Adjusting to moving abroad can be hard for families, especially spouses. Often the spouse leaves a respected career, business networks and emotional support of family and friends. When duty calls again and active-duty spouses go TDY or on a deployment, those broken ties are felt ten-fold.

One of the most important actions spouses can make when they arrive to the new duty station is to take control of their daily routine. Be positive and embrace change. Learn about the new job market and seek employment. Find volunteering opportunities. Take advantage of on-site and distance learning programs and incentives. Find spouse support groups that fit your lifestyle and lead to avenues to make new friends. Staying active is both mentally and fiscally rewarding.

Be open to new career fields

When you begin to discover the job market, it’s important that you stay patient. Finding a job overseas will take time, even six months or longer.

You may not find a position in your previous career field, but by staying motivated and creative, you may view this change as an opportunity to evaluate or set new career goals, further your education or maybe start a home business.

Groom yourself into the best candidate

The Family Employment Readiness Program or Family Service Center at your new installation has assessed the job market in your military community, and can help direct your search. They offer resources and workshops to improve your chances of getting hired, covering résumé writing skills, interview techniques, career goals, and how to launch a job search. They also conduct self-assessment and vocational tests and offer federal employment information. Get your resume in shape. Be sure to list specific dates of employment with organizations, and be factual as you list skills and accomplishments. Your résumé and applications are binding testaments of your work history.

Pay attention to job application requirements. Some request additional documentation. Your application package will be rejected if it is not exactly as the hiring department requested.

Remember that first appearances are important. It takes only a few seconds for someone to formulate an opinion about your personality, perceived ethics and ability based on looks, mannerisms, behavior and speech. Dress for the job you want, be impeccable, respectful, punctual and pleasant. Be confident and outgoing but not overbearing. Be aware of your body language. Also, take the time to learn about the organization with whom you are interviewing.

Military Spouse Preference

The Military Spouse Preference program was created by the DoD to provide an edge in the employment selection process. To qualify, military spouses must be relocating to a new duty station with active-duty servicemembers on PCS orders. MSP applies to Appropriated Fund (APF) vacancies that are filled competitively through either internal or external placement in all positions designated for U.S. citizens. MSP also applies to positions in Non-Appropriated Fund (NAF) positions at grade NF-3 and below (or equivalent). However, you won’t lose your MSP if you accept or decline a temporary position.

You must be married to your active-duty military sponsor before his reporting date, and be listed on his orders. To qualify for MSP for a position you must meet basic requirements and be among the best qualified for the position.

Career opportunities on installations

Many available jobs will be located on military installations. If you are stationed in a joint services area, contact other service branches to learn about their opportunities. You are not required to work at the same installation as your spouse. For example, if your spouse is in the Air Force, you may still take advantage of Army services and job opportunities on nearby Army installations.

NAF and APF positions – Non-appropriated funds (NAF) positions support installations through services and programs in Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) and Marine Corps Community Services (MCCS). Available positions are predominantly childcare, food and beverage management, clubs, golf, bowling, recreation, hotels and billeting, clerical and administrative, with hours ranging from regular, full-time to flexible part-time.

Appropriated funds (APF) or civil service positions are paid for by money appropriated by Congress. Both of these types of federal jobs are available for you to apply. In the last year, many websites were consolidated, and now all federal positions are listed through the Office of Personnel Management at USA Jobs. Air Force NAF positions, including flexible and temporary, are still listed online.

The Department of Defense Schools (DoDDS) – Operating 82 schools within five districts throughout Europe, DODEA serves more than 35,000 school-age children of both active-duty and DoD civilians. Visit their web site for current vacancies and to learn the application process.

DoDDS-Europe provides a variety of positions in many GS levels, including full-time and substitute teachers, administrative, support staff and educational aids. Many of the teaching positions are filled during June through September in preparation of the upcoming school year, but DoDDS updates information on their site for vacancies continuously.

Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) – AAFES provides retail, food and service business to military installations worldwide in the form of Exchanges (PX/BX), Shoppettes, restaurants, and on-base fueling stations. Available positions are predominantly food service workers and retail sales associates. A background in retail sales, food service or administration are a plus, but not necessary to be hired. AAFES also seeks those with managerial experience for entry-level managerial positions when available. Applicants can apply online or through local human resources offices. AAFES frequently advances from within and allows transferring options to other installation AAFES facilities.

Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM) – NEXCOM operates like AAFES, overseeing six primary business units including services in the Navy Exchange (NEX) retail stores and services, lodging, uniforms, clothing and textiles and telecommunication. Facilities are in Italy, Greece, Turkey and Spain, and NEXCOM is the largest U.S. employer in the Naples area. Vacancies include both entry-level and management in several facilities. According to their website, “NEXCOM is a partner in the DoD Military Spouse Employment Partnership and the Wounded Warrior Project, which pledges support to provide career opportunities for military spouses and Wounded Warriors. If you are a military spouse or a wounded warrior applying for a vacancy, please ensure that you identify yourself during the application process.” Opportunities are largely found in retail sales, but also include clerical, administrative, security and manual or skilled-labor positions. They frequently advance internally and offer opportunities to transfer to other positions and locations within NEX.

Defense Commissary Agency (DECA) – Positions with commissaries may be either civil service positions or contracted and similar to that of grocery stores such as sales store checker (check groceries, monitor self-checkout), store worker (stocking, forklift operation, warehouse) and food service workers (deli, baking, cake decoration). Baggers work for tips only. A variety of hours and positions are continuously open. Apply at USA Jobs. Management positions are usually filled from within the organization. To learn more, visit the commissary on your installation or the DECA site.

Defense contractors – A variety of job opportunities in professional, managerial, accounting and support staff are available through contractors. Family Employment Readiness Program or the installations’ contracting office will have information about current contractors and vacancies. Salary or pay may be either U.S. dollars or host nation currency, which could be subject to income tax.

Off-installation and non-traditional job opportunities

On the economy – The Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) in some foreign countries allows military spouses to work on the local economy. Family Employment Readiness Program will have information about your host country’s SOFA agreement. Similar to contractors who pay in euro, income taxes may apply.

Telecommuting jobs – Due to fast internet and global economies, some computer-based businesses or positions can be done anywhere with the use of Wi-Fi and a laptop. Jobs include administrative, data entry, bookkeeping, computer programming, database maintenance, website and graphic design; writing, editing or proofreading and translation services. Be cautious of work-at-home scams from online sources or print ads in classifieds.

Home business – Although you’ll discover many home-based job opportunities, here are some things to know before you get started:

  • Licenses, permits and taxes - Local laws, installation regulations, or the host nation’s SOFA will dictate whether you can have a business, the type of required license or permit if needed, and any state or federal taxes owed. Contact the Family Service Center, Legal or a financial counselor on your installation for details. 

  • Housing requirements – If living on-base, be sure you can have a home business. It can’t jeopardize security or compete with existing installation services. 

  • APO Boxes, POVs and fuel - You are not allowed to use APO boxes, USAREUR-licensed POVs or tax-free fuel rations to conduct home businesses. 

Volunteer work – Volunteering on base can lead to new friendships and also keeps you busy while you job search. If you volunteer in a field that interests you, you have the opportunity to network and could lead to a paid position. Your installation’s Family Support Center will help locate volunteer work either on or off your installation.


Family readiness employment programs

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