Page 36 - Foreign Service Journal - April 2012

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36
F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / A P R I L 2 0 1 2
ner” than I care to count at Fourth of July events. Yet
Washington was the only city where I could earn a regular
income as a singer.
Writing
. In 1991, fellow FS spouse Fritz Galt and I
started an irreverent, photocopied publication called the
Spouses’ Underground Newsletter
. It ran for nine years
on donations and subscription fees. We were never able to
pay ourselves, but it was fun to provide an apparently
much-needed outlet for humor and spousal ranting. And
that venture gave me the courage to try freelance writing
for magazines like
Family Circle
and
Redbook
. Selling an
average of two to three articles a year, I made, let’s see —
well, enough to pay for our annual family vacation.
Editing
. Publishing the
SUN
led to my first paid edit-
ing job, for the magazine
Welcome Home
(oh, the irony),
the first time we returned to the Washington, D.C., area.
Once back overseas, I helped to found
Tales from a Small
Planet
(www.talesmag.com). A
gain, pay was nonexistent
or negligible, but the cause was worthy and eventually led
to a rewarding editorial job at the very magazine you are
now reading.
Counseling
. When the first of our four children went
through the college application process from overseas, I ed-
ucatedmyself and then wrote about it. The more I learned,
the more articles I sold. This led to the most unexpected
and fulfilling job I’ve ever had while overseas: a one-year
appointment as the high school guidance counselor at St.
John’s International School in Brussels.
Acting
. My motto about landing an out-of-the-blue job
for which one is not well qualified (or at all qualified, in
my case) is to act the part until you grow into it. For in-
stance, as a guidance counselor I addressed the parents of
seniors at Back-to-School Night a few hours after I was
hired, assuring them that, yes, we would find the right col-
lege for their child. And I came home that night thinking,
“Oh, my God, what have I done?”
But in fact, it turned out that with a lot of on- and off-
the-job cramming, and no shyness about asking questions,
I did just fine. I ended up loving the job so much that I’m
considering getting a master’s degree in school counseling.
College Essay Tutoring
. Combining my love of ed-
iting and interest in counseling, I’m currently telecom-
muting from overseas for a private U.S. college counseling
firm, and enjoying the work.
Lessons Learned
Most diplomatic missions have some positions available
for spouses, and many spouses are happily employed by
the U.S. government. Still, you should never count on get-
ting a job overseas in your field. Be open to other options,
such as volunteer work that leads to paying work— some-
times in surprising ways.
One of those options may be staying at home with your
children. That isn’t always easy, but I’m very grateful now
that I had the luxury to choose this path.
The career you start with will probably not be the ca-
reer you end with. So flexibility, networking and openness
to unexpected opportunities will help you along the way.
Not finding work overseas can be turned into some-
thing positive, too. My husband has loved his career, but
he’s also been locked into it. I’m the one who could cre-
ate my own opportunities. After all, how many people
back home have the chance to explore, travel, learn lan-
guages, earn an online master’s degree, start a business or
take art lessons? Ian and I have never lost sight of how
cool that is!
For all these reasons, I’m happy with the different av-
enues my so-called career has followed.
F
OCUS