We are not scheduled to ship out to Port-au-Prince until October, but since jobs at the USAID Mission/US Embassy can take well more than 6 months to move through the hiring process, I’m devoting a little bit of time each week to looking for jobs, talking to friends in the community, reaching out to State resources, and updating my resume in hopes that I can secure a position to start in November, a month after we arrive at post.
We fully expect the transition to a new country, culture, language, community, and jobs with a toddler, newborn, and 2 large and opinionated dogs to be taxing, stressful, and difficult, and we are hoping that I can have a month free to ease our adjustment and find a nanny, car, get situated, etc. My understanding is there is turnover and new positions available in the embassy community each summer as folks move on to new posts, so jobs will hopefully become available but I’m afraid that the hiring freeze could negatively affect my advance preparation.
The hiring freeze definitely negatively impacts the diplomatic community in ways that the general public probably does not realize, because Eligible Family Member (EFM) jobs are more likely to be support or administrative in nature and do not get the headlines or prestige of formal FSO work. However, critical jobs like Community Liaison Officer (CLO) and their staff, who help on-boarding FSOs and families adjust to life at post, are affected by the hiring freeze because, as current employees leave post, those jobs become unfilled and on-boarding FSOs and families (like us) will have a harder time with the transition. Additionally, these positions are crucial to help disseminate important information to the local diplomatic community should a security or crisis situation develop. Lastly, positions like these provide meaningful work to foreign service spouses. “Support spouses” want to do meaningful work, too!
Fortunately, State has ample resources for EFMs seeking employment. I attended a 1-day Basics for Overseas Employment course back in December, had a conference call last week with a HR Specialist at USAID, am meeting with someone this week to work on my resume, and have been in contact with friends at the Embassy/Mission and the Port-au-Prince CLO about job opportunities. State offers other resume writing and interviewing and job search classes at FSI that I can attend but since I’m working full time I have limited opportunity to utilize them. The general consensus is that State/USAID have become much more amenable to EFM employment in recent years, and a big reason for that is that it helps to retain FSOs. Foreign Service Officers are expensive to hire and train, and they come to post with their highly educated, talented, and qualified spouses who are looking to do meaningful work, so why not employ them to support the Mission? So that’s what I’m hoping to do unless I need to look outside the Embassy/Mission.
If you’re curious, here are are some State programs that I’m aware of for EFM employment, and I’ll update this as I stumble upon more:
- Foreign Service Family Reserve Corps (FSFRC): Job program to help quickly place qualified, eligible family members into designated positions at post. It serves as a “centralized cadre of family members capable of rapid assignment to sensitive positions overseas.” The big plus is of this program is that family members retain clearance levels between posts (normally clearances follow the position, not the person), for much quicker processing at post, and reduces vacancies by helping to ensure critical staffing levels are continually met at post.
- Expanded Professional Associates Program (EPAP): Centrally funded, professional positions in Economics, Financial Management, General Services, Human Resources, Management, Office Management, Political, Public Diplomacy, Registered Nurse, and IT areas that are available for EFMs and provide pay and benefits on the FS scale.
- Professional Development Fellowships (PDF): Sort of a low-level grant program for EFMs to pay for classes, courses, or programs to develop professional skills and knowledge. Awards are for $1,000 to $2,500 and EFMs must self-fund at least 25% of the total cost of the class/course/program.