Part-time work: Why nannying was the perfect third year job

26 Mar 2019
By Ellie H., University graduate at

When I finished my first year of uni, it suddenly dawned on me that I desperately needed a job. But with so many options, I found it hard to decide what to do. Barista, shop assistant, waitress - none of these appealed to me.

Thankfully, my housemate had just started working as a nanny and encouraged me to look into it. So I did, and that’s how I became a part-time nanny in my third year.

Here’s how I got the job, why it was perfect for me, and why it might be for you too.

How to find a job as a nanny

I found my first nannying role through a nursery close to my university campus. I had worked in a nursery before, which gave me an advantage. But experience working with children isn’t essential, and you don’t need to be referred by a nursery either.

The second family I nannied for, I found by searching on the internet! You can find families and apply through Gumtree, or recruitment sites like Indeed. Then there are specialist childcare recruitment sites like and

When you apply, include any experience you have with children no matter how small it seems. Got younger siblings? Did some babysitting when you were younger? Include them, they are all great examples of experience.

Choosing the right family and job

Job interviews can be nerve-racking. But interviewing with a family (rather than a business) means you can meet them in the comfort of their home or in a laid-back coffee shop.

I remember meeting the family for the first time in a local coffee shop over a cup of tea and cake. I instantly got along with them and spent most of the time chatting about my hometown Bristol, where funnily enough they came from too! Meeting like this makes it so much easier to chat about what you want from the role and what the family needs.

Remember though, you’ve got a schedule of your own and studying to think about, so it’s important to make your availability clear from the start. The role in general can be very flexible for a student and I found that it fit perfectly with my lectures during the week.

What does a nanny do?

When applying for roles, consider what you are comfortable with doing, if you are happy to look after more than one child, and the ages of the children you’ll be caring for.

A typical shift involves:

  • School pick-up and drop-off
    You’ll help the family at the start and/or end of each day by getting the children to and from school.
  • After school clubs
    The children went to a gymnastics club that I took them to once a week, this was a great chance to speak to other parents and plan for play dates with their friends.
  • Homework
    Depending on the ages of the children, this can range from simple reading and writing tasks to creative art projects.
  • Making dinner
    This depends entirely on the family, and they will usually let you know if this is required and what they expect. If you’re not comfortable with cooking, just let them know during the interview.
  • Play
    This is the fun part! Whether it was cosying up with the kids to watch a film, playing games in the house, or taking them to the park, I loved this bit. Our go-to games were Operation (which I even remember playing as a kid!) and good old Hide and Seek.

Take some time before any interviews to think about what you’re ready to commit to. If everybody knows exactly what you’re responsible for before you start, it’ll help avoid any unnecessary stress.

Balancing nanny work with study

Too much work to do? Dissertation to write? Don’t worry, families usually don’t need you every day of the week, which makes it perfect for your timetable. You get weekends free, unless you agree to babysit for extra cash. The pay can range from £8 to £10 an hour depending on where you live (just make sure you’re getting at least the minimum wage).

I found that the job came with the perfect study space. When I started babysitting in the evenings, I had a comfortable and quiet space where I could write my dissertation. It got me out of the library and away from my bustling student accommodation, which is needed now and then. Plus, I was able to distract myself from work for a while by watching a film the kids had picked, Toy Story 3 was their favourite and we always cuddled on the sofa with blankets for this.

Is nannying a stressful job?

Yes, it can be. There’s a lot of responsibility when you look after children and sometimes it can feel like a lot of pressure with the added stress of uni work. I found that talking regularly with the parents about the role and my uni obligations meant they could help if I was struggling.

They also became a kind of support system away from my family back at home. This was incredibly helpful whenever I felt stressed about the job or university.

Even though it’s stressful there were times I had lots of fun. During the summer holidays was one of the best times, I could take them out and do fun activities for the day. I took them to a trampoline park and they went completely crazy with wide grins on their faces, I joined in too, and we couldn’t stop laughing. It’s moments like that which made the job worth it for me.

What I gained from my role as a nanny

Graduation came around so quickly. Soon, it was time to say goodbye to the family I had become a part of over the past two years. Nannying really gave me a sense of accomplishment and saying goodbye made me realise I’d had a positive impact on their lives too. It’s been two years since I graduated and I still keep in touch with the families, they send me Christmas cards and updates on how fast the kids are growing up.

I can’t stress enough how much being a nanny helped me at university. From feeling comfortable in a new city, to being involved in something that wasn’t just student-based - it really was an invaluable experience.

But don’t just take my word for it…

Here’s what my uni housemate Lauren told me about her time as a nanny:

“I naturally enjoy working with children so very much liked the role. The job provided the perfect balance between chaotic student halls and cosy movie nights in with three children. At times, I did struggle with the responsibility. But I won’t ever regret doing the job. It has since provided me with countless opportunities and has played a fundamental role in making me who I am today.”

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Ellie is a university graduate and Service and Support Assistant at Unite Students.