blog Accept a career advice from your future self: spend a year abroad as an au pair, now!

Accept a career advice from your future self: spend a year abroad as an au pair, now!

Posted by March 29, 2018 • 4 minutes read

What comes with being an au pair

Spending a period abroad as an au pair can provide you with experiences, competencies and a set of hard and soft skills that are much sought after by today's work market. Essentially, what it takes to make you stand out from the crowd.

Why does it matter to you

Companies become more and more international, the marketplace is now measured on a global scale and while computer learning and technologies evolve at an unprecedented pace, human factor remains most relevant. Future belongs to humans that get along well with other humans. People who embrace other cultures and different languages, who are able to interpret and understand other peoples needs, and successfully address them.

How is it going to happen

As Einstein once put it "Out of clutter find simplicity; From discord find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity". Well, if you don't believe uncle Bertie, you can trust me, as I speak out of personal experience: living abroad will give you plenty of challenges. But here comes the good news: the elegance and efficacy of your solutions will determine, in the eyes of head-hunters, your fitness for the job.

A year abroad as an au pair can squeeze out of you abilities that you didn't even suspect to have

Literally, it will force you to work them out.

More in detail, you will be expected to:

  • overcome the challenges of a new environment, this meaning that, apart from the host family, you'll fly solo (i.e. you can forget the safety net of your home friends and family). You will have then to deal with the bureaucracy of the host country, acknowledge differences in working and social practices, stretch yourself out of your comfort zone until you'll have increased your resourcefulness and resilience skills
  • get acquainted with and develop a set of soft skills, such as team building, emotional bonding, leadership and since, you know, you'll be working with children, also patience and determination. On top of that, you'll have to learn to manage your "sometimes-not-so-florid" finances (add this ability to the entry "budgeting" on your future resume), possibly in a foreign currency. 
  • doing all of this while being busy making yours a new language. Sure at this point you'll probably have already studied some (most of the host countries will require you to do it before applying) also the chances are that you'll be attending a language course (many families pay for that), still, learning will be your duty, and not always an easy one (says the guy who still struggles to improve its German). 

Well, if this sounded scary, it's time to treat you with the nice part of all of it. I.e., if you'll manage to overcome this (and if I did it, believe me, you can) at the end of your year abroad you'll have possibly developed what the work market lingo emphatically defines as "cross-cultural communication skills, analytical skills, teamwork, flexibility, an understanding of cultural contexts, the ability to adapt to new circumstances and deal with differences".

In other words, given a set of candidates with comparable qualifications, if you will be among the ones able to sport such attributes, you will have clearly set yourself apart from the mass. Hands down.

How to get the best out all of this

Enters Seneca (stoic philosopher and cool guy - be sure to check it out if you already didn't), with is famous quote "There is no favourable wind for the sailor who doesn’t know where to go": that is to say, that to get the most out of your au pair year abroad you must be ready to identify the skills you want to improve. So, before you even think of start looking around for a host family in that country that sounds so nice to you stop and:

  • define, set up, pursue the kind of experience that will likely help you build your desired skills more (i.e. staying with a three kids family in a rural area is presumably going to yield fairly different experiential outcomes/skills than helping to raise a single child in the poshest heart of a metropolis).

then, when back home 

  • be ready to capitalize your experience by making sure to present your newly acquired skills under the best possible light to your potential employers

That should suffice, for starters.

And now relax, and pamper some high hopes but not before having appreciated the subtle irony that lies in the fact that one of the skills you will need first, the ability to "sell" yourself to your desired host family, will be possibly the one you'll need most at the end of the whole process, when facing your prospective employer.
The circle closes, as in a perfectly drawn ensō.

Have you had an au pair experience abroad that disclosed you a further career? Do you feel that the experiences you made, or what you learned back then, proved crucial in your personal development? 

Feel free to share your stories with us at connectAuPair!

Davide Contu
March 29, 2018
Posted by
Davide Contu