My favorite websites:
Both are easy to use, and are free to you as the au pair. The filtering capabilities allow you to choose the country (or countries) you're interested in, your available start date, and your required pay, among other things. You can search for families and families can search for you. You can then message one another and move forward if you so choose. A face-to-face conversation (skype or otherwise) should then be had, to determine how well you mesh. And hopefully the end result is a job in a foreign land :).
- Don't go through an agency. The middle man is so unnecessary and is expensive for both you AND the family. You'll have a lot more options if you just conduct the search yourself. And best yet? It's FREE.
- Post a picture and look professional. Remember you get one chance to impress people as they scroll through the thousands of other profiles. Not posting one at all will not allow you to make any impression, and you will just be another faceless profile. And posting anything less than professional will turn you off from a whole slew of great families. Your call, but I'd recommend keeping your seductive selfies off of au pair websites (all websites actually), and go for a "nice, normal girl" look. You'd think this was a given, but you would not believe the stuff I've seen on my searches...
- Write about yourself, but don't forget to mention your love of kids. You can like traveling, writing, and music all you want, but if somebody is going to pay you to watch their children, you might want to mention that you like and/or have experience in dealing with them.
- Mention what it's like to live with you. Are you clean? Happy? Easy-going? Like to cook? The more you can contribute to a great family life, the better.
- Ask LOTS of questions and make sure you're on the same page. Will you have time to travel? Will you be treated like family? What kind of discipline do they use with their kids? What is the daily routine? Make sure you have mutual expectations of the arrangement before moving forward.
- Always, ALWAYS, trust your gut. Like with love, you'll know when it's right, and you'll know when it's wrong. You don't want to spend an extended period of time with the 'wrong' family, especially given that the experience should be so much more than just a job. Look for a family with shared interests and who genuinely feels welcoming.
- Working with kids. This may not be a benefit in everyone's eyes, and if it's not, then this wouldn't be the job for you. It's kids. All day, everyday. And I wouldn't have it any other way.
- You are essentially a stay at home mom, but one who gets paid in more than just kisses. For someone who is admittedly not ready for kids, this was the perfect choice for me. I get to play mom, without actually being a mom. And to top it off? Somebody gives me money for it. What could be better?
- Fun and easy routines. Dropping kids off at school, packing lunches, playing legos, and going to the beach. And lots of 'I love you's' and cuddles to make the days even better!
- Australia has the highest paid Au Pairs in the world. Triple to quadruple the pay of most European countries, in fact. Thus, it becomes more than just 'pocket money' and more like a decent way to live, travel, AND even save.
- Additionally, room and board is paid for. This usually means a separate living space, meals, wifi, tv, etc. If you have no remaining bills at home, this essentially means that you pocket every single dollar you make. Trust me, it is as great as it sounds.
- A family environment. It really helps with homesickness to have people looking out for you and helping you through things. Nice dinners, a place to stay, and friendly conversations can mean everything as a first time expat.
- Cultural immersion. You go from a clueless foreigner to a decently knowledgeable resident real quick when you tag along with people who already know the area. It quickly becomes your home instead of just a beautiful place to visit.
- Easy work schedules. Most au pairs work around 30 hours a week. Some more, some less. It gives you a lot of time to make new friends, explore, and travel, travel, travel!!
- The chance to live AND work abroad with very minimal risk. Set it up before you go, and the transition should be easy! No job searching or apartment hunting upon arrival. It's a simple matter of showing up, moving in, and starting work on Monday.
- And best of all? When the time comes for you to leave (and it so dreadfully will), you'll always have a great place (and hopefully great people) to visit in the future.
The not-so benefits:
- Early wake ups. Say goodbye to your days of sleeping in, because it's a rarity as a live-in. I've found that ear plugs and white noise apps drown out kids laughing at 6 am though, which is helpful! Plus, it's sort of nice being a real productive person before the sun is up!
- Kids are sometimes HARD work. If you don't believe me, you either aren't a parent or have never worked in childcare before. Just trust me on this one. They're worth it, but they're not always easy.
- Less privacy. For me, this means no naked netflix watching in the living room. It was a hard battle to overcome, but I've simply trained myself to wear clothes again. It's not too awful, I guess :).
But truthfully, I don't dislike anything about being an au pair. It took me 30 minutes to come up with the 3 I did list, because I simply love my job and my life THAT much. I lucked out with quite possibly the best host family in the entire world, which made the transition painless and relatively easy. I know I sound like a walking cliche when I say this, but becoming an au pair actually changed my life. It made me view traveling and living in a completely different way, and has changed my future indefinitely. So, come on my au pair dreamers, who's with me?