WHAT'S IN A NAME!
The Butler title originally applied to the person who had charge of the wine cellar and dispensed liquors, the name being derived from Middle English bottler (and various other forms), and back further from old French bouteillier, "bottle bearer."
In the European Middle Ages it meant precisely this; bottle bearer, but in time it came to mean an official of the crown, who nominally had charge of the wine but who in fact was a person of high rank, having different duties in different countries at different times.
What springs to mind when hearing the word 'Butler' is Great-Britain, or rather, England. Although manservants have been employed all over the world as long as one cares to remember, it was the British Butler who transformed this profession into a form of art and thus became the standard in this field.
A British Butler was authoritative, witty, snobbish, discreet and intelligent. He was respected and feared, even by his employer. He knew all about etiquette, food, drink, sterling silver and glassware. He knew about literature, opera, and history. And if he didn't, he cunningly pretended he did.
Of course, this is a fictitious Butler. A useful character to have in books and movies. The one who had always 'dunnit', or at least knew who had.
WHAT WILL I BE DOING?
This of course depends on your position, but being a Butler nowadays is very much a managerial, almost executive occupation. After all, the Butler is responsible for just about everything that is happening (or not happening) in and around the house.
You could be hiring, training and instructing personnel. Strictly speaking the Butler is not responsible for the gardener(s) and the chauffeur(s), but more often than not they are also his responsibility. Usually the Butler is not in charge of nannies. Most Butlers consider this a perk ;-)
The Butler manages and administers the household budget. he or she takes care of any house guests and also might prepare the guest room with flowers, towels, fruit, drinks or whatever. The Butler deals with contractors or any other outside personnel, supervising their work.
Duties also include organizing special functions, like dinner parties or receptions. Often it is appreciated if the Butler can do some light cooking and he or she may be preparing wonderful meals for people ranging from Royalty and Celebrities to Heads of State and important business people. This is unlike many restaurants where you are expected to do more with less.
Classically the Butler cares for the silver- and glassware. He would also be responsible for buying wine and organizing the wine cellar. As the Butler you are responsible for every small detail in the house.
Many household managers or Butlers double as a Personal Assistant. So .. than your job includes handling your employers correspondence, keeping his calendar and various other secretarial duties. Making travel arrangements and booking tickets for the opera could be among your responsibilities. Traveling around the world, looking after foreign properties of your employer could be left to you.
In smaller households he might also be the chef, chauffeur, bodyguard, handyman and the pool attendant. Talk about flexibility! The list goes on and on ....
There is nothing romantic or mysterious about Butling. It's hard work, like any other job. When working for a private family, the Butler usually lives in an apartment in the main house, or in a house on the estate. This can obviously put a strain on the private life, as the Butler never leaves work, physically nor mentally.
There's no such thing as a Butler Union (although there's the International Guild of Professional Butlers now). What a Butler earns depends on his skills and dedication (and his employer!). Roughly speaking his salary will be somewhere in-between US$ 50,000 and US$ 120,000 a year.
One of America's highest paid Butlers, (No, we are not going to say who he is!) is rumored to earn something in the region of US$ 1.500.000 per year.
You will earn anything in-between US$40,000 and US$150,000 or even more. There might be a generous bonus towards the end of the year. For domestic managerial employees, housing and a car are usually free. The employer normally supplies the correct and suitable clothing.
Free time and holidays vary depending on the country you are working in and the contract you negotiate. When you work in Germany you can expect 5 to 6 weeks of vacation annually. In countries like the USA vacation might be 2 to 3 weeks annually.
Remember that a Butler is on call 24 hours a day. Some of them would be much better off if they were paid by the hour!
WHERE DO I START?
You don't need any particular education to start working in a private household. What you do need is a pleasant personality, correct manners, tact, flexibility, discretion, reliability, service mindedness and a certain degree of stress resistance. You should be prepared to work long hours for days on end.
If you don't have any relevant experience whatsoever than it will prove to be impossible to find a position as a Butler. The best thing to do first is to arrange for a course at for instance The International Butler Academy. Not only will you learn many basics, but it will get you into the "network".
Everything you need to know can be learned in a relatively short period of time. If you worked in a leading position in the service or catering industry, that's a plus, but not really necessary. There are more vacancies for professional private staff than there are experienced personnel. Even with no experience but with the right training, it's possible to get a rewarding position.
With an appropriate employment record, or enough experience in domestic service you might decide that you don't need a course and go for employment as you are. In that case contact a Domestic Management Company or Placement Agency. They are always on the look-out for highly qualified and motivated people, and have vacancies for domestic positions such as housekeepers (couples), cooks/chefs, nannies, chauffeurs, personal assistants etc as well as Butlers.
WHAT ABOUT AGE?
If you are in good health than age is not important. Within reason of course. When a young person is serious about a career in domestic service, he or she should receive formal training. It's a very rewarding career.
Going back to school might be a problem for someone who is older. However, with excellent references, the right attitude and dedication, opportunities do certainly exist. If there is one profession where an older person can still change positions when he is older it's that of a Butler.
BUT I'M A WOMAN?
Well, there may not be all that many female Butlers around but there is a definite demand. The International Guild of Professional Butlers knows of many families who employ female Butlers. Particularly families in the Middle and Far East often prefer female Butlers. So do a lot of female celebrities.
BUT I HAVE A FAMILY?
Your family should be prepared to move to your employer's residence, or to a house on the grounds. Your children can be a problem for some employers, but also for yourself. Remember you might have to move abroad. Think about changing schools and coping with different language. Any pets might be difficult to keep.
The members of your family, although not employed directly by your boss, should behave and dress as if they were. Not only around the the house, but always. It's up to you to decide whether you and your family are up to this. Do include your family in your plans! Remember, it's not just a job, it's a way of life!
IS IT FUN?
Yes - Absolutely. It can be a lot of fun depending on your attitude and professionalism and of course the person, family or institution employing you. Any questions? Please don't be afraid to ask. We aim to please ... firstname.lastname@example.org