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Expert Insights with Susan Tokayer and Becky Kavanagh, Co-Presidents of the International Nanny Association

February 17, 2013

by Michelle LaRowe
Editor in Chief

For most all of my own nanny career, I have been involved with the International Nanny Association. As a member, board member and employee of the association, I was privileged to have seen the value membership brings to those who join and actively participate. Recently I caught up with co-presidents Susan Tokayer, owner of Family Helpers, a Dobbs Ferry, NY full-service domestic agency, and Becky Kavanagh, an award winning nanny/household manager who has more than 22 years of in-home childcare experience. Here’s a snip-it of what they had to share about the nanny industry and the association.

eNannySource: What is the International Nanny Association?

Susan: The International Nanny Association, or INA, is a nonprofit educational association. We are the umbrella association for the in-home childcare industry. Our mission is to provide information, education and guidance to the public and to industry professionals.

eNannySource: Why should nannies join INA?

Susan: Nannies benefit in many ways from joining INA. By joining, they affiliate themselves with a professional association that works to educate the public and employers about what a professional nanny is and does. Over the past two decades, as the public has been educated to view nannies as professionals, nannies’ salaries and benefits have increased. The membership dollars of nannies (and all members) allow us to promote our message.

Becky: As a nanny, I feel it’s beneficial for all nannies to be members and participate in an industry-related group. INA is the only umbrella organization for the entire industry, and in my opinion INA is “the” organization to join. I actually joined INA prior to starting my first nanny job because I felt so strongly that I needed to be connected to other professional nannies.

eNanySource: What are the benefits of membership for nannies?

Becky: Beyond the obvious networking opportunities with others in our industry, there are a list of member benefits on our website. I believe the most valuable benefit, though, is the high quality annual conference INA provides that features continuing education for nannies and expanded information for all industry leaders and businesses. For me, the networking and connections with professional peers is the most valuable component to membership and to attending the annual conference.

Susan: INA nanny members have the opportunity to be involved and help guide the industry by their participation in writing articles for the newsletter, INAvision, volunteering to work at the conference or committees and joining the board of directors.

eNannySource: The annual conference is certainly the must attend nanny event of the year. What else can you tell me about it?

Susan: The annual conference is the industry’s most highly attended conference, and it gives nannies the opportunity to attend several workshops and network with other nannies from throughout the country and the world.

Becky: INA’s annual conference is held in different locations around the US in the spring of each year. In 2013, we will be gathering in Louisville, Kentucky. The program is full of celebrating all that is unique about the nanny industry. INA offers sessions that appeal to all of us, as well as those that are specific to agencies, nannies and specialty nannies, like newborn care specialists.

eNannySource: What top three tips can you share with nannies currently  seeking employment?

Susan: The most important thing for a nanny seeking a nanny position is to remember that you are a professional. Thinking of yourself as a professional will affect every aspect of your job search in a positive way. From the way you dress for a job interview to how you put a portfolio together, it’s all different when you think of yourself as a professional nanny.

Most professional nannies have taken some type of training to work with children, and I can’t emphasize enough how important education is. One of the ways nannies can differentiate themselves and make themselves more marketable is to carry the certificates from their trainings in their portfolios. Trainings vary, and you don’t necessarily need a college degree to work as a nanny. But taking online trainings, attending conferences and keeping your CPR and First Aid up-to-date will make an impression on prospective employers. By participating in continuing education, you convey to an employer that you like your profession and are interested in learning things that will help you perform your job better. It also says that you are self-motivated to stay up-to-date on current trends in your profession.

I mentioned a portfolio earlier, and I think having up-to-date, well organized paperwork is crucial. A well written resume with no misspelled words is critical. All reference phone numbers should be correct and all dates of employment should be accurate. A portfolio that contains notes, cards and pictures your past charges have drawn for you, for example, shows both your professional side and your warm, nurturing side: A winning combination!

Becky: In addition to what Susan said, I think it’s important to know your market and understand your value in that market, understand the areas of your “must haves” and “compromises” and use a variety of sources for your search.

eNannySource: Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about INA or the nanny industry?

Susan: I feel fortunate to be working in this industry at this time. INA and other associations have worked hard to make changes in our industry and I see the results of these changes every day in my work with both nannies and families. Compared to when I began working in this industry 18 years ago, many more families and nannies do view nannies as professionals. Nannies and families understand that the law requires them to pay taxes, they know that nannies are entitled to overtime pay and many more families and nannies are completing written employment contracts. We still have much to do in our industry, but we have come a long way!

To learn more about INA and its annual conference, visit www.nanny.org. Those who are new to INA and joined after June 1, 2012, and who have never attended an INA Annual Conference, are eligible for 50% off of their conference registration.


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