We wanted to hear more from our 2020 award recipients — what contributed to the actions that led them to receive the award, advice for others, and more. Read more about the 2020 CCE-EFM Award winner Janet Heg below.
What inspired you?
I used to be an EFM and it was through EFM employment that I learned about the wide range of opportunities available in the Foreign Service. Until then I hadn’t realized the potential to work in management or one of the specialist fields. I really enjoyed the feeling of a shared mission with my spouse; it felt fantastic to get in the car with him in the mornings and drive to the Embassy. It was like I was truly part of his career.
How did you find the opportunity?
I was assigned to Embassy Djibouti as the Human Resources Officer, and EFM employment was part of my portfolio. Because of my prior experience I knew how important those jobs were, both to the mission and to the employee and their spouse. I’d seen at previous posts how EFM employment was not always prioritized by HR and I knew that for me it would be a priority.
What barriers did you overcome? How?
There is a lot of bureaucracy around EFM hiring. All the paperwork has to be completed just so, and submitted to Washington at the right time and in the correct order. We work with the regional bureau and several functional bureaus, and each one has a different process. I hired an EFM to work in HR and she documented all the different processes and put together a package of sample letters and cables that was really easy to use.
A common complaint about EFM hiring is the length of time taken to obtain a security clearance, and this is problematic for the mission as well as the employee. It’s definitely improved over the past few years but it can still take a long time, especially with a foreign born spouse. As soon as an EFM is offered a position we get started on the security clearance, so that no time is lost. It still takes them time to track down all their addresses and references, so we give them this information as soon as possible.
Any lessons learned that you can share?
EFMs are one of the mission’s greatest assets and are frequently over-qualified and underpaid. The EPAP program has been great for offering higher level opportunities to our family members. EFMs are an important part of our mission. These are real jobs, not ‘make-work’ for spouses, and frequently require a security clearance.
What would you suggest to other HR officers around the globe to provide more opportunities for EFMs?
They should get to know the current and incoming EFMs and find out what skills and talents exist among family members at post. And think very broadly about what kind of experience can be used to meet the requirements for a position. It’s great to communicate with EFMs before they arrive, so they know when positions are advertised and they feel welcomed and valued. I also encourage my colleagues to review applicants for higher steps, based on previous government service or prior experience in a relevant field.