Contract Negotiation: Top Five Mistakes Nannies Make When Job Hunting

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Let’s face it, negotiations are tough. But they’re a necessary part of working as a nanny since there’s no middle man between you and employers. The good news is that savvy negotiators aren’t born, they’re created. (OK, we’ve all had kids that were born negotiators. So let me rephrase; most aren’t born!) No matter where you’re starting from, you can get to the place where negotiating is easier, less stressful, and much more productive for you. I promise. Just add some self-awareness and skill building, take away some common mistakes and voilà, you have a strong foundation for a successful negotiator. Speaking of common mistakes, here are the top five I see happening over and over again with nannies. Do you struggle with any of these?

1. Failing To Set The Stage For An Effective Negotiation
If you’re waiting until the end of the interview to let the family know what you need, you’re waiting too long. First, it’s critical that a family knows what your core requirements are before you interview with them. Otherwise there’s a good chance they won’t be able or willing to meet them. If you’re working with a quality agency, they’ll make sure the family is on the same page wage and benefit wise. If you’re searching on your own, make sure to include a Job Wanted page at the end of your job search portfolio. (You wouldn’t want to find out after the interview that a family is only offering half of your required rate or that they’re not offering guaranteed hours. Families feel the same way.)

Second, the interview is your opportunity to tell the family why. Why they should hire you, why you’re worth the rate you’re asking for, why benefits should be included in your compensation package, why they should work with you to create a work environment that works for both of you. (Hint: all of these answers should be around who you are as a caregiver and person and how you’ll meet their needs.  If you’re outlining the facts about your area’s rate and standard benefits during the interview, you’re off track.)  If you’re interviewing effectively, by the time you get to the official negotiating stage they will already be in love with you. That strong foundation makes the negotiation conversation a piece of cake.

2. Seeing Negotiation As A Conflict Rather Than A Conversation
Society tells us that a negotiation is at its core a battle. For one side to win, the other side must lose. For one side to gain, the other side must give something up. No wonder we dread these conversations! It doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, the best negotiators focus on common ground, shared goals, and balanced solutions. By reframing your negotiation as a problem solving conversation rather than a conflict, you can change the whole dynamic of the interaction and the end result.

3. Letting Your Baggage Keep You From Getting What You Deserve
Negotiating for most things, but especially money, brings up our stuff. We fear that we’re really not worth what we’re asking for, that we’re going to be rejected and abandoned, that we’re going to come off as crass, greedy, or caring more about our compensation package than the kids. None of these fears have to do with what’s happening in the here and now. They all have to do with past experiences that imprinted fear, guilt, shame, and worthlessness on our psyche. We can’t change those past experiences but we can change how they affect us today. It’s a choice. We can continue to let them invade our current experiences, or we can turn and face them, embrace them, learn the lessons offered, let them go, and move forward.

4. “You Get What You Pay For”
We hear this a lot in our industry. Unfortunately there are lots of caregivers out there willing to take an hourly rate far below a living wage simply to land a job. This nanny is often used as an example during negotiations to justify or explain why a family is offering a lower than market rate. It’s the familiar “but my friend down the street has this amazing nanny who does more for way less” argument. All too often nannies respond with the “you get what you pay for” counter argument. Although this response makes sense on the surface, it works against you.

It automatically puts the family on the defensive because what they hear is “I think you’re cheap because you don’t want to pay my hourly rate and your kids are going to suffer because of it.” So with that statement, you’ve taken the focus off why you’re so fabulous and you’ve moved the focus to this invisible nanny. Of course the parents are now going to defend their idea and tell you why in this case, the adage “you get what you pay for” doesn’t apply. And let’s face it, this is a debate you’ll never win because the nanny is a myth.

5. Accepting No During The First Round
Remember a good negotiation is a problem solving conversation. That means there’s a lot of proposing ideas, proposing counter ideas, and meeting in the middle going on. A no isn’t necessarily a no. It’s often is just a no to the last idea offered. What would you do if you were trying to solve a problem with someone and the first solution didn’t work for them? Would you just throw up your hands and say “Well, I guess this is an unsolvable problem!” or “Well, I guess I have to settle for whatever you say.”  No, you’d tweak the solution so it was a better fit for your situation or you’d move onto Plan B, then Plan C. Same rules apply here. Don’t interpret no as a rejection. Interpret it as an invitation to try out a different idea.

Happy negotiating!