The Family Member Employment Report from 2013 was just released. It shows that, as in 2012, 12%, or 1,416, spouses/partners, work outside the Mission worldwide. Of these, 28% are employed in education, 12% are freelancers, 14% work on the local economy, 13% are telecommuters, and 11% operate a home-based business.
What these data do not tell us is the specific details of Eligible Family Member (EFM) employment outside U.S. Missions abroad. For example, it is unclear how many spouses/partners work full-time vs. part-time or the specific areas in which they work. Fortunately, some post-specific Family Member Employment Reports (FAMERs) (these can be obtained through the post intranet and/or from the CLO) can provide such level of detail.
Working outside the Mission presents unique challenges for accompanying spouses/partners. They need to spend a lot of time researching their particular employment market and work permits, building contacts, and determining local salary, taxes, and holiday structures. These EFMs/Members of Household (MOHs) also need to notify the principal Administrative Officer, per 3 FAM 4125(b), of their intention to pursue jobs before they accept outside employment.
Spouses/partners who telecommute and/or have a portable home-based business usually need a good Internet connection as soon as they arrive at post, as well as an appropriate work space in their new home. And, all working spouses/partners need to arrange their work schedules and obligations to fit with moving between countries, scheduling home leave and R&R, and receiving Unaccompanied Baggage and Household Effects shipments.
Existing Resources for Spouses/Partners seeking Outside the Mission Employment
The Family Liaison Office (FLO) website for spouse/partner employment outside U.S. Missions provides many important resources including information on bilateral work agreements, filing taxes, Foreign Affairs Manual regulations, and suggestions for negotiating local salaries. FLO’s “Home-based Business Guide” walks EFMs through the process of starting their own portable business and profiles success stories. Don’t miss the listing of additional resources at the end of the document.
Another great resource can be found on the Transition Center’s Training Division Courses website. Some of the courses (those highlighted in yellow) link to a number of useful websites. Spouses/partners wishing to work outside Missions abroad should check out the “virtual resource tables” for the following courses: Employment Tools for Foreign Service Life (MQ704) and International Development and NGOs: Employment Options (MQ705).
On the social media front, there are a few important groups to connect to in order to network and meet other accompanying spouses/partners in similar employment situations: On Facebook, check out “EFMs Helping Other EFMs Find Employment” as well as “EFM Business Owners” and on LinkedIn, “PROPS – Professional Partners/Spouses of FS” and “AAFSW SkillsBank”.
Finally, there are two notable programs that spouses/partners seeking outside the Mission work should be aware of:
Global Employment Initiative
FLO developed the Global Employment Initiative (GEI) to help family members abroad with their career and professional development. Currently, there are 16 Global Employment Advisors (GEAs) covering 140 posts. They provide in-person or virtual assistance to family members by reviewing résumés and cover letters and tailoring them to the local context/culture, connecting family members to local businesses, organizations, and networks, and providing support to family members with home businesses or those telecommuting. All services are free of charge for family members. Send an email to GEI@state.gov to locate your GEA. For more information, check out the GEI website or the GEI brochure.
The Pilot Passport Career Program
The Transition Center is offering a pilot program in 2013 to provide new family members access to Passport Career,” an online career website that allows users to research the employment situation in 78 countries. Users can research the presence of local/international companies, participate in relevant webinars on global employment issues, and research local salary structures, marketable skills, and cultural norms. Diplomatic family members using this pilot program will need to respond to two surveys so that the Department of State can assess the effectiveness of this pilot program. For more information and logons, email FSITC@state.gov.
Some Ideas to Improve Outside the Mission Employment for Spouses/Partners
While there are currently many resources for family members seeking employment outside U.S. Missions abroad, more can be done to ameliorate the often frustrating process. Below are a few suggestions for improvement. As was the case in my previous article on inside the Mission EFM employment, these suggestions are not the result of an actual survey but came up in multiple conversations with family members struggling to find employment outside U.S. Missions around the world. If you have additional suggestions or would like to join our online working group on EFM employment issues, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
SHARE INFORMATION & BUILD A COMMUNITY
- Posts should develop a website containing “personal post employment insights” for and by family members (similar to the personal post insights) so that spouses can connect with each other to network (e.g., where spouses worked and in which capacity, steps involved in seeking employment, local salaries, and share strategies for success). This could be done on the post Intranet site or a password-protected public site (e.g., added to post community websites).Current status: Some posts, such as Belgrade, Brasilia, and Vienna, currently make use of community websites to which a password-protected page containing this information could be added. Also, FLO is currently developing an online social website (eFLO) that could be used to share EFM employment information.
- Information on vacant positions inside the Mission is regularly shared by CLO and/or HR but very limited information is offered regarding available positions on the local economy (both for paid and volunteer opportunities). GEAs could advise CLO/HR and the EFM community on appropriate sources of information and regularly publish those in the post newsletter and/or community websites.Current Status: Some GEAs work with CLO to publicize information on outside the Mission employment and volunteer opportunities. FLO is currently beta testing CLO and regional GEA groups on eFLO; these groups have the potential to include post-specific information on employment opportunities both inside and outside the Mission.
- Connect family members across posts (especially those in small posts) to regularly share employment news and resources.Current Status: There are independent family member groups on Facebook and LinkedIn (see earlier discussion) that already connect a number of accompanying spouses/partners. AAFSW is exploring alternative routes to reach all spouses/partners.
- Make FLO and TC training and workshops offered in the DC area on employment issues available to family members overseas through webinars, conference calls, e-books etc. Desired topics include using social media for networking purposes and training in tax implications for those telecommuting and with a home-based business. Local GEAs should publicize relevant resources.Current Status: the Transition Center has a number of virtual resources for some courses (see earlier discussion) but more resources could be added such as transcripts/videos of courses offered in DC. AAFSW is working on expanding its EFM employment site to include new resources.
- Provide more support and training for how spouses can set up portable careers and build a network of family members who started their own businesses to exchange information and support. Foreign Service business owners might even consider offering discounted rates for EFMs!Current Status: FLO has an informative Home-Based Business Guide and GEAs assist family members wishing to pursue this option (see earlier discussion). A relatively new Facebook group, “EFM Business Owners,” is starting to connect EFM business-owners but is limited to those using Facebook. AAFSW has organized two annual fairs in the DC area for EFM small business owners and artists. Finally, the Transition Center has recently added a new course MQ 706 Portable Careers: An Employment Option to its programs.
SUPPORT FAMILY MEMBERS WORKING AT HOME
“Having no Internet connection in your home office for several months each time you move, every 2-3 years, is not conducive to a successful freelance career!” (EFM currently posted in Washington, DC).
- If there is one thing that all the spouses/partners questioned agreed on, it was this: posts should arrange for Internet to be set up in housing upon arrival. Setting up one’s own Internet takes a lot of time (months at some posts), which translates directly into lost income for family members dependent on the Internet to work from home.Current Status: Some posts are already setting up home Internet for new employees in advance of their arrival, but this is dependent on the housing policy at each post. AAFSW is launching an initiative to assess the current status and advocate for a worldwide policy regarding immediate Internet access in Embassy housing.
- Housing surveys should consider spouses working from home and allow adequate working space in addition to living space.Current Status: Current housing surveys do not ask whether a spouse will be working from home.
- Allow additional Unaccompanied Baggage (UAB) weight for spouses working from home to ship business-related materials.Current Status: Current weight allowances do not factor in spouses working from home.
This is the fourth and final article in the series on family member employment (for the time being) in order to allow our online working group time to tackle some of the issues raised in our articles! If you have thoughts or ideas or would like to help out, please send me an email at email@example.com!
Nicole Schaefer-McDaniel grew up in Germany and the US. A social scientist by training, she was finally convinced to try life in the Foreign Service community. Currently posted to Vienna, Austria, she blogs about life abroad and raising two little world travelers at kidswithdiplomaticimmunity.wordpress.com.