When considering a career change or starting out in the domestic field, there are a few very important considerations. The first and most important is “Why do I want to work in private service?” Second, “What are my immediate and long-term goals in the industry?” And third, “How can I be competitive in the job search process?” Carefully and truthfully answering these questions will dictate how to proceed.
Many people looking for work in private service for the first time have an incomplete idea of the actual requirements for a position. Titles and job descriptions give some insight into the type of work expected, but the intangible and hidden details are where the true nature of the business is discovered. For example, can you honestly say that after years of building your own career and lifestyle that you now want to focus on the fulfillment of someone else? You need to understand that this is the one goal of service: to provide support for the employer above all. Are you capable of watching your boss spend more money in one day than you make in a year? You must have a disposition that allows for such dramatic realizations.
Likewise, although several skills from the business world apply to domestic work, can you spot the little things that create harmony in a luxury lifestyle? Can you be a Jack of all Trades to assure things get done, no matter what? If so, you may be headed down the right path. If not, look for another direction with your career. The best way to know for sure if you are cut out to handle a domestic position is to ask a veteran. Get in touch with someone you may know in your personal network, or perhaps ask an agency for a referral to a top candidate. Most people in the business are proud of what they do and are happy to give you some of their time. This is truly the only way to understand what happens on a day-to-day schedule, and the best way to know if it is for you.
What are your overall goals in the workplace for the next year? The next 3-5 years? The next 10 years? Do you have a plan that you are working toward such as owning your own business, retiring, going to school, etc.? If you know the answers here, you may be able use the domestic industry as your next steppingstone. For example, a domestic couple with some experience, excellent health, and flexibility with relocation can easily earn a salary of $70-100k and have all of their living expenses paid. With some planning and discipline, a 5-10 year stretch can put away enough money to meet some long term goals like starting a venture of your own or taking some time off.
On the other hand, a position in domestic service does little to advance one’s corporate career, if that is a future goal. So it is important to think a few steps ahead and look at your motivation when entering the private sector, because it is such a specialized and unique environment. Of course, if your true intention is to create a long-term career path within the industry, you are in the right place and the right frame of mind. If not, consider other options.
Another stumbling block in the job hunt is being able to prove your dedication. Newcomers and those returning to private service after a long time may find it hard to convince an employer that “this is what I really want to be doing.” Have a very concise, carefully thought out answer to the question: “Why do you want to do this type of work?” Using the specific information from a contact in the business, you should match the required duties of a position with skills and tasks you have been successful with or exposed to. This should give the impression that you know you can handle the upcoming job duties. Once you have it in your head and your heart that you want to do this type of work, it is time to begin searching.
The most asked question of any agency is: “How do I get started without experience?” First, if you made it to this point of the article and were honest with yourself all the way, step 1, CONVICTION, is complete. Step 2 is PREPARATION. If you have not read and understood “Becoming a Better Domestic Employment Candidate”, you are not ready to proceed. Before you go any further, you must have the specific tools to be successful. There is a chart with detailed explanation in the article, so check it out. Step 3 is RESOURCES. Not everyone can do it alone. If you are reading this article, you probably are looking for some assistance in the search. Why not, its mostly free and those who help you typically will benefit in some way.
Get on the phone and get on the Internet to gather all the information you can stomach. Call agencies and ask for advice or referrals. Go through a few interview and application processes with them. Make sure to read “Working with Domestic Agencies” to know the behind the scenes of what to expect. One of the best agency situations is a temporary agency. It will take some legwork to find one that has domestic or combination positions (domestic/executive), but this is one of the best ways to get experience with house management or personal assisting. For example, if you can get a job assisting a busy executive in their office, look for a situation where you can manage the personal duties as well. This includes gift buying, personal errands, pet care, scheduling and overseeing work at the residence, personal travel arrangements, etc.
Although classifieds are one of the oldest ways to search, they are also one of the best. Often employers will try their own search before calling an agency and those willing to hire for a “starting” position probably won’t use an agency. Check in the papers local to where you want to work and live. Most papers put their classifieds online, so check the Internet as well. Another great source for ads is the Caretaker Gazette. It is the only paper specializing in ads for caretaking and professional domestic positions, with some nice related content. Look them up online or call for information at (715) 426-5500. Another great feature of classifieds is that for a small fee you can place your own ad looking for the right employment situation.
If you are good with people, put the word out on the street about what you’re looking for. Tell friends, relatives, former employers, etc. and start spreading the news. Most of the positions in the domestic service industry are filled this way. If you were looking for someone to work with your family and home, wouldn’t you ask a trusted friend or associate? Of course. Just by getting your name in the right social circles you could end up with an amazing job. And perhaps a good showing will lead you to the next family on a referral from that one, and so on. Many long-time domestic professionals never go through a job hunt and frequently receive offers from friends of their employer. That is the level to aspire to.
There are several schools to train you in domestic service. This is a path for the truly committed, so as before, step one (conviction) is VERY important here. Schools are fairly expensive and do not guarantee placement upon graduation, but certainly the knowledge, experience, and dedication it takes to complete the courses is a step in the right direction. Also, each school will have a placement service or leads for you to network for a job. (More resources!) Consult with the different programs out there to see if it makes sense for you based on your goals and your finances. The better ones are listed on modernbutlers.com
In conclusion, a few basics are important to get started in the private service field: Be sure of what you are after; be prepared for the opportunities; and use all available resources to give yourself the “lucky” break into the business.
About the Author (Author Profile)Steven Ferry is chairman of the International Institute of Modern Butlers and the author of bestsellers "Butlers & Household Managers 21st Century Professionals" and "Hotel Butlers, The Great Service Differentiators." He also trains and consults for the profession around the world.
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