Nearly every military spouse struggles to have a meaningful career while married to a soldier. And that struggle is especially challenging in Germany because it’s nearly impossible to find work opportunities on the German economy. As a result, they compete for the limited number of jobs for military spouses at USAG Bavaria, or they have to come up with their own business.
But military spouses are more creative and more resilient than most!
Can I Work in Germany Under SOFA?
Under the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), spouses may find employment on the German economy, but it can be nearly impossible if you don’t speak German. There are strict rules about hiring foreign workers, and if you do get a contract with a German company, you’ll have to pay German taxes.
So most spouses either look for work on post or create their own business.
How to find a job at USAG Bavaria Grafenwoehr
If you want to work on the base, we highly recommend you start applying yesterday. Like many large companies, it takes a little time to create an account with USA Jobs before you can actually apply for a job.
Plus, if you’re used to working in the private sector, you’ll find that government job applications are different. For example, USA Jobs usually prefers resumes that are longer than one page.
For free help with your federal resume, we highly recommend visiting Army Community Service (ACS) on Vilseck soon after you arrive. They can also connect you with volunteer opportunities, which is how many spouses eventually land jobs on post. And, if anything, it will keep you from going crazy out of boredom.
But once you apply, it can take months to hear anything after submitting your application. Yes, you read that correctly: months. It’s very common for the application to take between three to six months, from the moment you submit your application to your first day of work.
And a couple tips for you:
- when you search for Grafenwoehr on USA Jobs, search for Grafenwohr (without the umlaut)
- most jobs will be available to you, but you can also search for jobs for “military spouses” by checking the box in the search results
So start sooner rather than later!
How to start a home-based business (HBB)
Another route for employment is to start your own business. There are, however, limitations to what you can do as an HBB.
For example, you can’t register an HBB that directly competes with a service offered on post, such as anything that Family and MWR may provide. And if you’re interested in offering a service that’s heavily regulated by the German authorities such as food production or hair styling, there may be additional standards you have to meet. You can find more details in these guidelines.
Once you have your idea, start putting together your business plan! Then fill out an application for the commercial affairs office (one for on-post housing and one for private-lease housing) and make an appointment.
But how do you decide what kind of business to start?
Margaret Ballinger with Gemeinwesen Yoga
Margaret opened Gemeinwesen Yoga in the Weiden marktplatz in 2017, but she’s lived in Germany for longer than that. Her advice to spouses looking for employment?
“You want to do something that makes you happy and brightens your life,” she says. “Especially when it comes to military families moving and having to relocate and having to reinvest themselves into a community, it’s about what you can take with yourself that’s going to make you happy.”
This seems easier said than done. But with so many people like Margaret in the USAG Bavaria Grafenwoehr community, there’s plenty of guidance to go around.
Justina with JUrban Bagels
Before PCSing to Germany, Justina managed restaurants in the US. It’s a skill set that’s needed pretty much everywhere, but restaurants in Germany aren’t eager to hire Americans with culinary management degrees who don’t speak German.
So Justina found a job as a substitute teacher at Netzaberg. These types of jobs for military spouses are a great source for steady income that also allow for a flexible schedule.
Because Justina never stopped thinking about how to use her degree.
Before moving here, friends told her that there weren’t any good bagel shops in the area. So as a classically trained chef, she decided to start her HBB JUrban Bagels and fulfill a need that wasn’t being met!
But she’s not just making bagels. Justina offers fruit trays, smoothies, and chicken n’ waffles as part of her catering services.
And she has a system down: customers have to place their orders at least 48 hours in advance. Then she shops for ingredients on the German economy, preps her orders, and creates her delivery/pick-up times around her substitute teaching job and her daughter’s school schedule.
Roldan Loera with CrossFit Grafenwöhr
Speaking of children, one of the most in-demand services around USAG Bavaria Grafenwoehr is childcare. But because regulations are strict and Family and MWR offers family childcare (FCC) services, it’s not permitted as an HBB.
And because childcare regulations are so strict, it takes months for any individual to be approved through USA Jobs. More often than not, the application process takes so long that, once a person is finally approved, they’ve already found another job.
As a result, childcare options on post are limited. And that means parents have less time to take care of themselves. For example, parents can’t go to the gyms on post because they rarely offer childcare.
This is a driving factor behind Roldan Loera’s business plan.
Roldan studied sports and health science, and fitness is his passion. Once he knew he was staying in Grafenwoehr for good, Roldan pitched his idea for a crossfit gym to his German friend and business partner.
They offer daily crossfit classes and training for soldiers to pass the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT). The gym fosters a sense of international community outside of work for both families and soldiers.
But the real cherry on top? CrossFit Grafenwoehr offers childcare as well as fitness classes for kids. “There are gyms on post,” Roldan says. “But one of the problems that people have is childcare on post. Childcare gets packed. But if I can offer that here, they will come.”
And that’s the key to any successful business: “Find a problem that someone has that you can solve,” Roldan recommends. “It’s going to be a bit of a struggle, but the rewards are great.”
Find Jobs for Military Spouses – Or Create Your Own!
As spouses overseas, we want to find work not just to pay the bills, but to occupy our time. More importantly, however, we seek personal enrichment.
Whether you secure a career path through USA Jobs or create your own business, we want to hear about it. Let us know about your experience in the comments!