How to find work as an EFM in China**

** For real this time!

It’s been a while since I had something interesting to blog about, so here’s some news: I got a job!  But first, a recap:

-Soon after Diplowife’s Flag Day, I looked into EFM jobs at post, found an IT (sort of) job to apply for, interviewed, and it looked like they were going to hire me, but that fell through for “reasons”, and I was back to square one.

-Early 2017, a federal hiring freeze went into effect right before we moved to Shenyang, which wasn’t lifted for months, and EFM jobs weren’t unfrozen (melted?) for a while after that.

-Spring 2018: I applied for an EFM job, Facilities Escort.  It’s a low-level job they give to a trusted American that escorts local maintenance workers when they need to go into secure areas to fix/clean stuff.  I got the job, and got an interim security clearance, but at the last minute an actual IT position opened up and I was persuaded it would be better to not start the escort job and just wait a month or so to do the IT job instead.

-March 2019: I finally FINALLY started working in the IT position.  It took a little longer than expected for my paperwork to go through the system.  Looking back, it would have been better to do the escort job.  A bird in the hand, and all that, it’s true.

So yeah, I started working as a “Computer Operator” here in the Shenyang consulate.  I’m working a few days a week, because I’ve got to set aside time to get our house ready to PCS, along with other appointments.  I’m helping the IT guys here a bit, but the job’s primary purpose is to get into the system.  In theory, it’ll be easier to get a job in our next post, since I’m a known quantity.  I even have a security clearance (more on that later).

The process to get the job was not complicated from my point of view.  I applied to the job last June, interviewed with the IT boss here, and he was excited to hire me.  However, the interim security clearance I received last Spring was only good for the Facilities Escort job, so I had to wait to get a new clearance.  Also, the folks back in DC that approve of my being hired were a bit slow, assuming there’s anyone doing the job at all (the State Department is really understaffed these days).

I’m fortunate to have a tenacious Management officer here that went to bat for me several times, and got me the job right before we ship out.  Not everyone is so lucky.  On the other hand, I know some EFMs that got hired really quickly for some reason.  Be prepared for things to go either way!

Meanwhile, I was trying for months to get into the Foreign Service Family Reserve Corps (FSFRC).  It’s supposed to make it easier to get hired, like having a trusted source that vouches for you, no matter where in the world you’re posted.  Also, FSFRC members get to keep their security clearances, as opposed to normal EFMs like me, who need a new one every time we switch jobs.

The FSFRC application process wasn’t easy and my application was held up on several occasions for mysterious reasons, and then I had to cancel my application and start a new one after I started working here.  So be sure to keep in touch with the FSFRC folks, and give them a call if you aren’t getting any answers via email.  Ask your local Management officer for help.

One more thing: it was really scary starting my job here.  I’ve never worked for a big company, let alone a giant bureaucracy like the Department of State.  They take certain things really seriously, security-related stuff mostly.  My coworkers are a great group, and I regret only having a few weeks with them, but I’ve learned a lot about how IT works around here and feel good about taking similar jobs in the future.  I’m keeping an eye on the Brussels job board, there’s nothing there for me but I’ll keep watching.  There’s also the EPAP program opening soon (I’ll blog about that later), which is an additional option.

Hope endures, and besides, being an unemployed EFM isn’t all that bad, compared to a lot of other lifestyles.  I’ve gotten a lot of painting done during this tour, baked a lot of bread, spent quality time with Diplocat.  I’m writing this blog entry as movers are packing our things, so I’ll post about foreign pack outs soon.  We will ship out next week, go to home leave, spend a couple months of training in DC, then we’re off to Brussels!

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