The number one thing that keeps quite a few Career Diplomats “Up at Night” is that their trailing spouses seldom obtain jobs that match their skills, knowledge and experience. Our recent HR/TA delegation’s curiosity about the lives and roles of our government officials in foreign countries sparked a few new insights about this underserved EMEA candidate source opportunity.
Our delegation to Eastern Europe
During our November trip to Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, we were fortunate to have some face time at the US Embassy in Prague. Our discussion with Christine, a career diplomat specializing in Commerce, lasted an entire morning and while we entered into the compound knowing little about our government in action in foreign lands, we left with an enormous appreciation for Christine and many like her who represent us so well. We learned she previously served in China, India, Egypt and Germany for 2-4 years each before being assigned to the Czech Republic in March. Her overview of the State Department’s role (in Eastern Europe) alone was something many of us missed (or simply forgot) from high school civics classes. For the record, the Commerce side of the State Department is primarily concerned with helping US businesses sell more goods and services in whatever country they are stationed.
Note: Gerry has participated in or lead HR delegations for more than a decade to China, India, Brazil, Argentina, Cuba and, in 2017 with Chris Hoyt, Japan. Our goal has always been to step outside our day-to-day world and learn how culture impacts how employers hire and manage employees.
We began to get a sample of the quality of our diplomatic corps when we learned that in her spare time Christine took a sabbatical to get an MBA at Harvard, has two kids and passably speaks six languages. Learning a seventh, Czech, occupies her time formally several hours a week. The hours we spent with Christine talking about the challenges and opportunities in EMEA and Eastern/Central Europe was eye-opening and included what 3% full employment looks like. How different the western part of the EU sees immigration versus the Eastern sector. How one manages a mass transportation system that everyone praises as the best anywhere. How a country incents higher birth rates by reducing income tax (and offering three years paid maternity and paternity leaves).
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The subject of trailing spouses came up almost as an afterthought.
An untapped EMEA candidate source: trailing spouses
Every country with US Embassies and Consulates has many US employees and inevitably, most have trailing spouses who arguably are equally as educated, knowledgeable and skilled. Most are available to work (typically for 2-4 years at a time). Finding a job, however, is a challenge. We thought maybe the total number affected would be too small to warrant the need for a real solution but no, in the Czech Republic alone there are more than 70 trailing spouses with mid to high level financial, engineering, marketing, IT, sales and other capabilities. In countries like Germany, the number is in the hundreds. Throughout EMEA it’s many thousands of high-level professionals not working or seriously underemployed.
Work visas, we learned are not the problem. It seems embassies can always work a bit of ‘magic’ and barter their way to getting a work visa for a spouse in any host country – often in 24 hours. What they can’t do, we realized immediately, is have a member of the embassy go to a US multi-national employer in the country and ask them to consider spouses for employment. That is just a tad illegal.
On the other hand, a knowledgeable Sourcer or Recruiter wanting to uncover a person with functional expertise, English and local language skills, management capabilities, and the ability to work on and lead programs and projects might find a ready supply of talent in just about any country in EMEA. If only there were an easy way to uncover whether a qualified person or two was in situ. Ah, but there is. Fortunately, in every country with a US Embassy, employers can contact a friendly Community Liaison who has access to the profiles of all the trailing spouses.
If I were a recruiter seeking EMEA candidate sources, I would be picking up the phone.
December 13 Webinar Recap of the Eastern European HR/TA Delegation
While on this trip we were able to learn from university professors and students in both Prague and Budapest. We had interesting meetings with large employers like Roche and Coca-Cola as well as growing small employers like Lensa. We had the opportunity to attend a meet-up in Budapest with local employers there to discuss candidate experience, courtesy of Cielo. Want to learn from our experiences? Members of the delegation are coming together to share the highlights and key learnings. Mark your calendars, save this link and bring your questions – we’re looking forward to it!