When you’re a military spouse applying to jobs in Germany, pretty much the only option is to work on post due to the SOFA agreement. This doesn’t mean you can’t find a job. But it does mean that jobs opportunities are a little more limited than in the States, it might take longer than you prefer (5 months to an offer for me and about 7 months until I got to start), and you might have to look for work outside of your usual field.
Shortly after arriving in Germany, I applied to almost every job I saw an opening for. Some were somewhat close to things I’d done before. Most were completely unrelated. Some of the jobs I applied to were: administrative assistant, substitute teacher, security assistant, secretary, education aide, library technician, animal health aid, recreation assistant, child and youth program assistant, operations assistant, store associate, and theater supervisor. There were some I preferred over others, but I kept an open mind. Almost any of them would be a new experience I wouldn’t have otherwise had, and maybe I would end up doing something I really enjoyed.
I found most of these job postings through USAJobs. I also used AAFES and a list of DoDDS continuously open vacancies. Later, I found out about NAFJobs. I also found out after I already had a job offer that the NAF office has a binder of openings that one can look through, although if they differ from what’s available online, I don’t know. At one point, I also called the fitness center on post to find out they were always looking for personal trainers. I looked into getting ceritifed with NASM (which I could have done by studying on my own and testing in Hamburg). But I ended up getting a job before I signed up to take the class, so I didn’t end up going that route.
Throughout the process, there were a few things that were a bit discouraging. The first was that most of the jobs open for applications were “standing registers” which means that they could be pulling applications for future vacancies with no need for someone now and no guarantee they’d need one in the future. Knowing you’re filing out a bunch of forms and answering questions for a job that might not even exist isn’t the most fun thing. But I definitely encourage people to apply to them anyhow because the ones I got interviews for were all from the standing registers.
Another thing that discouraged me and then confused me was that I got an email saying I wasn’t eligible for the child and youth program assistant job. I knew I didn’t qualify for the highest level, but I was more than qualified for the entry level position, so this was a little confusing. More confusing but in a good way, was that I later got one saying I was eligible and that they’d forwarded it on to the selecting individuals. The letters saying you aren’t eligible go to emails you can’t reply to so I was bummed until I got the other one. I can’t really complain though because that’s the job I ended up getting.
One thing that tripped me up at first was all the documents I needed to apply to jobs listed on USAjobs, and getting them in. I needed an overseas employment form, and to apply for spousal preference I needed my husband’s PCS orders, my marriage certificate, and a form declaring the need for preference. If the job required a degree, I also needed a transcript. At first I had these all printed off and tried to fax them in. That failed when I applied to the security assistant job. I tried it a few different times and never got it to work. I emailed to see if there was something else I could do to get them in since fax wasn’t working and at the time I thought I had no way to upload them to the site.
After that, I figured out a better way, and I recommend anyone looking for a job do this. I remembered that my husband’s printer had a scanner built into it. So, I scanned everything onto my computer as documents, which I was able to attach at USAjobs. Once you have attached them and they show available (which can take a couple days), you can use the same documents for other applications. Due to size limits and the way the document categories are divided, my files were: PCS orders in one, transcript in another, and overseas pre-employment data form, questionnaire for military spouse preference, and marriage certificate in the last one.
All told, I’m not actually sure how many jobs I applied to. I know there were at least 17 categories. Many of the applications like educational assistant, child and youth program assistant and school secretary had multiple locations within the city, and you could check which ones you’d like to be considered for. I checked anything that was within the Heidelberg area, so I was really applying to several positions with one application. From these, I ended up with 3 interview offers. I did two interviews before I got offered a job around five months after I started looking for work (and with the steps I had to take following that, it was about two months after that before I started working).