Helping Foreign Service family members find work overseas requires “changing the mindset of the Embassy community to think outside of the box and embrace more creative ideas,” according to Community Liaison Office Coordinator (CLO) Cindy Jones, winner of AAFSW’s 2016 Champions of Career Enhancement for Eligible Family Members Award (CCE-EFM).
At her post, Budapest, a challenging language barred family members from the local job market, in spite of an existing bilateral agreement. Within the Embassy, there were only 12 available positions for more than 50 family members. “Local employment is the single most important morale issue among American eligible family members (EFMs) at U.S. Embassy Budapest,” asserts Management Counselor Janine Young, who nominated Cindy for the award.
As CLO, Cindy organized dedicated language training for family members to broaden their opportunities. To advocate for more positions within the Mission, Cindy took a crucial first step: “I learned more about the EFMs and their skill sets to better understand our talent pool,” she reports. “Using a more targeted recruitment approach allowed us to identify opportunities for new positions that proved to be beneficial to EFMs and Post.”
Working closely with the Management and Human Resources offices, Cindy successfully advocated for the conversion of two locally employed staff positions (including language reclassification) and the creation of a new part-time jobshare and a new contract position.
In addition, Embassy Budapest requested and received two new Expanded Professional Associates Program (EPAP) jobs. The sometimes-confusing EPAP application process was explained to family members in a brown-bag session organized by Cindy and the Human Resources office.
Cindy also identified other promising sources of EFM employment: “I networked and made new professional and personal contacts on behalf of the community with the international schools and the Central European University,” she explains. “When these institutions had vacancies, I ensured that all family members were aware and received all of the information to apply.” For departing EFMs, Cindy also shared information about positions available in Washington, D.C.
According to Management Counselor Young, Cindy also convinced the regional Global Employment Advisor (GEA) to pay a visit to post (the first visit in over two years) for special career sessions with EFMs as well as an open question-and-answer event. “When the Family Liaison Office (FLO) wanted to host the worldwide GEA workshop in Budapest in February 2016, Cindy capitalized on the FLO office’s presence and planned a dedicated session for EFMs with a FLO Employment Advisor about options overseas and in Washington,” Young reports.
Cindy is enthusiastic about the willingness of Management Counselor Young and other leaders to respond to her advocacy and to consider new ideas. “Enlisting support from Post leadership and having a dedicated advocate is essential in the promotion of EFM employment,” she maintains.
The CCE-EFM Award, which comes with a $750 stipend, was suggested by Bob Castro and is presented by AAFSW each November for “individual or collective efforts to adopt best practices and innovations that demonstrate a commitment to expanding and elevating both individual job opportunities and long-term career enhancement for Foreign Service family members.”
– Patricia Linderman