Although this isn’t a blog for au pairs to get advice on being an au pair, sometimes it’s just nice to have the opportunity to share advice, especially when it comes to helping an au pair clarify her needs and expectations before she begins her host family search.
Hello! My name is Casey, I’m from Australia and am considering becoming an Au Pair in America but I’ve heard so many bad stories from friends that I only want to do this if I’m confident that I’m going to be placed with a genuinely nice family, I would love some help with how I can assure good potential families that I am would be good for them.
1st: I will be 18 in Feb 2010, how can I assure my potential families that I’m not like most typical young women and will not drink like a fish and go out partying all the time? I understand parents are reluctant to want someone that hasn’t been on the roads very long, how can I assure parents that I am a really safe, good driver?
2nd: I don’t speak any other languages and there isn’t a huge culture difference between Australians and Americans, do you have any ideas to how I can stand out?
3rd: I am not heavily religious but I have some Buddhist values and am Christian orientated, is this something I should be really open about or better to not talk about religious beliefs within the first stages of interviews?
Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks! Casey.
Casey, you need to know what values you have, and what makes you special. it is this that will attract a good family to your application.
The fact that your english is already flawless is certainly a plus. do you have a hobby (sports, play instrument etc) that could find a potential match in the kids’ interests? where does your childcare experience stem from (eg tutoring)? that can also be a highlight in your application.
make sure you have a nice picture (one that also appeals to kids), submit a clean application with no typos, and have a set of questions you want to ask the families.
there is never a guarantee that you will have a perfect match. but if you ask enough questions, talk to the former AP if there is one, talk to all family members, and don’t pressure yourself to make a decision, then you should be happy with your decision.
Casey, honestly, the fact that you are from Australia and speak English as your first language will help you stand out to a lot of families. (As opposed to being a negative.)
In terms of the driving, is there any kind of “safe driving” course offered in your area? If you took a class like that, that’s something you could mention in your “Dear HF” letter that might help parents feel more comfortable with your driving skills.
Also, I’m not sure what kind of childcare experience you have, but if any of it includes driving children to school or activities or whatever, that could be something you emphasize in your letter (and perhaps ask your references to mention). The fact that other parents trust you to drive their children will help increase the comfort level of potential host families. In addition, there are some host families that don’t need (or even allow) their AP to drive their children places, so the driving would be a non-issue for them. I
n terms of your religious views, I don’t think you should hide OR emphasize them — basically, be honest on your application and in your responses to any questions in interviews, but if you don’t feel like your religious views are a significant part of “who you are,” you probably don’t need to mention them in your letter, for example. (If they ARE an important part of “who you are,” then you should mention them — any family who would reject your application because of your religious views is not a family you’d feel comfortable with anyway!)
Mom of 2 Girls:
Casey, I think you’re asking some very relevant questions and you sound like you’d be perfect for many families. Sometimes we’d rather have someone with perfect English who’s enthusiastic and energetic over the cultural aspect (although your country has many wonderful things to share with a US family).
You will find that adapting to driving on the opposite side of the road will come quickly, and as Dawn says, the religious aspects will either matter or not to a Host Family and you’ll discover right away if that’s a huge thing to them. As long as you’re open and receptive to a learning experience, I think you’ll have no problems. I wish you luck, and hope you have a wonderful experience in the US.