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Is a Career
in Private Service
Right for You?

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Careers in Private Service can be very rewarding in many ways. However, they are less glamorous and effortless than one might imagine. The entertainment industry has created stereotypes that simply don’t exist. Mr. French was more than a trusted confidant, keeper of secrets, and all-seeing butler. And Miranda Priestly’s demanding and demoralizing work culture is not the norm with most principal employers. Great, mediocre, and bad employers, supervisors, and staff are found in every industry, including Private Service. 

Private Service revolves around relationships. Taking on a new role in this industry is often compared to getting married after only a few dates. The schedule, duties, expectations, and compensation may be easy to describe, but the culture, attitudes, and working relationships between the principal and their staff make or break the development of healthy boundaries, trust, longevity, and loyalty.  If you think Private Service might be for you, Forbes lays out What It Takes To Work For The Super Rich.

Skills

The skills needed to land a great job and grow a career in the Private Service industry can vary by position, experience, and level of service. This Code of Ethics is a great place to start, but these are the basics:

  • Integrity
  • Confidentiality
  • Service Heart
  • Lawful and Moral Behavior
  • Dedication
  • Respect
  • Adaptability
  • Communication
  • Follow-through
  • Flexibility

Transitional Jobs into the industry

Many individuals working as private service professionals never intended to find themselves in the industry. It is not uncommon for a babysitting job during college to lead to a new career path as a nanny or governess. Common transitional skills and experience can be found through jobs such as babysitter, housekeeper, catering staff, chauffeur, restaurant server, bartender, and concierge. Sometimes, these roles are sought by the employee; other times, a client sees a strength or trait and offers an opportunity to transition to a private service role with their residential staff.

FInding Transitional Jobs

Reputable Domestic Placement Agencies (specialized industry recruiters) often set stringent criteria for those they represent. They typically limit candidate applications to those who have earned at least 3-5 years of hands-on experience within private residences and have excellent verifiable references. Candidates meeting these criteria bring an invaluable wealth of firsthand knowledge and honed expertise, fortified by sterling references, attesting to their proficiency in navigating the nuances and demands of the private service domain. Conversely, newcomers armed with transferable skills often encounter a learning curve as they acclimate to the distinctive requirements of private service. While their skill set may be adaptable and applicable, the absence of direct experience within the intricacies of domestic environments necessitates a period of adjustment and acclimatization. This leaves newcomers to question – how can someone “break into” the private service industry?

For candidates keen on venturing into the private service industry but lacking the requisite years of experience, avenues for gaining a foothold do exist. Public job boards, online platforms, and membership organizations like Private Service Alliance can serve as valuable resources for uncovering transitional opportunities within private residences. While these roles may not require the same prerequisites and do not pay industry-standard wages as those sought via Domestic Placement Agencies, they provide invaluable hands-on experience and a platform for skill development, along with those golden tickets – the letters of reference. Sadly, due to privacy and NDAs, internships or apprenticeships are nonexistent. Embracing foundational education opportunities, such as specialized courses tailored to the nuances of private service, can further bolster one’s credentials and enhance their marketability within the industry. Ultimately, by proactively seeking out opportunities for skill acquisition and professional growth, aspiring private service professionals can lay the groundwork for a rewarding career trajectory within this specialized field.

Levels of service

Transitional Roles are just that, a chance to get your feet wet and assess your future interest in that role and the industry. They serve as bridges for individuals aspiring to enter the industry despite lacking explicit experience, tenure, and references. These roles offer a platform for individuals to showcase their transferable skills, adaptability, and eagerness to learn within the unique context of private residences. While individuals in transitional roles initially face a learning curve as they familiarize themselves with the intricacies of private service, they bring fresh perspectives, innovative ideas, and a willingness to grow, enriching the dynamics of the household. Through dedication, continuous learning, and a proactive approach to skill development, candidates in transitional roles can carve out pathways toward fulfilling careers within the private service industry.

Entry-Level Roles in private service, encompassing roles such as nanny, housekeeper, cook, and assistant, are fundamental pillars within the domain of domestic service. These positions typically entail hands-on responsibilities centered around a private residence’s day-to-day operations and maintenance. Nannies provide personalized care and support for children, ensuring their well-being and development in a nurturing environment. Housekeepers oversee the cleanliness and organization of the household, executing meticulous cleaning routines and managing household inventories. Cooks harness their culinary prowess to prepare nutritious and delicious meals tailored to the preferences of the household members. Assistants act as indispensable aides, adeptly managing administrative tasks, scheduling appointments, and facilitating seamless communication within the household.

Career-Level Roles are held by people who have decided to plant their flag and are committed to establishing themselves within a specific role, demonstrating proficiency and dedication in their chosen field. Examples of such titles may include Butler, Head Nanny, Head Housekeeper, or Executive Assistant. These professionals have honed their skills through years of experience and training programs and seek out opportunities that align with their expertise and preferences. While their duties remain somewhat detailed and repetitive, such individuals often enjoy some degree of authority and autonomy within their roles, allowing them to implement their own methods and strategies to accomplish tasks efficiently and effectively.

Professional-Level Roles represent the pinnacle of achievement within the private service industry, held by individuals who are not just committed but dedicated to continuous education and skill development. These professionals prioritize ongoing learning and advancement, pursuing various forms of education ranging from traditional university degrees to specialized certificates from trade schools, tech programs, or online courses. Titles associated with professional-level roles may include Private Chef, Estate Manager, Newborn Care Specialist, or Chief of Staff. In their pursuit of excellence, professionals at this level transition to increasingly demanding roles, incorporating sophisticated strategies, meticulous planning, and innovative solutions into their daily duties. Their responsibilities are very detailed and seldom repetitive, requiring them to exercise a high degree of authority and autonomy as they oversee complex projects, manage teams, and make strategic decisions to optimize household operations.

Education Options

Less than 20% of Private Service Professionals (PSPs) are estimated to be formally trained to do their work. While formal education has never been an industry requirement, foundational and continuing education are strongly recommended, encouraged, and beneficial in climbing the “domestic ladder.” 

Educational options for private service professionals can be difficult to compare and assess. Most educators provide students with a certificate upon successful completion of their course. However, outside the specialties of Chef, Nanny, and Newborn Care roles, there is no governing body to certify, regulate, or oversee the depth and breadth of the lessons offered. The consequences of this regulatory gap leave students and those hiring PSPs confused about the actual value of earned certificates. Courses aimed at Private Service Professionals generally fall into one of two categories: 

Foundational Education: courses that take several weeks or months to complete.

Continuing Education: courses that take a few hours to several days to complete.

At this time, there is no university degree in Private Service. However, some colleges and universities with Individual Studies departments and a strong Hospitality tract may allow a student to curate a degree plan, should a proper proctor be available. 

Students seeking to further their education in Private Service should compare current institutions, educators, prices, lesson plans, reputation, and accommodations. Speak with graduates, mentors, peers, career coaches, or a trusted Domestic Placement Agent to assess anticipated outcomes and career advantages of programs of interest. 

Titles

Thanks to tv shows, movies, and books, the titles assigned to private service roles seldom depict the depth and breadth associated with today’s staff. Butlers do more than open the door to guests and deliver a newspaper on a silver tray. And assistants rarely (if ever!) find time to file their nails while chatting on the phone, awaiting the next crisis to develop. However, someone who cooks and manages one home may be a household manager who happens to love to cook, or a Chef/ Household Manager. Someone who is a nanny to teens and personal assistant to the adults may be called a Family Assistant. 

See Who’s Who in the House for general descriptions, duties, experience, benefits, and compensation. 

duties

Duties assigned to industry titles can vary significantly from one estate to another. Variables can be classified by the formality of service standards, technologies used in daily operations, inherited vs. self-made wealth, an industry that fuels wealth (banking, tech, entertainment, etc.), entertaining/guest schedules, political bent, age and lifestyle (young and single, married, young children, empty nest, retired, or elderly), and the principal’s passions or hobbies (cars, yacht/sailing, wine, cigars, golf, tennis, etcetera). 

For example, a child in the family may discover a passion for tennis. This newfound passion would likely task the executive staff with sourcing and oversight of new grass or clay courts; hiring a groundskeeper with specific maintenance experience on such courts; hiring, relocating, and overseeing a tennis pro as a private coach; hiring and relocating a “sports-nanny” to supervise the child’s physical needs and travel schedule, along with a governess to homeschool the child’s educational requirements.

Job Descriptions

Families are rarely able to fully articulate every nuance of a job they seek to fill. The reasons can vary, but staff must first know that no college or management course teaches principals (employers) to manage their personal lives. This reality makes seeing the proverbial forest through the trees exceedingly difficult. The next variable is that life is unpredictable. The day-to-day needs of running an office are relatively routine, but at home, once you get past breakfast, anything can happen – and it often does. Preferences, schedules, duties, interests, family members, and pets can all change in an instant. These top stressors can happen at any moment to anyone, and affluent families are not immune to such experiences, including accidents, illness, birth, death, job change, retirement, marriage, divorce, moving to a new home, and financial changes.

Where to start

Start by looking at positions in your area that could be listed on your resume through transferrable skills. If becoming a nanny is your goal, start by working at a daycare facility and babysitting at night and on the weekends. If becoming a private chef interests you, start by working in a restaurant, then pick up small catering jobs on the side. Ask for references from everyone who can verify your abilities and experience.

There are entry-level education options for those wishing to become a housekeeper. And an *in-person butler training program is the foundation of any management-level position within private service. (*While online programs are available, full immersion into the culture, deportment, and atmosphere cannot be replicated online and should be considered “continuing education.”)

Check out the sections below for role-specific recommendations. 

assistant

Bonnie Low-Kramen serves on our Advisory Board of Directors. She is the foremost spokesperson on Executive Assistants, author and educator of Be the Ultimate Asstiant (BTUA),  TEDx Speaker, and author of Staff Matters. Bonnie wrote this article for Harvard Business Review which asks Is “Executive Assistant” the Right Career for You?

Butler + Household manager

Being a butler requires rigorous training and is today’s launching point in estate management. While the history of the butler’s title and duties is rooted in the formality of European royal estates, it has evolved to encompass household management, staffing, event planning, guest management, procurement, and more. 

Trained butlers hold an advantage over all other staff roles due to their specialized training specific to the private service industry. This training is the solid foundation that Private Service Professional (PSP) careers are built upon, allowing one to climb the “domestic ladder.”

The Charles MacPherson Academy is located in Toronto, Canada, and offers students live, online, private, and hybrid training options. 

The International Butler Academy (TIBA) is located in The Netherlands and has earned the world’s best Butler School title. TIBA answers the question How to become a butler?

Nanny

A nanny is not a babysitter, who plays games, watches tv, chats with friends, and falls asleep on the job before the parents get home.

Being a nanny involves the daily support of a child’s educational, emotional, mental, nutritional, physical, and social needs. In 2019, CNN reported What it takes to be a $200,000-a-year nanny.

Security Detail

Close protection officers typically transition out of the highest ranks of military service and those with law enforcement backgrounds. Licensing and training requirements vary by state and the needs of the employer. Private Security Professionals of America describes The Career Bodyguard.

Private Chef

Private Chefs work as an employee for one family. They typically need 3-5 years of chef experience, which could be through a restaurant or as a personal chef. Kamikoto describes the Differences Between a Private and Personal Chef.

Newborn Care Specialist

Newborn Care Specialists (NCS) are highly trained nannies who support parents by assisting with sleep, feeding schedules, and infant development during the first months of life. Many NCS function as parent educators, teaching proper parenting and acceptable baby care techniques. Learn more from Newborn Care Solutions.

keynote Speaker

Picture of Nicole Middendorf

Nicole Middendorf

CEO of Prosperwell Financial and Wealth Advisor with RJFS

Nicole is a money maven, a knowledge junkie, and a born coach. Nicole became an entrepreneur in 2003 when she launched her wealth management firm. She is the author of five books, the mother of two phenomenal children, a world traveler, a philanthropist, and an accomplished public speaker.

Nicole shares financial advice and real-life perspective on saving, planning, and investing with audiences across the country. Her primary goal is to take complicated subjects and make them easy to understand. She works hard to empower people to make crucial, positive changes in their own lives.

Picture of Nicole Middendorf

Nicole Middendorf

CEO of Prosperwell Financial and Wealth Advisor with RJFS

Nicole is a money maven, a knowledge junkie, and a born coach. Nicole became an entrepreneur in 2003 when she launched her wealth management firm. She is the author of five books, the mother of two phenomenal children, a world traveler, a philanthropist, and an accomplished public speaker.

Nicole shares financial advice and real-life perspective on saving, planning, and investing with audiences across the country. Her primary goal is to take complicated subjects and make them easy to understand. She works hard to empower people to make crucial, positive changes in their own lives.

Prosperwell Financial provides personalized wealth management advice to effectively guide you through every stage of life. Our advisors help to plan your way toward true financial happiness, including financial retirement planning, college education savings, estate planning, asset management, insurance, and financial divorce planning. Founded by Wealth Advisor and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst Nicole Middendorf, Prosperwell Financial serves individuals and executives all across the U.S. We help you gain the confidence needed to be in control of your financial happiness.

The Wealth Advisors at Prosperwell Financial take the time to learn about you. We want to know your goals, dreams, and desires. As a mentor and coach, we guide you through the process of discovering your financial options and possibilities. Whether that means planning for retirement, converting an IRA, working with a 401k, or wealth management services, Prosperwell Financial will have you covered.

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May 1 to July 15, 2024

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