Getting A Government Job Abroad (Or Not)

February 1, 2009 at 11:41 PM 2 comments

I know it’s hard for people who have never been in a government job, let alone in the position to try to find one overseas, to understand the process I’m going through to find a job here. I think it’s time I explain it as best I can, so please bear with me. At the end of the post, I will cover what happened in my interview on Friday.

In order to get an “office job,” I apply through an online system, where I am allowed to have one resume that I send to all job openings. I cannot submit a cover letter, nor am I given a point of contact so I can follow up. I have tried to follow up by researching the office with the opening and trying to find the person in charge, but they don’t seem to like getting these phone calls. Oops. I was just trying to be proactive!

The jobs are posted online for 1-2 weeks and then the posting closes. When the opening closes, the resumes are scanned by a computer for keywords. The resumes that the computer flags with keywords are then looked over by a human at a hiring facility (likely Civilian Personnel Advisory Center [CPAC] or Civilian Personnel Operations Center [CPOC]). That person sends the resumes that fit the qualifications over to the person in the office doing the interviews. Then the interviewer selects the candidates he/she wants to interview. After interviewing, the person calls CPAC with their selection. CPAC contacts the candidate and offers them the job and does the money/benefits aspect. Therefore, the whole salary negotiation is taken out of the factor. CPAC decides what they will offer based on set guidelines and there’s no room for changes.

I have left out a major factor, however. There is a heirarchy of who they can hire. First preference goes to military spouses. Second preference goes to family members, and so on… Well, it sounds like I’m in the right place being a military spouse, right? Wrong. In order to have preference, I would have to be have been married to John before he got stationed here. (Or so I’ve been told. That just doesn’t seem right!) Anyway, because of this, if there is someone who has applied for a job and has spousal preference, he or she will get hired before me regardless of if I am better qualified than they are. It seems like the military is potentially missing out on quality workers with this.

Oh, and yes, I didn’t get a job in the tax center because of the spousal preference thing. I was interviewed, but they couldn’t give me the job becuase there were spouses ahead of me. Bummer.

So, Sarah, why don’t you go get a job in a German office or store?

I wish it was that easy. First, I would have to speak German. Yes, I do speak some, but not nearly enough! To take a German class, I’d need $300, and to get $300 of expendable money, I need a job! The language barrier doesn’t matter anyway, because on the German economy, there’s also a hiring heirarchy. At least this one makes more sense…

German citizens get first priority. Second priority goes to EU citizens, and finally, everyone else (AKA me). So to get a job on the economy, I would need to speak German and not have any qualified Germans or European Union citizens apply.

I hope that clears up the hiring process a little bit.

I also want to give a quick run down of what happened with the job interview I had on Friday

The interview was with Child & Youth Services here on post. They were looking for a program assistant for their teen center (the high school kids). I was offered the position but ended up turning it down when the director called this evening.

I went into the interview having been told they work 3-8 PM, so I thought that meant Monday-Friday. Although I didn’t really want to work that late, John and I thought we might be able to make things work. When I went to the interview, I found out the teen center is open from 3-8 on M-Th and 3-10 Fri and Sat. Basically, if I took the job, I would not get to see John except in the mornings on Saturday and on Sunday. If he has an opening shift at work, he gets up at 5 and leaves at 6 AM and gets home around 4. He goes to bed at 9. Also, the job doesn’t pay as well as I had thought. Even though I will receive my master’s this June, they won’t recognize the education with increased pay. They would, however, if I had an education degree or had taken more hours in psychology, human development, etc.

To top it all off, the director was 20-25 minutes late to the interview (plus I was there 15 minutes early in my car waiting) and no joke…the interview was supposed to start at 4 and ended up starting at 4:30 and ran until 6 PM.  While interviewing me, there were parents in the office listening, kids walking in and out and other employees coming in to ask questions. I definitely did not have his undivided attention. He also discussed random business with the assistant director while I was sitting their trying patiently to get through my interview.

I also got a bit uncomfortable when he discussed problems he has had with previous employees. He complained that other youth assistants have gone off in small groups with the kids to talk/mentor them and that they need to be engaging the whole group that is there – not separating themselves. I had 2 problems with that. One, it’s unprofessional to discuss things like this with prospective employees. It made me wonder how long it would take for people to be talking poorly about my skills as a youth assistant if I took the job. Secondly, I don’t believe teens want to constantly be engaged in big group activities. Many of them have a lot going on in their lives and they want someone to talk to who can mentor them, so I don’t think it’s appropriate to frown upon this kind of support from the youth assistants.

Anyway, they decided they wanted to hire me, but didn’t ASK if I wanted the job. They just told me to fill out paperwork. I wanted to say “thank you, but I need the weekend to discuss this opportunity with my husband.” However, I was so overwhelmed that I just did what they said and then got in the car and got upset because they put me in a position to feel trapped. (Yes, I know I could have changed it but didn’t.) When the director called this evening to ask about college credits in an attempt to get CPAC to raise my wages, I told him it wasn’t going to work out with my family’s schedule.

Awhile back, John and I talked about what we would do if I never got a job while we were stationed here, and I told him that we will just have to trust that God has us where we are for a reason and if He wants me to have a job, I will have one. So we are just trying to stay in that mindset and know that He has a plan.

– Sarah


Entry filed under: Our Goings On. Tags: , , , , , , , .

The Interview Not Me! Monday

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. CN Heidelberg  |  February 2, 2009 at 1:16 AM

    Getting a job here is really tough. I had the same feelings about the loop – you can’t get a job without German, you can’t afford German without a job. We aren’t affiliated with the military so I would have no place on the job pecking order there, and of course have none in Germany either, not being German or EU. I was lucky at first and got a job through a connection with my husband’s boss, but it was a limited contract that ended so now I’m feeling stuck again. Since I’m a student at the moment it’s not that I’ve got nothing to do so it’s ok, but the part that bugs me is that people back home don’t really understand why I’m not working and seem to think it ought to be easy for me to find a job! Not so!!

  • 2. osarah  |  February 2, 2009 at 1:38 AM

    Exactly! Now, at least I think I will be prepared to weather the job search back in the States when we get to go back.

    I’m also finishing school (a Master’s), but I finish in June, and I’m afraid I’ll be really bored once summer comes around.


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