Tuesday, January 22, 2008

An MOH explains why she and her boyfriend left the service

The following is from Nickie, who has been keeping The Excellent Adventures of Nickie, Troy and Lokie, an excellent blog on her and her partner's experience in the Foreign Service, and of the difficulties faced by MOHs (Members of Household, which can be same-sex or unmarried opposite-sex partners, as well as adult children, parents and others at post not on the employee's orders). Having been an MOH, I certainly understand their reasons for making this decision even as I hate to see them leave.

Why Are We Leaving the Foreign Service?

Many people have asked so I thought I would answer....
The biggest reason for us leaving is a career change. Troy wants to get out of IT and try home theater design. I do not know what I want to do when I grow up. :-)

I never intended for this blog to be affiliated with the foreign service and have learned that it is on a yahoo group, not sure how it got there. I think it is there for people to go to for a MOH perspective. Knowing this now, I thought I would share my feelings on being a MOH in the foreign service. This blog will eventually go private as it has been intended to only share our adventures with family and friends.

So, being a MOH... yes it is like being a 3rd class citizen. I have heard stories of the difficulties spouses have with various aspects of the foreign service. I know of women that have MBA's or other such degrees that have been relegated to basic office work. It must be extremely frustrating for them. When I left the US, I had a very nice job, making a very nice living but living overseas was too good to pass up. So when I left I wasn't giving up a career ( I hadn't worked with my degree for a few years before that). I was just excited to have this opportunity.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

When I moved to India I was under the impression that it would be difficult but not impossible to get a job at the Consulate. The CLO at the time was very knowledgeable and helpful. She did all she could to help me find a job. When the first job she helped out with fell through, she worked her magic, along with Troy and I ruffling some feathers, and I was allowed to apply for a 2nd job. Now, this was only after the job was advertised for 2 weeks and none of the spouses at post wanted it. In the world of the foreign service jobs are offered to EFM's (elgible family members) first. If an EFM does not want the job then it will be offered to MOH's. Now, if you have an instance where you have an EFM and MOH at post and the MOH is better qualified for the job, the EFM will still get the job. It took me 5 months to get a job at the Consulate.

If there are instances where a MOH got a job over an EFM, I would love to hear it.

As a MOH you are NOT entitled to use the commissary or the medical unit. Sometimes these regulations are post specific. I was allowed to use the medical unit at the Consulate- India after I started working there. In Paris I am not allowed to use either.

If a MOH does get employement at post he/she is considered a contractor and is not elgible for health insurance or any other such benefits. The consulate in India was nice enough to help me with my residence card and I did not need a work visa to work there (at the consulate). In Paris we were misinformed regarding my residence card by HR at post, if we were informed correctly they would have helped with my residents card. I have not tried to find employment at post because I was lucky enough to set up a job out of MN and work from our apartment in Paris. What I have heard is that a MOH needs a work permit to work at the Embassy and in order to get that the MOH needs to be sponsored and the Embassy will not sponsor a MOH. So, a MOH would find it almost impossible to get a job at post. I am not aware of any MOH's at post working. But, I do not have a lot to do with the Embassy so I could be wrong.

Also, I did not get help with travel benefits. All of my moving expenses were on our dime. Troy would get R&R out of India but we had to pay for my portion of the trip. Now, if we were with the British High Commission a MOH would get health insurance, help finding a job and a diplomatic passport. They pretty much get the same rights as a spouse (this information is from a British management officer).

I have been given a badge at both posts, so I am free to come and go from the building as I please. Although, once inside I need Troy to hold my hand to walk into the commissary and I am not allowed to purchase anything. I am also not allowed to use the APO mail room. One of the mail room employees is a spouse of a collegue of Troy's, so she will give me our mail when Troy is out of town.

I enjoyed being in India but would have enjoyed it more if I hadn't worked at the Consulate. It was probably the worst job experience I have ever had (and I worked fast food in college). It did get better after you arrived, Colin! : -) I was very happy to come to Paris and not have to worry about trying to find a job at the Embassy.

We also get asked, "Wouldn't it have just been easier to have gotten married?" Ya, it probably would have been easier but we weren't about to get married just to "make it easier". That's not why you get married.

For Troy, working for the State Department has not been an entirely positive experience. There is an environment of segregation "Specialists vs Officers" One of his colleagues was actually asked by an officer "How did you get such a nice apartment, you are JUST a specialist". There is not a lot of career growth potential for specialists. He also had a hard time with people not using technology to it's fullest potential and he hears a lot "it's not my job". The thing that bothers me with the foreign service is the tenure system. People can get away with not doing their job and the people with work ethics have to pick up their slack.

So we are leaving. But not without a wrench being thrown into our plans. His CDO (career development officer) did not fully inform him of certain things so Troy may be staying a couple of months longer than planned. One thing we have learned, the hard way, is not to believe anything you are told by one person, verify what that person has said with as many people as possible (preferably with people that are higher up than that first person).

It is very telling that when we have told people we are leaving the foreign service we do not hear "Why would you want to leave, it's such a great job" but hear "You are lucky you are getting out".

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