Domestic Service jobs for Armed Forces personnel - A Butler Bureau report

The Butler Bureau - for domestic staff and their employers
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Men, women and couples retiring from the Armed forces and looking for a job in civvy street might be well advised to looking into Domestic service as a possible new career

Here Clive McGonigal, an ex Officers’ Mess Manager, discusses why ex soldiers, sailors and airmen can find a happy home in the Household Management world.

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CAREERS IN DOMESTIC SERVICE FOR FORCES PERSONNEL

By Clive McGonigal

"What Ho Jeeves!"

Perhaps your view of the quintessential British Butler has been slightly skewered by P.G. Wodehouse's books or the subsequent television series. Then of course there was Batman's butler Alfred, Antony Hopkins in 'The remains of the day' and too many others to mention here - good, bad or just plain snooty.

Maybe, too, you have read about strange 'below stairs' goings-on in royal palaces around the world - it sometimes seems that the ony time Butlers are mentioned in the press is when they've 'gone bad' or inherited (or stolen!) their deceased employers wealth - very suspicious because, as we all know, the Butler did it!

The reality of domestic service as a career change is far removed from all this nonsense. It is not just about doddering old retainers working for ageing Earls in decrepit country piles. Todays Butler or Valet can be a well paid jet-setting personal assistant to a wealthy family or individual, controlling all aspects of multiple homes (or boats for that matter) around the world. His or her remit could include personal protection issues, event organisation and more, no two jobs are the same.

An Estate Manager running a large estate with extensive forestry, gamekeeping and building upkeep duties. A Domestic couple working on a small country estate with their own live-in cottage in the grounds - one partner being in charge of the housekeeping and cooking aspect and the other contributing as a driver, handyperson, gardener. The list goes on and on - Personal Chefs, Bodyguards, Housekeepers all fall under the domestic service banner.

Here's a fact: There are more wealthy people in the world today than ever. Annoying but true.

These people need more time than you and I. Why? So much money so little time to spend it essentially - why spend an hour picking up the dry cleaning when someone else can do it for you? If your time is worth £300 per hour then it makes sense to pay someone else £30 an hour to do all the mundane stuff.

 
 

Why think about what tonight's supper will be when an employee can make that decision, knowing your likes and dislikes, and then cook and serve it.

Salaries for domestic staff vary greatly but a proficient butler can be looking at anything from £30k to £60k+ p.a. a domestic couple around the same. The great thing of course is that accomodation is generally provided and day to day expenses covered.

The biggest problem is how to break into the domestic service field. Placement agencies tend to prefer candidates with previous experience. It's the age old Catch 22 - how do you get the experience without doing the job? Well, ex-military are a step ahead of the rest as a military background is seen as a real positive and therefore can often negate the experience issue.

We would be doing the Butler a great dis-service if we assumed that everyone had the knowledge required to be a Jeeves or Hudson, it's very much a question of being a master of all trades - from the care of fine antiques, clothes to culinary skills, aknowledge of fine living and superlative people skills. Most important of all is the demeanour, confident and aloof without appearing supercilious or arrogant. This is gained with experience and over time but training is available too.

Butler schools in the UK and Europe offer courses, usually live-in, over 4-8 weeks and costing anything from £2k to £8k. Correspondence courses are also available which might appeal to those wanting to prepare themselves prior to leaving the forces.

Explore the web! Look at the various agency and resource web sites and you'll quickly get an idea of what clients are looking for and how much they are prepared to pay to be looked after in the Wodehouse style.

Pip,pip, what!

[About the author: Clive McGonigal is a semi-retired butler (and ex-Officers' Mess manager) now living in France. He runs the Butler Bureau (www,butlerbureau.com) a web site offering advice and help to domestic staff and their employers] This article was commissioned by Pathfinder magazine - the Ministry of Defense’s magazine for UK armed forces personnel who are leaving the forces.