College grads turn to babysitting to make money

College grads lacking work turn to babysittingThe National Center for Education Statistics estimates that 1.6 million people aged 18 and over earned a bachelor's degree in 2009. I happen to be among those graduates: hitting the street, bright-eyed, and looking for opportunity. And since graduating from Chicago's DePaul University with a Bachelor's Degree in Communication and photojournalism, I've found myself hustling between a plethora of part time and freelance jobs.

That's where the kid comes in.

You see, one day a co-worker offered me $50 to entertain her son for an evening. Never in a million years would I have predicted that at age 23, with a degree under my belt, that I would add "personal caretaker" (a.k.a. babysitter) to my resume. The last time I remember babysitting, I was 12 -- and frankly did not care for it. I never was completely fond of kids; between tantrums, fragile emotions and their co-dependent natures, I never felt a desire to interact with them.

But ideas and feelings change quick when you're broke. I babysat for my co-worker that one time. After that, requests for sitting rolled in from several families. Before I knew it, I had a consistent part-time sitting job. Looking around and talking to people, I realized that I was not alone.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that in April 2010 the unemployment rate for college graduates 25 and older was 4.9%, with a national unemployment rate of 9.9%. Still, the numbers are deceptive; how many grads are flipping burgers and serving coffee as opposed to working in the career of their choice?

One overlooked fact: Tons of college graduates now seek to to beat the post-education blues and debt as nannies. Abundant nanny and sitting opportunities exist everywhere from general sites such as Craigslist, to specialty sites such as Sittercity. Generally, one can find local opportunities with solid pay. And recent college grads, often seen as committed and responsible, have an inside edge when it comes to caring for very precious cargo: kids.

Sittercity, established in 2001, boasts more than a million caregiver profiles nationwide. According to Melissa Underwood, the chief brand officer for Sittercity.com, the website receives a new job posting approximately every four minutes. On a busy day she has seen up to 2,000 new profiles apply to the site. Depending on the geographic area, the ratio of caregivers to seekers is loosely 11:1.

"Now there are more accessible, more experienced caregivers available," Underwood says. "Sitters are not the high school student down the street anymore."

According to Underwood, in 2001 the average age of a nanny or sitter was 18. In 2010, the average age is 29 and many have some sort of higher education: "60 to 65% of the profiles we see are either in college, or have graduated college," Underwood says. It's common for individuals to nanny while in college, and continue to do so after.

Contrary to popular belief, this is not limited to females. "Female care providers account for 95% of our profiles," Underwood says. "Though females are a little more typical you do see males in the industry."

"I've worked as a manny [a male nanny] for two years," says Vinnie Pillarella, 26, enrolled in a graduate program at DePaul, concentrating on social and cultural foundations in education. "The term nanny is silly in the first place; that's a goat. Am I a male goat? Possibly, but I don't find it offensive and I don't mind behind referred to as one. I have found that if I call myself a manny, people don't think twice."

Being a nanny is a constructive way to keep busy and earn an income post-college, though sticking around long term is not for everyone. It can be an enjoyable way to stay afloat financially, and allows time to pursue other interests such as freelancing, art or further education. But employment benefits get left out, such as health insurance and sick days.

For some recent grads, playing in the park eventually loses its excitement. But for those content to stick to the monkey bars, nannying isn't just a detour anymore, but a legitimate employment choice that turns the college student into a young de facto teacher.

Pillarella became a manny after working as an assistant teacher at a Montessori school in Chicago. A classically trained musician, he also teaches piano. "The combined income between the family and my students is more than I could have made working in a school before earning my degree," Pillarella said. "I'm not seeking alternative employment. ... The job currently suits me well."

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