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Charting a career course
Times photo: Mary Jane Grenzow Kris Hartwig, administrator at Rainbow Childcare, speaks to Monroe Alternative Charter School students Thursday about some of the skills needed in the workplace as part of the schools first Career Day. Daycare workers need to be able to remain flexible, communicate with parents and other workers and be able to complete necessary documentation for required record-keeping, Hartwig said. Order photo
MONROE - Like any job, there's more to working in a daycare than meets the eye: It's not just kids' stuff.

In addition to taking care of children, there's a full slate of administrative duties to attend to, ranging from supervising staff to filling out paperwork required by the state of Wisconsin, Kris Hartwig, administrator at Rainbow Childcare in Monroe, told Monroe Alternative Charter School students Thursday.

Hartwig was one of the presenters at the school's first Career Day. Also speaking to students were Mike Davis, Alliant Energy; Scott Golackson, Kutter Harley Davidson; Curt Elmer, Canton Promotions; and Angie Tessendorf and Stephanie Long, Studio 906. Each talked to students about what it takes to be a good employee, what they look for in a prospective employee and what education is required for their respective fields.

Good communication skills are key, Hartwig said. Daycare staff must know how to communicate professionally, and build trust, with parents.

"You can't say to a parent, 'Your kid was a real brat today,'" she said.

Staff also must be able to communicate well with each other, as there's a lot of teamwork among teachers.

There's a lot of record-keeping and documentation, so good writing skills are needed. Daycares must document everything from attendance to food served and there's strict confidentiality policies that must be followed, Hartwig said. On the job, there also are lesson plans, journals and newsletters that need to be written.

Stephanie Long from Studio 906 echoed the need for good communication skills in her job. Stylists need to be able to ask clients the right questions so they can give the customer what they are looking for.

It can involve changing the way you normally speak, she said.

"I have completely different verbiage when I'm out with my girlfriends," she said. When dealing with clients, it's important to be professional.

Even with difficult clients. Long said customers can be critical, and sometimes are rude. Stylists need to be prepared to handle those situations professionally. "You have to laugh it off," she said.

"You will have 'Debbie Downers,'" she said. "You'll also have people who will really brighten your day."

Adaptability also is key to job success. Hartwig said in her business, it's important to be flexible with working parents, who can be affected by downsizing or other changes in employment.

Continuing education also is required in many fields, including daycare and cosmetology. It helps keep employees current in their field and at the top of their game.

"Don't be afraid to change," Long said.