My Thoughts on EFM Employment

Family member employment gives me all sorts of not warm and fuzzies. I’m in a bit of a weird situation right now, which I may explain more about sometime in the future after all of this is over. It has made me think back though, to my previous EFM employment experiences.

For my last two jobs, it took almost exactly two months from the date of my interviews to start the actual jobs. Two months. And based on a few stories I’ve heard and read, this is actually on the faster end, which is…not so good. In one case, the hold up was at least partly due to completion of a nepotism review. Meaning, DC had to decide that my husband sitting 150 feet across a room from me, doing completely different work, was ok. (It turns out that – according to the powers that be – that was apparently far enough to ensure he was not able to influence any of my work.)

In short, EFM employment is sparse, varies widely across different posts, and requires a lot of patience when trying to acquire it. Here’s a few things to consider (if you haven’t noticed, I’m a little big on lists):

1. Does the post that you’re going to or bidding on have a bilateral work agreement, or a de facto agreement? Yes? Great. This means that you will be allowed to work on the local economy of the country you’re going to. This is useful when you are at a post that does not have a lot of opportunities for EFMs within the embassy or consulate, or if you just aren’t interested in working within the embassy or consulate! If the U.S. doesn’t have a work agreement with the country you’ll be in, finding employment will, in general, be a bit more difficult. But it can be done. I think.

2. When bidding, check out the FAMER for any posts you and your family are considering. The FAMER is a family member employment report that’s done for each post. It tries to paint of picture of a post’s employment situation by compiling the number of EFMs working and the type of position they’re in – both inside and outside of the mission. Side note – the report is only available on the Intranet, but you can email it to yourself or others (a.k.a. tell the direct hire in your family to get on it and email that business to you asap).

3. Get in touch with the CLO (Community Liaison Officer) and HR office for your next post as soon as possible. Sign up for the community newsletter and/or for whatever distribution list they use to advertise embassy positions. Apply for anything you’re remotely interested in. The point is to get on post’s radar. Even if you don’t get a job that you apply for, someone may see something in your skill set that they could use. And in that case, even better! Now you may have someone advocating for you and pushing HR to get you on their team.

4. Be willing to interview and take a job that may not be exactly what you want or dreamed of. Why? Well for one, if having your own paycheck is part of the reason you want to work – bingo, you’ve got one. Two, it allows you to get into the embassy or consulate community and meet people. This is huge, and could very well lead to that job that you do want. If you ask anyone in FLO (that’s the Family Liaison Office), they’ll tell you that networking is the best way to find a job. And then they’ll tell you that again. And again.

5. Keep your expectations low and be patient. This may sound a little discouraging, but it’s true. For example, the pay will most likely be less than you expect or probably had before joining the foreign service lifestyle. There will probably be a lot of competition for jobs – jobs that may seem well below your skill level (to put that more nicely – they may not be as challenging as you would prefer).

It will probably take a long time for you to find something, because it takes a long time for jobs to be advertised, it takes a long time to get an offer, it takes a long time to get clearances and nepotism reviews completed, and anything else that needs to be done before you can start will probably just take a long time. Don’t lose hope. Just try to be patient and hold on to whatever semblance of positivity you can muster. (At least this is what I keep telling myself).

6. Look into the EPAP program. It’s continually considered to provide some of the best EFM positions. They’re basically entry level Foreign Service Officer jobs. The process for getting these jobs – yup, you guessed it – takes a long time, so check out this link and get started with your research if it sounds like something you’re interested in.

That’s the extent of my wisdom for today. On the normal life side, BKK continues to be an insane, exciting city. We’ve traveled out of town twice so far. Once, to a little coastal town called Hua Hin, and the other, to Phuket. If you haven’t heard of Phuket, you should probably get on a plane and come visit us.

Anyway, more on those trips later. In the meantime, โชคดี (“chok dii”) to all on their job searches during this fun transfer season!

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