Most people get fired from a job at some point in their lives. Since even the most professional nannying position takes place in a private home and your success in a role relies so heavily on your personality and your interactions with a family in a private environment, often the sting of getting fired is harsher than it is in a corporate setting.
In an office environment when someone is terminated, there are after-work drinks and phone calls from ex-coworkers who want to comfort you and offer condolences. But in a private home environment, nannies are usually the first, and often the only, full-time employee and due to privacy, NDAs, and respect for your ex-employers, many nannies who lose their jobs have limited or no resources to turn to as they decide what they will do next.
Often as a nanny, the most challenging part of being fired (and for the purposes of this blog, we are going to keep calling it ‘fired’ – not ‘downsized,’ ‘terminated,’ ‘let go,’ or ‘parted ways’, and we’ll talk about why later,) handling how to address it in future interviews with potential families and agencies who might assist you in your job search is a critical and pivotal step in order to move forward with the rest of your career. Here are a few pointers to help you navigate the interview process for your next role with authenticity, respect, and honesty.
Tell The Truth, Every Time, To Everyone
The most important quality to most families isn’t whether or not you’ve ever been fired – it’s that you are trustworthy to the fullest extent. The amount of access a nanny or other household employee has to their employers is paramount – house keys, security system access codes, travel schedules, social network, other employees, passwords, credit cards – not to mention being responsible for their children! It often takes only one misstep or white lie to cause a family to question their trust in an employee, and a family who has experienced a breach of trust within their household will not give an interviewing candidate the ‘benefit of the doubt’ if things do not seem to line up quite right. They can’t afford to – they are looking for someone who will take care of their children and their household and operate with the utmost integrity.
So if you have been fired from a position, don’t be afraid to say so, to a family or to an agency. As an agency, we have successfully worked with many candidates who have been fired from positions provided they were honest with us about it and the family was still willing to provide a reference. Many families who have fired a nanny will still speak highly of them, note their strengths, and point out why the personality match was not a good fit or why things did not work out without lambasting the nanny. However, when an agency or a family hear that your position ended because ‘the kids got older and the family didn’t need me as much’ and then speak to a reference and learn that it ended because you were fired (for denting a Tesla or being late too often or spending too much time on your phone or being too sweet / too rigid / too organized / too disorganized / too uptight / too laid-back / too caring / too ambivalent / overly communicative / non-communicative,) the issue is almost never why you were fired – it’s that you were not honest about it.
Accentuate The Positive
You got fired. Let’s say it together with some deep breaths to practice: I. Was. Fired. I. Was. Fired.
The keyword is ‘was’ – that day, the day you got fired and you got in your car and drove a block away and cried for an hour? Remember that? Good news: That day is in the past. It has now become a PAST experience that happened to you already and that has taught you something important that has made you a better person. Wow, isn’t that incredible?!
Here’s the coolest part: since you are being honest with future employers about being fired, you can also explain to them how the experience helped you grow into a better person, employee, and nanny!
Even if you think the reasons you were fired aren’t fair, try to find the value in the experience. A family who is considering hiring you does not want to hear about how mean, insensitive, late, or un-involved a previous employer might have been – not only is it wildly unprofessional to share information like that ever, but it also paints you in a negative light and will make any family nervous that you will be speaking negatively about them to whomever you work for next if they hire you. Again, nannying is such a personal role that trust, privacy, and absolute discretion are a must-have.
Here are some positive phrases to help you get in a learning mindset when speaking about the position/s you were fired from:
- That was a challenging role that I learned a lot from.
- That experience was really transformative for me because I learned the importance of ____________
- In hindsight, I realized that ___________.
Here are some phrases you may be tempted to use, but will likely not land well in an interview with an agency or with a family:
- “It wasn’t my fault.”
Listen, maybe it wasn’t your fault, really! But stating it will be heard as defensive, and it begs the question: ‘but WAS it their fault?’
- “One of the parents was crazy.”
First of all – the word ‘crazy’ has its own set of troubling issues to unpack. Mental illness is real, and joking about it isn’t cool, ok?! Second of all – you’re talking to parents and they don’t want to hear stories about unhinged parents. Being a parent is very challenging and, as a nanny, you are often seeing parents at their very truly worst moments that they are not proud of. Parents are doing their best. So are nannies. Be gracious in the way you describe your past employers. A great rule of thumb is to not say anything you wouldn’t say if your past employers were in the room with you.
- “They didn’t let me say goodbye / they didn’t give me my last paycheck on time / they talked trash about me to the neighbors.”
Emotions are running high during terminations, and sharing the gory details of how things played out after you were fired is not going to win you any points or endear you to a potential employer.
Find someone to talk to. (Note: if you signed an NDA, that person is a therapist!)
Losing a job is one of the most stressful things that can happen in your adult life. As someone who has chosen to adopt nannying as your professional career, you most likely LOVE children and established a strong bond with the kids of your ex-employers. Depending on how you were fired and how much notice you had, if any, you may have had an awkward exit and in many cases did not have as much of an opportunity to properly say goodbye to your ‘nanny kids’ as you would have liked. Even after any initial anger subsides, the sadness from the severing of that relationship can last for a long time. Many nannies run into trouble during interviews with agencies or families because they simply cannot stop themselves from over-sharing – this is because they have not given themselves the space or time they need to fully process the situation and move on from it.
Most nannies will have signed a non-disclosure agreement, but even if your previous employers did not ask you to, keep in mind that part of being a professional nanny is respecting the family’s privacy, which extends past the working relationship into eternity. Literally. So if you need to vent, process, or have someone hear your side of the story, we strongly recommend speaking to a therapist who follows HIPPA guidelines and is able to have confidential conversations with you that do not violate any NDAs in place and are protected by law. A friend, family member, past co-worker, or roommate may be very trustworthy to you, but no one is perfect, and gossip spreads fast!
Above all else, posting your grievances about your nanny family (whether you have been fired or are still employed) in online nanny communities, even ones that seem private, is essentially the worst thing you can do for your career. Nothing is private on the Internet, screenshots are abundant, and complaining is almost always more of an indicator of the complainer’s character than it is of the subject. Take the high road and talk to someone who will listen confidentially. Some version of therapy is covered under most insurance plans, and there are also many affordable apps that can connect you to therapists around the country for one-off phone or FaceTime sessions to let you air your grievances in a safe and non-judgmental environment.
Remember: most past employers are rooting for you!
Speaking personally – over the last nine years, I have had five different roles at two different companies. Over the course of those nine years, I have had to fire a number of people – most of whom I liked and would hire again in a different role at a different company. The fact that someone is not a good fit in their current role, or with their current employer, is often just that – a fact. It is not a criticism of who you are as a person, your skills in your position, or your philosophy – it is just not a match. The amount of time and energy you spend getting to know an employing family is usually not taken for granted, and most of your past employers, regardless of how messy the ending of the relationship is, are truly rooting for you and want you to succeed, even if success will not be achieved in their household.
How have you handled being fired in the past? Do you think these tips will be helpful in the future? We’d love to hear about your personal takeaways, along with any feedback on who or what you’d like to learn about in future Summit Sessions!
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