Making the Most out of an International Career

Making the Most out of an International Career

A growing number of qualified, university-educated people are taking it upon themselves to move to a new country to advance their career. The trend is great news for international firms who stand to gain a competitive advantage by adding their unique international understandings to the organizational talent pool. But how can human resource managers ensure that they get the most out of these valuable employees?

Most of the relevant human resources research has tended to concentrate on expatriates, who are transferred at the initiative of the organization. Therefore, ESSEC Management Professor Jean-Luc Cerdin has taken a closer look at the poorly-understood self-expatriated employee in his paper “Qualified Immigrants’ Success: "Exploring the Motivation to Migrate and Integrate”, published in the Journal of International Business Studies.

 “With co-authors Manel Abdeljalil Diné and Chris Brewster, we use qualitative research from these qualified immigrants in France to argue that their success depends in large part on their motivation to integrate into their host country, which is largely explained by their motivation to migrate,” explains Professor Cerdin. “From this data, we’ve derived four different types of qualified migrant, and suggest that the type will determine the success of the immigrant within, and outside, the organization.”

The ‘Dream Migrant’

These qualified immigrants have no particular reason to leave their home country, but are very attracted to their host country. To live and work abroad is a dream for them, so they tend to display the highest desire to integrate, to learn the language and understand the culture. However, because they expect a lot from their host country, they are extremely vulnerable to negative surprises.

The ‘Felicitous Migrant’

Felicitous migrants feel pushed from their country of origin, while feeling simultaneously drawn to their host country. They perceive the risk of migrating as worthwhile, and also demonstrate a strong desire to integrate in their host country. They expect a lot from their host country; therefore, positive surprises increase their motivation slightly.

The ‘Chance Migrant’

When the opportunity to move and work abroad arises, the chance migrant seizes it. Although there is no significant factors prompting them to leave, and a little risk involved, they feel the risk is worth it. Like the felicitous migrant, chance migrants display a reasonably high desire to integrate but positive surprises increase their desire to integrate strongly.

The ‘Desperate Migrant’

For desperate migrants, it was not entirely their decision to leave their home country, as they view the benefits of migration as limited. And because they feel pushed, they generally have little motivation to integrate. They expect very little from their host country, so positive surprises can have a strong impact on that weak relationship between motivation and desire to integrate.

Through understanding these individual backgrounds, organizations should be better equipped to implement tailored support policies including mentoring, training, and counseling when necessary. Indeed, qualified immigrants who feel supported by their organizations are more likely to be motivated to integrate, and thus more likely to succeed in their host country and organization. Effective talent management in an international organization implies making the best use of talent from anywhere in the world. 

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