Self-initiated expatriates: Career expectations, paths, success and employability
Content and objectives
Self-initiated expatriates (SIEs) seek a new job abroad – either with a new employer (often local organisations) or within a company that operates internationally – on their own initiative and without organisational support, and pursue it on a long-term basis. SIEs represent a potentially valuable human resource for companies due to their international experience. In order to successfully pursue their professional activities, SIEs must be employable not only in the target country, but also at home and further abroad if they are to continue to be internationally mobile. Employability is defined as the ability to adequately perform work tasks in current and future employment within and outside the current organisation. Different competencies contribute to employability, but they may differ depending on the career field.
- Determination of institutional factors in different countries that influence the required competencies of internationally mobile employees and thus ensure employability.
- Determination of conditional factors for the transferability of the required competencies of internationally mobile employees to ensure employability across career fields (e.g. moderating factors such as career paths, career phase, mobility mode, age, company size and target country).
The study is based on qualitative interviews with internationally mobile employees and quantitative survey data from expatriates. The primary theoretical frame of reference is Bourdieu’s theory of practice. Several mid-range theories such as human capital theory and conservation of resources theory also serve as frameworks. The evaluation of the data takes place by means of qualitative content analysis, qualitative comparative analysis (QCA), structural equation modelling (SEM), optimal matching modelling (OMA), path analyses.
Social relevance and application of results
In order for an employer to be attractive to self-initiated expatriates and returnees and profitably use their acquired skills and experience for the success of the company, businesses must ensure a meaningful career trajectory for internationally mobile employees. National peculiarities of the respective career models must first be described in order to record the characteristics of a transition between countries. Companies must develop different (re-)integration strategies in order to benefit as much as possible from the potential of an internationally mobile workforce.
By linking sociological, economic and psychological questions and deriving recommendations for action on an individual, organisational and societal level, the research project evaluates the relevant questions in an interdisciplinary manner and thus provides a significant addition to previous research on internationally mobile employees.
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