Leaving school and trying to get a job can be scary. There’s lots of competition and, if it’s your first job, there will be other people with more experience. We've put this guide together to help you stay one step ahead of the other applicants.
Where to look?
A simple search online will give you plenty of job sites. You can search for jobs that sound interesting in your local area. If you know the specific job you are looking for, like working in a nursery, then a website dedicated to that profession, like Parenta Jobs, will be a good starting point.
Local newspapers are another good place to look. If you know the names of local nurseries and pre-schools, you could look them up online and email or call to see if they are looking for childcare staff. It’s good to show initiative and enthusiasm this way, but be careful not to pester; nursery staff are very busy as it is!
Don’t let yourself down before you get an interview!
A strong CV can put you ahead of other candidates before you even walk into an interview. A CV is a summary of all your experience and should focus on anything that will show you can do the job that you’re applying for. Because of this, you should tailor it to every job you apply for.
There are plenty of examples online but a CV should include your name and contact details, any previous work experience and results of exams you've taken. Write a good personal statement, which is a couple of paragraphs saying why you would be a good employee. You can use it to talk about your achievements. If you don’t have any work achievements yet, then talk about personal ones that demonstrate the skills you need for the job. For example, playing in a sports team will show commitment and team working ability.
This is the first impression someone will have of you, so ensure the grammar and spelling is good. It never hurts to get a friend or family member to check it over for you.
You’ve got an interview!
Different people will interview you in different ways. Most interviews will involve you meeting one or two senior members of staff from the nursery. If they have an office, they will probably interview you there, but some are limited on space so be prepared for an interview in the nursery itself.
You should dress smartly for an interview. If you’re too casual, they may think you’re not taking it seriously. You could almost say there’s no such thing as being too smart for an interview (but you can draw the line at a bow tie or ball gown!).
Leave plenty of time to get to the setting, in case you hit traffic or there are delays in public transport. You don’t want to be in a panic when you arrive. You’ll have to sign in at the nursery, so make sure you’re there around ten minutes before the interview.
When the person interviewing you approaches you, stand and smile, and shake their hand. It will probably be a nursery manager or owner or, in larger childcare settings, an member of the Human Resources team. While you’re talking, make eye contact and try to relax. Although experience plays a part, more and more employers are realising the importance of personality. Skills can be taught, but a great personality cannot. It’s something that you should let shine through in your interview, particularly when going for a job in the childcare industry.
Listen carefully to the questions and make sure you answer them, giving examples where you can. If you don’t understand the question, it’s OK to ask for the interviewer to explain what they mean.
Remember, whilst you are the one being interviewed, this is also an opportunity for you to find out about the nursery. Before you go, prepare a couple of questions to ask, or ask to be shown around; it’ll show you’re really interested.
If you are offered the job, you may be asked to provide details of a couple of referees. These are people that the nursery can ask to confirm that you are suitable for the job. Ideally, these will be previous employers, so you could give details of previous part-time or summer jobs you've had. If you've not had any employment, other people you could ask are teachers from your old school, or perhaps someone who has known you for a number of years, like a family friend. You cannot ask family members to be referees. If you are unsure, talk to the nursery and ask who they will accept a reference from.
Starting the job
It is now common for nurseries to take staff on trial periods. These usually last for three to six months and give the nursery chance to make sure you are suitable for the job.
At all times, make sure you are polite, turn up on time and listen carefully to what the nursery manager or room leader tells you.
If you are doing an apprenticeship, you will also have an assessor who will be available by phone and email in case you have any questions about what you are learning.
Developing your career
Once you have a job in a nursery, there are plenty of opportunities to develop your career further. Parenta offer apprenticeships, which are a great way to learn as you earn. If you are aged 16-18 and seriously looking for a position in childcare, or have a nursery job already, we will be happy to help with your training. The best thing is, there’s lots of funding available so, chances are, you won’t have to pay a penny to take great childcare courses.
If you think you're ready to kick start your childcare career, click below!