EFM Employment

EFM* employment.  The words strike discomfort and fear in even the most prepared of State Department spouses.

During our six months in Falls Church, one of our biggest fears was my being unemployed abroad. My hope was that, even before arriving at post, I would have a steady 40 hour per week job.  I assumed that most spouses probably wouldn’t want work and that I would suck up those great jobs in a heartbeat.  After reading the FAMER* and researching jobs in Taipei, I brought myself down to the reality that I probably wouldn’t have a job before arriving at post, that many spouses DO want to work, and that I’d have to change my standards a bit.  Even with these realizations, nothing could have prepared me for this job market.

First, we had a sequester.  A few months later, after arriving in Taiwan – a government shutdown. Needless to say, the market for government jobs in Taipei became slimmer and slimmer.  In a mostly successful effort to keep myself busy when we first arrived here, I took classes, lots of Chinese classes.  I shopped.  I took naps. I interviewed, sometimes horrendously.  Finally, I got a job – sort of.

My first job here in Taipei was that of Cleared Roving Support.  I basically do whatever they call me in to do in the building. It pays the AMAZING salary of “when actually employed.”  I’m not kidding.  That is my pay grade. The greatest part of this job is that I got my highly coveted top secret clearance. In December 2013 I was informed that I got the position of AITEA* store manager. This job pays very little, by the hour, for 24 hours per week.  I’m very grateful to have a job, but one of the greatest challenges for an EFM is finding meaningful employment, not just a job.  Since my goal is to work in human rights, Taipei, with all of it’s pesky safety and annoying safeguarding of its people, isn’t exactly the place to find the kind of meaningful employment that I’m after.

Now, nine months after our arrival, jobs are practically being thrown at EFM’s.  There have been 5 job announcements in the last 3 months that can be filled by EFM’s.  I applied to the two for which I am qualified.  However, the summer turnover season is coming.  The jobs I’ve applied for may be immediately taken by someone with more experience coming between June and August.

The State Department is very good about hiring the person that is most qualified for the job at hand.  They ensure that each successful candidate has the experience that they need.  But what if you don’t have experience for DOS jobs because you’re on your first tour?  I feel like when I was in high school and couldn’t get a job at the local frozen yogurt stand in the summer because they wanted experience.  How am I supposed to get the experience if you won’t hire me so I can get some experience?

I am very grateful to have my jobs. I continue to ‘rove’ when they need me, and my work at the AITEA store certainly keeps me busy.  It is not the deluge of meaningful employment that I had hoped for early on, but also not the drought we experienced our first 6 months here.  Perhaps our next post will provide me with that meaningful employment that so many EFM’s strive to acquire.


  *EFM – Eligible Family Member

*FAMER – basically a list of all the possible job positions at a given post and who can fill them (i.e., EFM, AEFM, local employee, etc.)

*AITEA – American Institute in Taiwan Employee Association.  I run the small commissary store under the watchful eye of a volunteer board.