Opportunities abound in civilian jobs overseas


July 20, 1992|By Joyce Lain Kennedy | Joyce Lain Kennedy,Sun Features Inc.

Dear Joyce: I am interested in a job in Eastern Europe, especially in Romania, since I have friends and family there and a great personal interest in the country. I have worked with heavy equipment for the past 10 years. Are U.S. government jobs available? -- S. M.

Dear S. M.: More than 150,000 Americans work in civilian jobs overseas as employees of the U.S. government, the largest source of foreign employment.

In career fields ranging from accounting to writing, chances are someone with your skills is plying them in the global workplace for Uncle Sam. But don't expect flash success in joining these ranks.

Few people know the extent of federal jobs abroad, much less how to find and apply for them. A new book by world travelers Will Cantrell and Francine Modderno tackles these questions with the intensity of investigative reporters, telling it straight without fantasizing about all the fabulous opportunities that may never materialize. Their work shows integrity.

In "How to Find an Overseas Job with the U.S. Government" ($29 by mail from Worldwise Books, Box 3030, Oakton, Va. 22124; [703] 620-1972), we find that some new jobs indeed are opening in such areas as economic aid to the Commonwealth of Independent States (the former Soviet Union) and other Eastern European countries.

The Agriculture Department, say Mr. Cantrell and Ms. Modderno, is shipping corporate executives to the Commonwealth of Independent States to help manage food processing plants free-market style. The State Department has opened 24 embassies, still not fully staffed, in the region. State hires not only diplomats but such Foreign Service specialists as engineers, communications officers, building and maintenance personnel, fire protection officers, medical technologists and secretaries.

In addition to career positions, the State Department hires one- and two-year contract workers in support occupations -- carpenters, cooks, custodians, electricians, mechanics, painters, plumbers, property clerks and warehouse managers, for example.

Other major government employers include the U.S. Information Agency, Department of Commerce, Agency for International Development, CIA, Department of Defense and Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty.

The best way to apply for government jobs abroad is to contact the personnel offices of the hiring agencies directly. They'll send you any current job descriptions that you want. Several of the agencies have telephone job hot lines that list openings.

Mr. Cantrell said the most important thing to know about applying for government jobs is how to fill out an SF-171, the government's standard application. Then make sure your SF-171 is on file for your job specialty. Even if there's a hiring freeze, most recruitment offices will keep an SF-171 from a good candidate and contact the person when hiring is possible.

"How to Find an Overseas Job with the U.S. Government" has 70 chapters on entry-level and midlevel overseas employment opportunities with 17 agencies. Without question, this is the best book of its kind -- don't try to leave home without it.

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