Can you use your time as au pair to power your CV?

In the last few years, I’ve done a lot of interviews for entry-level strategy consultant positions. I’ve seen a lot of millennial CVs and, honestly, some of them are downright impressive. If they’re not startup owners, they’re out there running marathons, and they’re barely in their twenties.

Some things are a given to get to the interview stage. College-degree or master-degree educated. Check. Strong grades. Check. A second language. Check.

But, I’ve learned to look out for other things as well, because they usually lead to interesting conversations with interesting people – and that’s one of the best things that can happen at a job interview. These are the candidates who, by the end of the interview, leave me hoping they will want to join my team.

Independence. Energy. Perseverance. Creativity. Curiosity. Self-motivation. What do they have in common? They’re traits that are not that easy to highlight in a CV, but that au pairs often have in spades.

  • Independence. A young person who travels to a foreign country on their own, and chooses to work as an au pair, is someone who is not afraid of the new, someone who wants to stand on his/her own two feet and who no longer wants to rely on his/her parents’ support for everything.
  • Energy. Successful au pairs have the energy to engage the children in their care, they come up with games to play and things to do, and then the next day they get up and do it again.
  • Perseverance. Children can be difficult creatures. A new person coming into a child’s life does not necessarily have an easy time. Overcoming that initial reticence takes time, effort and perseverance, but the best au pairs simply don’t give up.
  • Creativity. It takes a high degree of creativity and imagination to engage the minds of children, particularly when teaching them a foreign language through play.
  • Curiosity. Travel implies curiosity, but we’re not talking about the I-traveled-somewhere-as-a-tourist-for-a-week-and-man-did-I-see-some-cool-things kind of travel here. We’re talking about someone really interested in people, and really engaged and determined to get to know a new culture.
  • Self-motivation. Au pairs often look to learn or perfect a second language, not for the sake of a diploma, but because they really want to master said language. Sometimes, they also do other things with their spare time, they take a computer programming or photography course, they volunteer their time at a local animal shelter, they take the chance to learn a new sport… they’re self-motivated to work to the best of their abilities.

Tips to build the au pair experience into a CV or resume: Don’t just write that you were an au pair in Berlin or Singapore for X or Y months. Instead, think of what the experience really meant to you, and brainstorm also on the top personal traits that the job you’re applying for requires. Then, work to match the two together: write something in your CV to bring the experience to life, making sure your recognizable character traits (the same one your future employer will be looking for), make it into the story.

How many children did you care for? What were they like? What level did you get your language skills to? Did you use your time in the country to learn any additional skills? What was the most difficult/rewarding thing about the experience?

Then, sit back and get ready to engage on the topic during the interview.

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Kicking off the holiday season with Thanksgiving

turkey-art-in-pilgrim-hats-of-thanksgivingPhoto via www.goodfreephotos.com

Here in Spain my corner Starbucks has already brought out the Christmas tree and Christmas cups (very cool-looking this year, incidentally), but they forget there is still one important holiday to think about before Christmas, for those families with links to the Anglosaxon world: Thanksgiving, or Día de Acción de Gracias.

It’s not about making our children experts on Thanksgiving, or dressing them up as seventeenth century pilgrims, but this holiday, in my opinion, offers a multitude of opportunities for celebrating with children, and for bringing English into their life. Some history, a bit of geography, a lot of adventure, and a good narrative about friendship and the power of sharing.

American and Canadian au pairs, also, will be happy that their host family is choosing to celebrate something so personal (and probably dear to them) as Thanksgiving.

Since there are tons of possible activities, I’m calling out in this small guide (below in English and Spanish), those that have been most successful for us, aiming for variety, and keeping in mind that we’re not all big fans of pumpkin cake.

The best thing is, these ideas are quick to put into practice, so you can use them for November 23rd, just a couple weeks away!

Download Ideas for Celebrating Thanksgiving (in English)

Download  Ideas para celebrar Thanksgiving (en español):

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The party was a huge success…

Ingredients for a terrifying Halloween party:

Bats straws and lollipop spiders, inspired by Pinterestpajitas_aranas.png

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Scary chocolate cupcakes (thanks, Erin Bakes, http://erinbakes.com/chocolate-eyeball-cupcake-tutorial/, it’s been some time since we had so much fun in the kitchen!)

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Door decoration to make sure nobody walked into the neighbor’s place by mistake

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The most important thing, 15 children in costumes, ready to have some fun.

Seeing so many children together reminded me, once again, of the importance of introducing the minority language into everyday life.

Although Halloween is a foreign word, our context here in Spain is what it is, and most things are translated into Spanish automatically (even trick of treat, a phrase that defies logical translation)

In this case, children in the party all had (to a greater or lesser degree), exposure to two languages, so it was interesting to see their reaction when somebody (mainly our au pair and the native parents) spoke to them in the minority language:

 

  • Some looked bored, their expression one of “but I’m not in school now,,,”, before going on their way,
  • Others made it clear they understood, but answered in Spanish (my eldest was firmly in this group),
  • Others (the smallest number), answered their interlocutor in his or her language, able to change instantly between one and the other language.

It wasn’t the objective of the party but seeing so many children together was a good chance to see where they are in the development of the second language, and served as a reminder that each child has his/her own rhythm.