The Foreign Service Journal - March 2018

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | MARCH 2018 39 answer. Most EFMs contacted for this piece are using the forced time off in ways that prove the resilience of the Foreign Service community. “In some ways, this limbo I’m in has been a good impetus to look toward the long term rather than rely on embassy work,” said an EFM at a post in Central America. “My husband plans to do this job until retirement, so I’ve been trying to think of more flexible work that I can take from post to post.” Changing Careers: The Flexible Spouse An EFM in Tokyo is teaching local business people conver- sational English and has begun giving private photography les- sons while he searches for local employment or remote work opportunities. Another EFM, in Mexico, recently launched a travel and vacation planning service. One EFM in Asia is using the time to gather her thoughts and “dream.” “Everyone wants to feel they are being produc- tive,” she said. “I just want to do something I love or am pas- sionate about. I would love to have a career, and that’s why I am trying to think outside the box. But it is hard.” Many are using this time to study and retrain. A Virginia- based EFM is getting a degree in teaching English as a second language, while a family member in Jordan is earning an online master’s degree. Foreign Service life requires spouses to be “incredibly flex- ible,” said one D.C.-based EFM who is currently retraining for a medical career. “I love moving every few years, but I defi- nitely don’t like the stress of searching for work. So I’m doing something about it!” There’s no way to predict how long the hiring freeze will be in effect, or how the redesign of the Foreign Service will affect the options for family member employment at overseas posts. EFMs are hoping the Secretary’s plan to lift the other 50 percent of the freeze happens sooner in 2018, rather than later. While they wait it out, Foreign Service family members are proving their resilience and coping as best they can. Editor’s Note: On Feb. 13, as this issue went to press, a State Department spokesperson told Foreign Policy that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is expected to take “concrete steps” in the next few weeks to return hiring for EFMs to “normal” levels. The spokesperson said that the Secretary “has authorized an additional 2,449 EFM positions.” n a