveling with the family.

If you’ve got all of that, you’re golden. Greenhouse says he has a candidate with a degree in theater and 15 years’ experience as a nanny. She is so highly sought after that she’s already turned down a few of the jobs he’s presented to her. They didn’t pay enough. She’s expecting to earn more than $100,000. And she probably will, he says.

Kellaghan says her agency rejects 95 percent of all applicants. Greenhouse says that in the past two weeks, Pavillion has received 50 requests for nannies. It’s screened more than 100 candidates. It’s accepted 12.

Susan-berfield-photo-200x200
Berfield writes about retailers, restaurants, and other consumer companies for Bloomberg Businessweek. Follow her on Twitter @susanberfield.

Later, Baby
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