Butler and domestic staff Job Descriptions

The Butler Bureau - for domestic staff and their employers

What is the job description  of the domestic staff position you are seeking? Here are the Butler Bureau’s definitive guides to who does what in a modern household or estate.

Are you a Butler a Houseman or a Major Domo? An Estate Manager or a Head Gardener? Choose your job description and promote/advertise yourself as such.

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Are you applying for the right position? Research the job requirements, analyze your skills. Be confident in what you bring to the job. Improve your skill base regularly

The Butler

A Butlers' responsibilities can encompass more than one household. If his duties include the supervision of other domestic staff in one or more households he is often referred to as a House Manager or Major Domo. In this case his remit would include hiring and organizing other household staff ( a housekeeper, cooks and maids) as well as outside contractors and personnel (gardeners, chauffeurs and maintenance). Alternatively, he may be the sole employee in a smaller household in which case he might be expected to carry out light cooking duties and act as a Valet and Personal Assistant.

Valeting refers to the care of his client's wardrobe. This can often be a job in itself and, in larger households, is carried out by the Assistant Butler or Under Butler who in turn is under the jurisdiction of the Head Butler. An Under Butler is also known as a Footman but this term is used less and less nowadays, other than in Royal palaces.

Often the Butler assumes the role of a Personal or Household Secretary and, as well as keeping the family agenda, he would be expected to carry out personal shopping for his employer, handle the mail and be in charge of the household accounts. In these roles the title of House Administrator would be apt.

Generally a Butler would not be expected to perform the more menial domestic tasks or look after children.

So, in essence, the Butler is very much a Jack of all Trades and somehow master of them all. Yet he must always be adaptable and flexible, ready to take on new responsibilities as and when his employer sees fit. He is the byword for common sense, patience and expertise. The greater his duties and responsibilities (combined with his experience) is reflected in his salary package.

With the resurgence of Butler Service being offered in hotels and spas around the world the Hotel Butler is now in high demand and this can often be an easier way for many to break into the field and gain experience. The difference being that Hotel Butlers have a high and regular turnover of clients.

The Houseman

The Houseman has more in common with the Housekeeper. The accent is on the cleanliness and day to day running of the household with less emphasis on the more formal duties of a Butler.

However care of the clients clothes i.e. valeting is often required as can be knowledge of swimming pool maintenance, general gardening duties and driving. Rudimentary cooking skills are sometimes called for.

The Estate Manager

While the supervision of ground and maintenance staff can sometimes fall under the remit of a Head Butler it is more common for an Estate Manager to be employed, often working in tandem with the Butler.

Responsible for all aspects of the grounds of the property or properties. This could include supervising a team of gardeners and various building contractors and organising shooting parties, forestry and anything and everything to do with the property.

Many Estate Managers have a degree in Estate or Farming management.

The Domestic Couple

Becoming more and more popular these days many employers prefer to employ a couple to run their homes.

The sharing of duties can vary but a common mix would be for one partner to act as Cook, Housekeeper and the day to day running of the house with the other partner acting as Gardener, Maintenance person and Driver with possibly some serving duties in the evening or when the client is entertaining.

Obviously a husband/wife team of a professional Butler and a professional Chef can expect much higher remuneration than a husband and wife team offering the basic caretaking duties.

The Housekeeper

As mentioned above the Housekeeper’s responsibilities generally run to cleaning duties but can often be combined with family cooking, some child care and running household errands and care of clothing.

Not to be confused with a Mothers Help, which focuses on working in tandem with the lady of the house and sharing various duties with her, the Housekeeper effectively takes on all the burdens of a household so freeing up the client to pursue their own career or other interests

The Chef

A Chef will have received formal training, to various levels, whereas a Cook, no matter how proficient will not. So the title ‘chef’ actually means something to an employer. An Executuve Chef refers to someone who runs a kitchen brigade of less experience chefs and/or cooks. A Sous Chef is the assistant to the Head Chef and a head Chef in waiting.

A Chef can pepare daily meals for the clients and their guests on a small scale to organizing and preparing large full-scale banquets. Food sourcing and purchase would normally fall to him as could preparation of staff meals. A job in itself for larger households.

Chefs who specialize in particular forms of cooking - regional for example - are sought after but the chef with an international repertoire is the most in demand.

The Persona Assistant

A Personal Assistant or Private Secretary is responsible for the day to day running of a busy client’s life. Keeping his diary, arranging and monitoring his appointments, correspondence and more. Often travelling with the employer but sometimes office based the Personal Assistant requires more than good secretarial skills. Diplomacy and tact are essential.

 

Summary

Many of the job descriptions above can merge into others. Can a Butler act as a personal chef or personal secretary too? Yes they can but wiil you have enough hours in the day? Improve your computer skills, cooking skills, security knowledge and so on and improve not only your prospects of employment but also the sort of salary package you will be able to command.

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