Friday, March 6, 2015

Some Thoughts on EFM Employment

One complaint about Foreign Service life that comes up repeatedly is family member employment. It's understandable that work for family members overseas is limited. I don't think any of us embarks on this journey under the assumption that our work opportunities will be as numerous abroad as they are in the US. This has a lot to do with a country's labor laws, rules at post regarding family member employment, language, and pay, among other things.

For example, in Yekaterinburg, there were two available positions for family members when I arrived. One was full-time, one was part-time, and neither paid well. I was happy to have a job at the Consulate that allowed me to spend time with the other Americans, however, and my paycheck covered the cost of the nanny with a little left over. But those two jobs were it. In Russia, there is no option to work on the local economy. I couldn't even volunteer given the political climate at the time. Which meant that if those two jobs had been filled when I arrived, there would have been zero work opportunities for me.

Given the challenges, it's not surprising that quite a few spouses decide to join the Foreign Service themselves, as this spouse did. She spells out many of the difficulties of EFM employment in detail and explains why becoming an FSO was the best option for her. Personally, I have no interest in becoming a diplomat, but I admire those who do!

There are many spouses who choose not to work, like this blogger, who explains why in many cases it simply isn't worth it to pursue a career as an EFM. For some people, just raising a family and surviving life abroad is enough, and I don't blame them! Moving every two to three years, dealing with the logistics of enrolling kids in schools, setting up a home, navigating a new city (and a new culture), and even learning the language is PLENTY.

A third option is to start your own business and work from home. I've heard of a spouse who runs online barre classes, one who has a successful life-coaching business, and many spouses who sell their art, photography, or crafts online. I hope I'll be able to count myself as a work-from-home spouse soon once I'm getting paid to write. And I'll be honest, if I didn't have my writing, I would never have agreed to John joining the FS (one of the reasons that "good Internet" was so high on my list of priorities during A-100 bidding!).

Meaningful, enjoyable, and (preferably) lucrative employment is a priority for a lot of FS spouses, and why wouldn't it be? The Foreign Service attracts smart, ambitious, and successful people, and it stands to reason that their spouses are too. There are so many positives to this lifestyle, but if work is a part of the equation for you, make sure you think long and hard about your options before committing to the Foreign Service.

On the bright side, being forced to think outside the box might just lead you to discover a passion or interest you never knew you had!

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