Many of you directed your comments yesterday about my perception of being an Emasculated Form of a Man (EFM) to a grander view of self worth and employment, which is fine because that is where I was headed today anyway. The two are definitely linked; I was just highlighting my opinion that I think it might be especially hard on men given social norms and some of the data.
I also need to give a special Clairvoyancy Award to the authors of I'll take mine...to go, please! for using the actual phrasing of jobs and careers, because that is exactly what I was planning on covering today.
(A quick aside: Thank you to all who included overly generous, flattering remarks in your comments.)
The instructors at Free Studies Inside (FSI; by the way, three courses, eight or so instructors, and all have been women...OK, OK, I'll let it go now) were kind enough to us on Friday to no sugarcoat the facts. Even those of us fortunate enough to have portable careers are going to arrive at a post where we will be unemployed.
According to their November 2009 data, 2,470 (25%) EFMs worked inside the mission (which is somewhat Christian-speak for the U.S. government building at post); 1,295 (13%) worked outside the mission; and 5,978 (62%) were unemployed. Within that last group, about half would've liked to been employed.
Here is some more interesting data regarding employment that I couldn't really find a place for, so I will unceremoniously throw it at you now. The State Department breaks the world into regions: Africa (AF), East Asia Pacific (EAP), Europe (EUR), Near East Asia (NEA), South Central Asia (SCA) and the Western Hemisphere (WHA).
Childcare is so expensive in Europe and the Western Hemisphere that many EFMs opt for unemployment because it makes more sense financially, and so those to regions have higher unemployed EFM rates at 66% and 65%, respectively. Also at the bottom (66%) is East Asia Pacific due to the fact that it is illegal for EFMs to work in several of those countries including China, Thailand, and more. Near East Asia and South Central Asia both are higher than average (53% and 47% unemployed, respectively) because both of those regions have many unaccompanied tours, so unless the EFM is working at the mission/post, they aren't coming anyway. Finally, Africa with 48% unemployment gets mad props for doing the most to provide work for interested EFMs, and have a better unemployment rate to show for it.
But what kind of work are EFMs finding?
The FSI instructors admitted that most of the mission work is clerical, so unless your previous career was a secretary/office manager/or whatever the going PC term is these days, you are working a job and not necessarily furthering your career.
But there are some career paths that offer some hope, especially for those who work in the local economy, which is foreign service speak for working outside the mission/post. For example, about 400 EFMs were able to find work teaching, which represents about a third of EFMS working outside the mission.
I fall into the next largest group, which is freelancing (189 EFMs also found this kind of work), though I also overlap a bit into telecommuting (84 EFMs did this) because I'm freelancing for an American company. There are freelancing jobs in the local economies.
Lawyers and medical workers also find employment, though the problem here is that American certification does not always transfer to the post.
Throw in some military jobs, non-government organizations and international organizations that pretty much is all that is available in the local economies.
What, your career is not represented in that group?
For the creative and entrepreneurial type, you can create your own business; 141 EFMs took this route last year. Lest we forget, there were 9,743 EFMs last year in all, so this apparently is a difficult undertaking. But, in my opinion (and was shared by one of the instructors), this seems to be the most secured way to have a career no matter where you are posted.
And finally, there is the volunteering option. But this comes with an often overlooked caveat. While volunteering can be personally rewarding, our instructors suggested that we should be more selective in these endeavors that Americans usually tend to be. In other words, search for volunteering options that you can use to further your career for when you return to the States.
That's right, we will be coming back to the States, and there is no reason we should be putting ourselves at competitive disadvantages because we were accommodating to our Federally-employed Significant Others (FSOs) and not looking out for our own interests, too.
I don't think this can be stressed enough. There will be tours in Washington, D.C., and many of us will not be able to afford this city on one government salary. Or perhaps after doing a few tours, your family decides to either take a break or leave the foreign service life altogether. Then what? You just spent the past 10 years or whatever making yourself less marketable.
It is imperative upon us to keep our own career goals on task because we will not be getting much, if any, help from anyone else.
That ends this rant, and as a reward for your patience, I'll update the Official Unofficial Chart of Acronyms in the coming days to cover all of the new gems I picked up from my FSI courses.
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