Au Pairs, How Did Your AP Year Improve Your Job Prospects?

by cv harquail on July 9, 2015

Inquiring moms and dads want to know–

How did your Au Pair year help you find a job when you got back to your home country?

How did what you learned and experienced as an Au Pair influence your outlook about what was possible for you?

great au pair, perfect au pairWe Host Parents would love to believe that being an au pair improved your prospects in one way or another.

Will you share some details?



Image: These Days by Deana on Flickr


German Au-Pair July 9, 2015 at 5:10 pm

I’m still studying so I don’t know if it has made me more employable.
My field of study (English teacher) entails a stay abroad and several internships. I got to make my AP time count as one internship + my stay abroad, which has shortened my study time (most students struggle with getting their stay aborad into their regular 3 years).
Having been an AP may have influenced my getting a job in a big tutoring company.

College-wise having been abroad longer than the others (and before my bachelors, not late and during) has been a blessing and a curse. My good grades in English mostly get attributed to having been in an English speaking country even though I wouldn’t necessarily say that my writing and comprehension skills have changed that much as I have always been invested in learning English and had huge exposure to English/American literature, TV and movies before I left for the US. It’s a bit frustrating when you work a lot for something and people go “Well, you have lived abroad, of course you get an A”. I feel like my accent has improved a bit but also always get paranoid when I haven’t been able to speak in a while.
I can see how the language skills may be very influencial for others though. Several of my friends have improved A LOT during the time in the US.

The biggest effect that I can see is personal growth though. I’d say I’ve always known who I was and haven’t necessarily changed, but I feel like I have evolved a lot. Of course the time aborad also created an age difference to the newly starting studens but I also feel like having lived in such a culturally diverse setting has influenced my beliefs, my motivation and my overall outlook. I think when you do the whole AP-thing right you get such a unique look on not just other cultures but also your own. You get to reflect your POV and maybe see that just because you grew up with certain ideals, beliefs and traditions that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re better or true. You get to learn how to be critical and judgemental and embrace cultural differences. The latter has been incredibly important in my culture since Germany still has a big “us and them” mentality about foreigners.
Especially the very Anti-American-view that has spread in Western Europe after the NSA thing, but also regarding gun control and social issues is really interesting. I have studied American history and culture too and found it really interesting how having experienced this different lifestyle has changed my willingness to jump on the bandwagon with those opinions. I now have a mindset that allows me to see things differently but also understand where people are coming from instead of holding my cultural beliefs above theirs. (And that goes for other cultures as well).

I got to appreciate your school system and really feel like -even though I am a pretty lazy person- I am taking advantage of the basically free, really good college education because I have seen what people do to get that in the US.
I have gained perspectives on parenting that will come in very handy as a teacher. A childless teacher always is in a bit of a rough position with parents but I feel like I can say I have some perspectives after living with a family very different from my own. Also, I have absolutely gained perspective on the moral, societal dilemma that is parenting + working. APs and nannies are a bit frowned upon in Germany and a mother is expected to be there for the children (but also do something self-fulfilling…go figure).

Again, I feel like I have always been pretty set in who I am and never had any strange phases per se, but I definitely think the personal growth and cultural openess is something I benefit from every day.
The travelling I did what amazing and so life-changing but it’s not the most important part of the experience.

I hope this was what you had in mind, even though it’s a bit different from the Asian experience that was talked about in the other thread.

Schnitzelpizza July 10, 2015 at 5:38 am

“How did your Au Pair year help you find a job when you got back to your home country?”

I have to admit that I think it mostly didn’t.

After finishing my year in the US I started out studying a MINT subject but dropped it, mostly for health reasons, after three semesters. My year in the US did help me to ace the placement test for my new major (English) but I never considered going into teaching. While everybody thought my course specialization would be American literature (especially as that was what my high school teacher had focused on as well) I ended up heading into the opposite direction (medieval / early modern English literature). For student jobs nobody ever cared that I had been an au pair – except for my old au pair agency who eventually hired me to conduct interviews in my area ;)

After graduating I went into administration because my thesis supervisor and former boss knew somebody who needed help. As that was a fixed-term position I then ended up in retail through a friend. Both jobs I got because I knew somebody not because of what I had done before.

It could possibly be that I got my current job (university administration) partly because I had been in the US – they needed someone with a strong grasp of English and I was the strongest candidate they interviewed. I had no idea about the job but spoke the language well (I already came to the US with a very good knowledge of English though plus of course I did study English at university for another six years… so that might also have been the case had I not been an au pair in the US). I do have the advantage that I can easily switch between German and English, I have gained a certain set of cultural competences (partly because of the diverse bunch of friends I had in the US), I am amazingly patient with people, I am more “me” than I was before my time in the US… however, I don’t really know if any of that really helped me find a job. It might have made it easier to keep a job and my life definitely would have been totally different had I not been an au pair but I don’t think it really ever played a major role in finding one.

“How did what you learned and experienced as an Au Pair influence your outlook about what was possible for you?”

I need to steal from German Au-Pair for that because I think she is right ;)

“APs and nannies are a bit frowned upon in Germany and a mother is expected to be there for the children (but also do something self-fulfilling…go figure).” – while we still don’t have children I have learned that non-parental supervision even for young children is not the devil. It’s amazing how many (young) mothers over here just quit their jobs when they have their first child. I know that it is great that this is possible for those who really want to be SAHMs but I also feel that this is made out to – culturally and socially – be the only acceptable way. As I was raised by a single, working mom I knew there was a different way from a young age but by living in the US I gained first hand experience in how normal that was in other countries – I was always the odd one out at school and in the US having a mother who was working suddenly was the norm instead of the exception.
If we are ever blessed with children I know that I want to go back to my job “as soon as possible.” I am also aware that asap will likely only be after a year but I want to go back to a full-time or nearly full-time position and I know I will need it for my sanity. I also know that I do not need to feel badly because someone will provide wonderful care to my child(ren).

As an only child, raised by a single mom I also learned a lot about family dynamics, living in a patchwork family with four children (toddler to teenager) and a fifth on the way. It shaped my behaviour in relationships a lot and also my family style. How my host family lived, how they spent their time together, how it was possible to find a common way for a family of three adults and four children (and a dog, and frequent visitors) – all that shaped my personal life so much. And if we ever have children I want them to grow up as loved, as appreciated and as well cared for as my host kids did.

I also learned how to cook. Which my husband appreciates tremendously ^^ Without grandpa’s cooking classes (I still carry the scars proudly – the day I learned not to stick my hand into hot oil) we’d still be living off frozen pizza. My husband also enjoys the traditional family foods (Chicken and S’ghetti, Beans and Cornbread, guacamole, salsa, chocolate chip cookies) he gets when I get melancholic and long for the feeling of “home” that I had in my host family.

I have learned to appreciate what we have much more. Things you take for granted when you grow up – easy access to public transportation, good quality education, free university education, a public health care system, strict gun laws, long notice periods. Things you tend to complain about because you don’t know how good you have it. But I also learned to appreciate what other cultures have to offer – I am more service oriented, more open, more warm-hearted because of the service culture that I experienced in the US. Outwardly, I am much more outgoing than I was before (inwartly, I am still an introvert but I learned to adapt to the public much better), I make small talk, I smile more, I embrace life more.

I think to me, personally, it was more of a year of personal growth than anything directly influencing my professional career.

AuPair Paris July 10, 2015 at 5:39 am

I don’t think being an au pair has improved my job prospects, except insomuch as it looks slightly better on a CV than the same period of unemployment. On the other hand, as German Au-Pair has said, it has done a great deal for my self-knowledge. Now, for example, I know that I would like to work with children, in an advocacy role. And now I have some experience with children – which would be a minimum for that kind of role. But my country (along with many) is in a terrible place for employment at the moment, and I do have to say that things still look bleak for when I finish my extension year. I don’t think having been an au pair will give me much of a leg up. But I’m still glad I did it.

GermanHM July 10, 2015 at 8:00 am

Other than previous posters, it impacted my career tremedously. It build a lot of soft skills that I still benefit from today – those skills are the reason I was able to become a senior manager.

Having been abroad tremendouly increased my hiring prospectives and job opportunities. Even back then, a lot of job postings and good trainee programs for young graduates required abroad experience (not US specific, any country) and skills to work with different cultures. My au pair experience was a huge plus to get through the first round of checking applications by HR and opened doors for interviews.
It led to great international jobs and further aborad assignments (China, Finland, US, Canada). Interesstingly, while for jobs today my au pair experience is probably the least important item on the CV, I still get asked about it in almost every interview – probably often out of curiosity of the interviewer.

It is safe to say, almost 20 years after my au pair year in the US I am way further up the carreer path than I could have ever been without having had the au pair experience.

Most importantly, English language skills is only a reallly supertiny fraction contributing to that. So, when talking to young women and men interessted in becoming an au pair, I always stress that it doesn`t matter where you decide to au pair, you do not need to chose an English speaking country. The experience will grow you as a person and broaden your horizon – that is the most important benefit that will change your life.

Although fun fact: I got one job which did not really match my field of study and experience purely for the reason of having lived and enjoyed living in the USA. The employees in the department frequently ended up with their American counterparts yelling at each other and not getting problems solved. So, they were looking for someone “who can talk to Americans”. I thrived on the collaboration and still get mails from the former colleagues and the American counterparts today :-)

Just some random examples of the skills I have build as an au pair and specifically from living in a family environment where your exposure to a new culture is much deeper than just working abroad:
* step out of my cultural shoes: not everything my parents and my native culture taught me as right and wrong is also right and wrong in other parts of the world. Living in a family with different values was a (at first almost shocking) eye opener for me.
Today I still benefit because it taught me accepting and even appreciating other peoples views, values and opinions. I have “lived” it, that something can be “right” in one enviroinment and the opposite is “right” in another.
* change hurts but you survive the process and come out stronger: moving, new jobs, breakups, new countries… all those changes in life come with the famous 5 stages of grief, it is not unique to the cultural shock/ adaption process for an au pair. I learned a great deal from the experience of moving to a new country and adapt.
* proactively dealing with challenges and find a solution: so what if you are in charge of 3 children and xyz happens – you need to deal with it. And take responsibility and make decisions. Note: there were no mobiles at the time. So, I had no way of contacting my host parents directly for simple questions. I would have had to call the reception of the company first. That is my daily life at work and my team sometimes just behaves like a group of kindergarden aged children (in rose colored memories it some days feels even worse). And yes, I have told them more than once that my best management skills come from being an au pair.
* ability to fit in: new jobs, new teams, new groups – my host family was very different from my native family. Anyway, I loved them from the start. Fitting in a different environment and make myself at home in a new team is still something I benefit from today.
* ability to change and do things differently: I did not do everything right as an au pair. I have made many mistakes and I am sure I needed lots of advice and training during the first 6 weeks. At first I felt bad and it was difficult but I soon learned to appreciate the opportunity to learn doing things in a different way. Every time I start in a new job/ team/ countryI need to change some of my ways to be successful in that setting. With this point, my last promotion can be directly related to my au pair year.

So, for my career, being an au pair was the game changer.

EVC July 10, 2015 at 12:34 pm

I think that the mileage different people get from their time as an Au Pair varies a great deal depending on the career field they choose to follow. It is clearly a little easier to directly relate your experiences to a job working in education, child development, child health care etc, than it is working in other fields. However, it is always possible to take the different soft skills learned and apply them to professional life. It is also going to vary between au pairs depending on where they were in life before the started the program. I had already graduated from University, worked with disabled children for several years, and lived in a couple of countries. As a result, I think the learning curve was a little shallower for me than for other au pairs I knew.
The thing that I have found it has helped, is as an interesting talking point during interviews. I am that rather rare breed; the male au pair. The result of that is I have frequently been asked about being an au pair at interviews. If nothing else, this makes you a little more memorable in the minds of interviewers, which is frequently half the battle in getting a job. Now that I am a bit further into my career, I see it mattering less, and I will probably remove it from my CV in a few more years.

The one other big thing I have noticed is that it has put me significantly ahead of my peers in terms of maturity, ability to take on responsibility etc. Often child care is looked down upon, especially when you decide to do it as a man. However the level of calm, maturity, ability to problem solve, and generally avoid the desire to kill a five year old when they are having a challenging day and driving you up the wall, cannot be underestimated. I find the last one especially helpful when dealing with one or two of my more challenging colleagues.

Overall, I would definitely say that the good things I gained from being an au pair significantly outweigh any negatives, including delaying starting my career for a year.
Oh, and it meant I could finally make it to the same country as my then long term and very long distance girlfriend (now wife), which was a definite plus.

Have a great day


German Au-Pair July 10, 2015 at 4:50 pm

Just out of curiosity: you had an American girlfriend, went to the US and took her home with you?

Being a male AP, I think, also takes some cojones! I would think you’re not gonna do that if you’re super insecure about who you are. Whereas being a female au pair is now pretty much mainstream.

EVC July 11, 2015 at 3:39 am

Thank you,

The thing I found in talking to other male au pairs is that most of us thought about whether we really wanted to do it for a year, to a greater extent than many of the women. Not that all take it lightly, but there is often an attitude of “well I am a girl so I can look after kids”. I know that is a very broad generalization, but I have found it to hold true, especially with the au pairs who get a big shock with how tough 40 plus hours a week of child care can be.

I actually had an American girlfriend before I was an au pair. We got
Married and I stayed here. I am a permanent resident.

claire July 11, 2015 at 12:01 am

“How did your Au Pair year help you find a job when you got back to your home country?”
“How did what you learned and experienced as an Au Pair influence your outlook about what was possible for you?”

So, for my part, I was an AuPair and a Repeat AuPair. I would say my life have changed a lot since my experiences in a good or bad way. In a bad way to my home country, but in a good/great way in others countries.

Let me explain, my studies was on science/math/physics and being an Aupair right after this bachelor’s wasn’t such a good idea but I did it though. When I came back after one year, I studied one extra year for a double bachelor’s Degree and this one year was a real challenge I felt like I didn’t fit in so I started travelling a lot all around and tried a job in France but I went back to US for a second time to be a repeat aupair.
After my second time, it was the worst, companies didn’t want me because of my time there and “seriously who needs English to do math and physics” ( that’s what I heard many time) So I started small jobs until finding one, the right one… post mail, aupair in Ireland, Aupair Australia, Waitress in Asia….

I wanted my experience to be valuable and not a waste so I searched and I found. From my aupair experiences I gained a lot of patience, flexibility, understanding kids and their developments through different age. I loved teaching them french or math or any others things so I decided to be a teacher none the less an english teacher abroad.
As my two years in US ( and other years everywhere around the world) makes me an easy person to adapt in a country and to adapt to their ideas, I challenged it.

I passed my TEFL ( teaching english as a foreign language), teaching diploma, and, now, it’s been more than one year living in Hong Kong, being a kindergarten teacher.

I think it’s up to you to make your experience valuable and worth it back home. In my mind, girls who go there are the most approachable and easy in life and most of us have a job back home related to our experience in US.

It changed my life a lot, I was going to scientific path and be locked up in labs but now I travel around, have jobs all over the world because of those experience, I’m more open to understand countries, people and their culture. I have a home and a job that I love, I speak English and french every day so I think I would do it all over again this experience if I were going back in time ;)

OzAuPair July 11, 2015 at 12:21 am

Oh man.
First, it’s a great conversation starter in interviews and makes me memorable. And then, everyone who’s interviewed me has remarked that if I can handle full responsibility of kiddos for 40+ hours a week I can do anything. Ha.
My au pairing was DIRECTLY responsible for my landing my current job. One of my HKs was autistic and another was most definitely spectrum-y. Additionally, I dealt with lots of…fun…behaviors and situations that made things…interesting. So now I work in an autism center testing kids for autism and other neurodevelomental disorders (as well as behavioral/social/emotional things, learning disabilities, cognitive delays, etc) every day. The girl who originally got the job quit after the first week. So I waltzed in, underqualified in terms of education, but having experienced three and five year olds punching me in the face, peeing on me when put in time out, dealing with perseverative behaviors and intense need for routines, epic meltdowns, etc. That’s what landed me the job. And, it was incredibly beneficial for dealing with behavior management, remaining calm and patient when you have boots thrown at your face, or anything along those lines, working with parents, and on and on.
Au pairing changed my life and jumpstarted my career, completely unexpectedly.

exaupair July 11, 2015 at 8:37 am


exaupair July 11, 2015 at 8:35 am

‘How did your Au Pair year help you find a job when you got back to your home country?’

It didn’t, I currently work in construction and property development so that bit of childcare experience is irrelevant as to what I’m doing for a living. I did the AP thing solely as a career break and had no intention to put it in my resume.

How did what you learned and experienced as an Au Pair influence your outlook about what was possible for you?

It changed my views on live-in house staff. Even though live in nanny would make our lives so much easier, but being an AP made it clear for me, that at the end of the day I don’t want any sitter to hang out in my kitchen when I come from work and just want to relax.
Also after my own au pair adventure I realized that even if my child was a bit older and I wanted the multicultural experience for her NO au pair would ever want to match with my family.

HRHM July 11, 2015 at 4:27 pm

I’m not sure if it was your intention or not, but your last paragraph makes it sound like you think the AP program is a bad idea. Why wouldn’t they want to match with you?

exaupair July 11, 2015 at 7:18 pm

Not at all, it is a good idea, unless someone does not understand the intention of the whole program at all.

There are several reasons why I think au pairs wouldn’t want to match with my family. We are in Europe so to start with we couldn’t use more than about 30 (maybe 35?) hrs/week. To make use of the program we could probably do with that but it would have been an unsociable split shift. We both work long hours, I work in a major city about 1.5 by train one way, I leave really early 3 days a week, so unless my partner wasn’t in the house that day I would have to have the AP ready to go before 5am. I work Monday to Friday, but my partner works weird patterns, which sometimes change, so there would be no regular shift plan for the au pair. Very rarely his shift changes unexpectedly (within hours notice), and on those days we’re all in trouble :) Weirdly enough it didn’t happen since well over 8 weeks now, but you never know.

We live in a rural area with no public transport. In theory there is a bus with a bus stop, but I guess it’s more like a hail-stop and I have never seen anyone using it. The nearest pub is few miles away, the only shop in the nearest village is a grocery shop so no shoes and clothes hunting over the weekend unless they wanted to go to the nearby town, or the large city further away.

We do have a car that we don’t really use (my car, as I take the trains 90% of the time) but I wouldn’t let the AP drive to the big city on their own…at least for the first few weeks. It would be fine if they wanted to drive around the area( for example to the pub) BUT there are no local APs I know about, so unless my AP was a self proclaimed hermit they would be really bored and lonely.

Also, there is no requirement for au pairs in Europe to take classes, however if they wanted to, living with us would make it logistically difficult most days.

The only bonus would be weekends off, but then again with no one to hang out with that’s a really sad perspective for most people :-).

Having said that, it’s all hypothetical. My child is small and I doubt she could communicate about any issues, so leaving her with a stranger is not an option.

Peachtree Mom July 12, 2015 at 6:08 am

Our first aupair came to us from China and stayed with us for two years. Prior to coming to us, she worked in a cell phone store. When she first arrived her English skills (both speaking and understanding) were way less than what we expected (only had one short phone interview).

Wow, did she hustle. She said her goal was to become sort of English translator when she returned to China. She attended ESL classes 5 days per week, sometimes twice a day. She was active in her church and several other hobby clubs around town. She was a different person when she left.

Since returning to China, she tells me she does have a job translating business papers from Chinese to English and English to Chinese. I know she recieved at least one promotion. She sent me pictures of her new apartment and Vespa she purchased and sounds happy. We are so proud of her and happy for her.

Seattle Mom July 13, 2015 at 12:37 pm

I love these stories.

My first AP was from France and she also really worked hard to improve her English, and she left with near native fluency. It has been over 2 years since she left and she’s still trying to get on a career track, but she has found a lot of interesting & rewarding work for short stints. I think the English language has helped her, she’s even worked in the UK here and there, but I know that she is disappointed with the way things have turned out in general. I think that is mostly the fault of the economy and the kind of job she wants to get (in childcare) is a lot more competitive then it would be if the economy was better. I really think she deserves to have her dreams come true- she’s a hard working, nice, intelligent girl. It might just be a matter of time. I know she doesn’t give up.

Dorsi July 13, 2015 at 2:42 am

My non European APs have really financially gained from the program (significant change in career trajectory) not so much my gap year European APs. It seems like the APs commenting here tend to all be European.

SwissAuPair July 13, 2015 at 3:34 am

As a European AP i have to say that the AP-Jobs helped me a lot at my construcion side job. Not actually childcare-stuff, but everything related to it:
My organisational skills are way better, I feel that I can handle stressful situations better and stay calm in situations where I got angry before. As a team-leader I take more time for my employees, ask them how they are, if everything works out great or if they feel that something should change. I also think that I’m more helpful and more social since I was an Au Pair.

But I actually don’t mention that I was an AP in my CV, instead I wrote “language studies” for that time. Living with another family to improve language skills is very traditional in Switzerland. At the age of 16 some women/girls go to the french-speaking part of switzerland to do a so called “Haushaltsjahr” where they live with an other family, studie french and help the family with cooking, cleaning and childcare if needed (very few hours, no pay but bed, food and language school). But I feel like at the construction-jobs they don’t consider beeing an AP as a great thing (they see young woman playing with children and only haveing fun all day, and don’t think that it is hard work, although I had to work more hours as an AP than in my “normal” job), but they love people who did language studies.

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