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“The big OE”: Self-directed travel and career development



“OE” is overseas experience – periods of “working holiday” undertaken by young people autonomously exploring other countries and cultures. This paper investigates OE and considers its effect on career development. OE is a world-wide phenomenon, but has special significance in Australia and New Zealand, where it is undertaken as a “rite of passage” by many young people. The paper reports results from an interview study of 50 OEs undertaken by young New Zealanders. It focuses on predisposing personal and situational factors prompting OE, the unplanned and improvisational nature of OE, the main forms of OE, and its apparent consequences for personal development and subsequent careers. The evidence suggests that OE brings benefits but that the process is complex and unpredictable because of confounding forces such as non-career travel agendas and personal relationships. The special value of OE to careers in current conditions requiring greater self-direction, flexibility and internationalisation is emphasised.
``The big OE’’: self-directed travel and career
Kerr Inkson
Department of International Business, Massey University, New Zealand
Barbara A. Myers
Department of Management and Employment Relations, Auckland University of
Technology, New Zealand
I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel
for travel’s sake (Robert Louis Stevenson).
It is popularly believed that ``travel broadens
the mind’’. Does it? If it does, then travellers’
career potential should be enhanced.
Globalisation continues. Companies
internationalise. Media exposure increases
peoples’ awareness of other countries.
Images of life abroad draw culture-seekers
like magnets. International travel becomes
cheaper. Tourism grows. Although the
growth in travel experienced a downward
``blip’ following the events of 11 September,
2001, the long-term trend is inexorable.
People spend more and more time away from
their home country. Careers become more
geographically mobile. Yet there has been
little research on the relationship between
international travel and career development.
An exception is the extensive research on
``expatriate assignment’’ (see Thomas, 2001,
for a summary). However, this research
mostly concerns corporate travellers
pursuing organisational careers and is
conducted and interpreted from an
organisational frame of reference (e.g.
Oddou, 1991). Individuals are attributed little
responsibility in the process, and as far as
the expatriate’s career is concerned, the
focus is on company human resource
management strategies, and self-directed
career develop ment is neglected (Inkson et al.,
1997). However, recent papers by Suutari and
Brewster (2000) and Vance (2002) urge us to:
Advance the development of a much
neglected line of career research related to
self-selected or self-initiated expatriation
(Vance, 2002, p. B1).
Much significant overseas travel arises not
from the corporate assignment of staff for
organisational reasons, but from self-
initiated mobility by individuals for personal
reasons. These individuals include tourists,
students undertaking overseas study,
permanent migrants, and others who seek to
travel for cultural experience. Even among
career-oriented professional groups, many
expatriates migrate by means of personal
application rather than corporate
assignment (Suutari and Brewster, 2000;
Richardson and McKenna, 2002).
Today’s ``backpacker culture’’ involves
more and more young people, mainly from
developed countries, who desire to ``see the
world’’, and are willing to follow their
curiosity, travel light, and search for
whatever employment they need along the
way. In the UK, for example, interest in a
``gap year’’ of work experience between
finishing high school and commencing
tertiary education has burgeoned. The
purpose of the gap year is to encourage
students’ personal exploration and
development prior to their continuing more
focussed educational or vocational
commitment. Travel is an explicit part of
many gap year experiences. Already an
estimated 40,000 UK teenagers per year
undertake a gap year (, 2002).
As an example of self-development through
proactive travel in youth, consider the case of
``Jack’’, a young New Zealander:
On leaving sc hool, Jack got a job with a
brewery as a storeman. He was then
promoted to better jobs in the company, but
began to ``think I should travel now before
being hooked into the work system’’. He
wanted to move beyond New Zealand and live
and work in other cultures. He planned to use
London as a base, and spend 18 months
alternately working and travelling. He was 22
when he left.
In London he worked laying fibre optic
cables, and as a barman. But he found London
expensive, impersonal and class-consc ious, so
he flew to Zurich for skiing. Then he worked
in a Swiss hotel for si x months. He loved the
work and the white Christmas ± a ``fantastic
time’’. There was time for skiing and ice
Section 1: Academic papers
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[ 17 0 ]
Career Development
8/4 [2003] 170-181
#MCB UP Limited
[ISSN 1362-04 36]
[DOI 10.1108/1362043 03104 82553]
Career development, Travel,
Personal development plans,
Work experience
``OE’’ is overseas experience ±
periods of ``working holiday’’
undertaken by young people
autonomously exploring other
countries and cultures. This paper
investigates OE and considers its
effect on career development. OE
is a world-wide phenomenon, but
has special significance in
Australia and New Zealand, where
it is undertaken as a ``rite of
passage’’ by many young people.
The paper reports results from an
interview study of 50 OEs
undertaken by young New
Zealanders. It focuses on
predisposing personal and
situational factors prompting OE,
the unplanned and improvis ational
nature of OE, the main forms of
OE, and its apparent
consequences for personal
development and subsequent
careers. The evidence suggests
that OE brings benefits but that
the process is complex and
unpredictable because of
confounding forces such as
non-career travel agendas and
personal relationships. The special
value of OE to careers in current
conditions requiring greater
self-direction, flexibility and
internationalisation is
Received November 2002
Revised February 2003
Accepted February 2003
hockey. The boss offered him a mo nth’s
holiday, and he visited Prague and
Amsterdam. Then he returned to the Swiss
hotel for the summer season.
Next a contact offered him a job on a
Seagram’s research expedition to Antarctica
studying penguins: ``a riveting experience’’.
He travelled round Cape Horn and visited
Chile and Peru. This trip had a profound
effect on him: ``the poverty and deprivation
was so obvious and the valu e of life so
minimal ± a shocking but amazing
He had saved money, and spent the next six
months travelling, utilising network contacts
for friendship, accommodation etc. He skied
in Canada, vi sited the USA ( both coasts),
Italy, Southern France, Barcelona, Paris, and
then Switzerland and London again. He had
visited 26 countries in two years.
After two years away, Jack ``really wanted to
come home and have my ow n bed’’. He went to
Queenstown (a New Zealand tourism centre)
and worked in the hotel business for nine
months. Then he returned to his hotel in
Switzerland ``to earn good money to enter
university’’. He could see the need for formal
qualifications. When interviewed he was a
full-time business student with a part-time job
in the brewery.
Jack says he will eventually conform to the
``expected pattern’’ of work, marriage, house,
but he didn’t want that when he went
overseas. His experience has given him a
greater appreciation of life in New Zealand,
and he can see good work opportunities
ahead. ``I think globally on personal and
business issues.’’ He has become more
independent, more open-minded, and more
aware that he can make a difference. He has
enhanced his communicatio n and people
skills. His travels also enabled him to see that
his future career lay in international
Jack strongly recommends OE: ``it is essential
for self growth, it pushed me out of my
comfort zone, helped to push me to my
potential. I’d do it all aga in’’.
How do we evaluate Jack’s travels in terms of
his career development? Was his trip a
youthful idyll, an enlightening ``time out’’
before he got on with the serious business of
living? Or was it a significant growth
experience in a developing career focused on
international business? Most likely it was
both of these. Jack had no career plan or
pre-organised overseas job, yet his
self-initiated international experiences have
serendipitously provided him with unique
and precious career development.
We believe that overseas travel in pursuit
of personal development is a common (and
increasing) activity among young people. In
this paper we seek to apply systematic study
to one category of non-organisational
travellers: young people undertaking
``working holidays’’ overseas. This group has
special significance in our own country, New
Zealand, and in Australia.
``The big OE’’
Australia and New Zealand are former
British Dominions which are geographically
isolated from the ``mother country’, but
which continue to share its language and
many of its mores. Arguably, they lack the
cultural depth to be found in larger, longer
established societies such as the UK. They
are also smaller, and may have a narrower
range of career opportunities. And so, every
year, tens of thousands of young Australians
and New Zealanders make their pilgrimage
to London, as a starting point for what they
call, in local vernacular, ``the big OE’’
(overseas experience) ± a period of travel,
exploration, and personal development.
The term ``the big OE’’ symbolises the
national significance of the phenomenon. In
New Zealand, particularly among educated
younger people, OE is a rite of passage, a
symbol of adulthood, a social norm, a source
of pride, and an experience which provides
common conversational currency among
those who undertake it and bonds New
Zealanders together (McCarter, 2001). It also
has potential benefits for host countries,
through the energy, enterprise, and talent of
the travellers.
The UK government assists OE by
providing Australian and New Zealand
citizens aged 27 or younger with a visa for a
``working holiday’’ of up to two years. On
application from the visa holder and an
employer, the visa may be renewed for
further periods. In addition, some travellers
with UK patriality have British passports,
providing them with the same employment
opportunities as locals, with no restriction on
time. Most OE travellers base themselves in
London, which in comparison with
Australian and New Zealand centres they
often find vibrant and exciting ± a good place
both for their cultural development, career
development and an active social life. London
also provides the OE travellers with a
network of compatriots that allows them to
hook into accommodation and employment
opportunities. They also use the centrality of
London to work and/or travel extensively
elsewhere in the UK and in Europe. A
minority undertake OE based in other
countries, such as the USA, Japan, or South
America. Some travel ``free’’, having no clear
destination, but rather exploring the world as
[ 171 ]
Kerr Inkson and
Barbara A. Myers
``The big OE’’: self-directed
travel and career development
Career Development
8/4 [2003] 170-181
chance, curiosity, work opportunities, and
their developing interests and networks take
Inkson et al. (1997) argued that OE
represents an alternative, ``boundaryless’’
model of careers (Arthur and Rousseau, 1996)
and is especially suitable as preparation for
``new economy’’ careers (Arthur et al., 1999).
This is because the characteristics of OE
travel ± boundarylessness, autonomy,
independence, adaptability, transience, self-
directed learning, and multiculturalism ± are
increasingly requirements of careers.
As evidence, Inkson et al. (1997) offered a
set of OE cases from a careers study with
much wider objectives (Arthur et al., 1999).
These cases included various examples of
individuals developing new career
competencies and better focus through their
self-directed overseas learning, and
returning to their home country with
increased ``career capital’’ to be used in the
their subsequent development (Inkson and
Arthur, 2001). The authors argued that OE
provides an opportunity for major personal
and career development, and also for the
competitive advantage of the organisations,
industries, and other institutions in which
they subsequently developed their careers
(Inkson et al., 1999).
Despite the cultural significance and iconic
status of OE in Australia and New Zealand,
and its possible contribution to the national
economy (Inkson et al., 1999), it is an
unresearched phenomenon, except as one
form of migration in the broad statistics of
those leaving and entering the country. This
may be due in part to OE being ``taken for
granted’’ as part of the national scene, and in
part to the slender resources available for
social research in these countries. The
current study was framed as an attempt to
determine whether OE, generally framed in
the public mind as a youthful attempt to seek
novelty and cultural experience, might
serendipitously affect the career agendas and
development of participants, and thereby
their contribution to the national resource of
their country of origin and of subsequent
We emphasize that although the
Australia/New Zealand OE institution
probably contains some unique features, it
is in essence a local expression of the
``backpacker culture’’ increasingly in
evidence among young people from countries
around the world. The self-development
potential of self-organised international
travel has not gone unnoticed:
More than 30 years ago, I disc overed Europe
by hitchhiking around it each summer,
sleeping on beaches and in cheap hostels,
breezing into Barcelona on the back of a
motorbike, watching French kids in Nimes
cover the table with the ingredients of a fresh
ratatouille, selling my blood in a clinic off
Omonia Square in Athens for $8 ± enough for
a few more days on the islands. I learned
more from these trips than from years in
school ... (Elliott, 2002, p. 27).
OE is more than an ``each summer’’
excursion ± it typically extends over years
rather than months. And it typically involves
employment as a means of paying for itself.
But otherwise it shares the free-wheeling,
improvisational, learn-as-you-go quality of
Elliott’s experience. Thus, Inkson et al.’s
(1997) suggestion that self-directed travel is
under-valued as a means of career
development relates not just to the special
Australian and New Zealand institution of
OE, but to young travellers everywhere.
The objectives of this paper were therefore:
to provide a descriptive account of OE,
including the demographic
characteristics and motivations of those
who undertake it, the predisposing
characteristics and events which
encourage it, and its nature, including
duration, planning versus spontaneity,
main destinations, and characteristic
forms; and
to consider the effects of OE, both while it
is taking place and subsequently, on the
learning, personal development, career
resources, and careers, of those who
undertake it.
From personal contacts within the city of
Auckland, we recruited a ``snowball’’ sample
of people who had recently undertaken OE.
To qualify for inclusion, participants had to
be under 40 years of age, and to have been
New Zealand residents who had spent at least
six months out of the country and had
returned from overseas within the five years
prior to the interview. Where they had had
more than one OE within the designated
period, data were gathered concerning the
most recent one. Each respondent was
contacted by telephone and asked to take part
in a one-hour interview in a neutral setting.
Only a few of those approached declined to
take part, and most were co-operative in
providing further contacts. Interviews were
conducted by one of the authors or by a
trained research assistant. In total, 50
interviewees were sought and obtained.
[ 17 2 ]
Kerr Inkson and
Barbara A. Myers
``The big OE’’: self-directed
travel and career development
Career Development
8/4 [2003] 170-181
There are two limitations of the sample
which need to be acknowledged. First, it is
confined to people resident in New Zealand at
the time of interview, and therefore does not
include those who took an OE and did not
return ± for example those who decided to
make their careers and homes in the UK,
those who formed relationships with
overseas partners and settled in their
countries, those who might intend to return
but had not yet done so. Second, ``snowball’’
samples may be biased by their starting
points and by dynamics where respondents
nominate further respondents from the same
general group. Compared to the general
population, the sample was biased towards
better-educated, higher-level professional
and managerial groups. It is likely that OE is
more prevalent in these groups, but it is also
possible that the sampling process
accentuated this feature.
The interview schedule was in four parts,
each subdivided into a semi-structured set of
``probe’’ questions:
Part A (before departure) covered the
participant’s education, career, and
relationships before departure, the
motivation to travel, the people
influencing the decision to travel, and the
plans made for the trip, including an
estimate of how long the individual
expected to be away.
Part B (time overseas) enabled the
participant to tell his or her OE ``story’
chronologically. This typically included
employment history, places visited,
relationships made, accommodation lived
in, and decision processes guiding
changes. Both objective and subjective
matters relating to work and non-work
were included.
Part C (returning to New Zealand) covered
the participant’s return, including the
reasons for return and the individual’s
subsequent activities, including
re-settlement, location, relationships,
employment, education, and current
career position and direction.
Part D (reflecting on the OE) covered the
participant’s perceptions of the change in
his or her life during and following the
overseas experience, skills gained and
enhanced through OE, learning and
career effects of OE, non-work related
effects of OE, and negative effects of OE.
At the conclusion of the interview the person
was asked to confirm their age when they
had left New Zealand, their age on return,
and the duration of the OE.
Travellers were encouraged to tell their
stories in their own words, in all their
complexity and richness. Funding
constraints precluded the audio-recording
and transcription of interview data. Instead,
the interviewers took copious notes during
the interviews and wrote these up as a
detailed interview account as soon as
possible afterwards. The interview reports
run to an average of 2,000 words, and we
believe that little of value has been lost.
Characteristics of OE participants
The sample of 50 contained 26 women and 24
men. In terms of gender equality, OE forms a
good contrast with the corporate sexism of
expatriate assignment, where one review
suggested that 97 per cent of assignments
were by males (Brewster, 1991), and Vance’s
(2002) sample of US expatriates was 87 per
cent male. While a number of our
participants mentioned special problems in
OE for women travelling alone, it appears
that OE is a much less gendered experience
than expatriate assignment.
Age on departure from New Zealand is shown
in Table I. Nearly two-thirds of the sample
were aged under 25. The mean age of
participants was 24.02 years and the median
age 24. With an average stay overseas of four
years, the average age on return was 28.
OE therefore appears to be an activity of
the 20s, particularly the mid-20s.
Developmental career theorists such as
Super (1957) regard the 20s as a stage where
life and career development moves from
exploration to establishment. More recent
characterisations of career development in a
less stable organisational and occupational
environment suggest however that
exploration may occur at any stage (Super,
1992). However, the stereotype of OE
hypothesised by Inkson et al. (1997) is
certainly consistent with the notion that
exploration rather than establishment is its
key career task.
Table I
Age ranges of participants on departure
A g e r a n g e n( P e r c e n t )
U n d e r 2 0 2 ( 4 )
2 0 - 2 4 2 9 ( 5 8 )
2 5 - 2 9 1 4 ( 2 8 )
3 0 - 3 4 2 ( 4 )
3 5 - 3 9 1 ( 2 )
N o t a s c e r t a i n e d 2 ( 4 )
[ 173 ]
Kerr Inkson and
Barbara A. Myers
``The big OE’’: self-directed
travel and career development
Career Development
8/4 [2003] 170-181
Education levels on departure are shown in
Table II. Respondents were relatively
well-educated, with nearly three-quarters
having some tertiary education, and nearly
half being degree qualified.
The occupations of respondents immediately
prior to departure were tabulated according
to the New Zealand Standard Occupational
Classification. Results are shown in Table III.
In interpreting these figures, it should be
borne in mind that participants were mostly
at an early stage of their careers. It is likely
that some of the students and clerical and
service workers would eventually move on to
professional and managerial careers. The key
feature of these data is the relative absence of
participants from manu al occupations. These
occupations represent over a third of the
workforce (New Zealand Yearbook, 2001), yet
account for only 4 per cent of the sample.
Even at this early stage in participants’
careers, the sample appears to have a bias
towards higher socio-economic groups.
Motivation for OE
Barry (1998) postulated three motivations for
(1) general exploration;
(2) specific career goals; and
(3) escape from an undesirable work or
personal situation.
However, our results suggested a more
complex picture. Table IV reveals
participants’ motives as expressed in
interviews. Each main category is labelled
according to whether it was a ``positive/pull’’
factor or a ``negative/push’’ factor.
The motivation to OE was based primarily
on approaching a positive rather than on
rejecting a negative. Also, if ``career’’ is
conceptualised in conventional
paid-employment terms, career development
was ranked very low as a priority for OE.
Instead OE was based on a wider set of
``whole-life’’ factors, including social
connection, imitation, non-work-related
exploration, cultural experience, the pursuit
of stimulation and change, and changing
personal relationships. These results remind
us that the career is just one of a number of
inter-related arenas of individual action.
Also, the desire to travel may be deep-rooted,
but the timing of travel often depends on
short-term factors such as attitude to current
job, and freedom from constraining
Social support for OE
As indicated above, participants frequently
mentioned role models and social support.
They were asked specifically: ``Tell me about
any people who may have influenced you in
your decision to go overseas’’. Responses
were divided into two categories: those
implying general encouragement, e.g. ``my
parents were very supportive’’, ``my friends
urged me to go; and those where role
modelling was implied, e.g. ``my mother told
me all about her OE’, ``my sister was already
over there’’; ``my friends were e-mailing me
about how great it was’’.
Of the 50 participants, 37 mentioned having
received encouragement and 36 role
modelling. Only three participants
maintained that their OE decisions had been
made ``solo’’, without social support. Further
breakdown is shown in Table V.
These results suggest that even though
most OE travellers are living independently
at the time they leave, many receive strong
support from their parents. However, it is
their own age-group of friends and siblings
who provide the main normative and role
modelling support. For most travellers,
therefore, OE is not a lone adventure but a
socially- and family-mediated activity. The
results also support our view that OE is a
normative institution in New Zealand
Planning of OE
Conventional views of life and career
advocate planning and goal setting
Table II
Educational qualifications of participants
H i g h e s t q u a l i f i c a t i o n nPer cent
D e g r e e q u a l i f ic a t i o n s 2 4 4 8
S o m e t e r t i a r y 1 2 2 4
N o q u a l i f i c a t i o n s b e y o n d h i g h s c h o o l 1 3 2 6
N o t a s c e r t a i n e d 1 2
Table III
Classification of last full-time job before departure
C l a s s i f i c a t i o n g r o u p n( P e r c e n t )
1 . M a n a g e r s a n d a d m i n i s t r a t o r s 6 1 2
2 . P r o f e s s i o n a l s 7 1 4
3 . T e c h n i c i a n s a n d a s s o c i a t e
p r o f e s s i o n a l s
7 1 4
4 . C l e r k s a n d s e c r e t a r i e s 8 1 6
5 . S a l e s a n d s e r v i c e w o r k e r s 1 1 2 2
6 . A g r i c u l t u r a l a n d f i s h e r y w o r k e r s ±
7 . T r a d e s w o r k e r s 2 4
8 . M a c h i n e o p e r a t o r s a n d a s s e m b l e r s ±
9 . E l e m e n t a r y o c c u p a t i o n s ±
S t u d e n t s ( n o t i n S t a n d a r d I n d u s t r i a l
C l a s s i f i c a t i o n )
8 1 6
N o t a s c e r t a i n e d 1 2
[ 17 4 ]
Kerr Inkson and
Barbara A. Myers
``The big OE’’: self-directed
travel and career development
Career Development
8/4 [2003] 170-181
(Greenhaus et al.,, 2001), but environmental
turbulence and unexpected events often
make this difficult. The stereotype of OE
(Inkson et al., 1997) suggests that it involves
the temporary minimisation of planning in
favour of improvisation. How far did
participants plan their OE? The typical
answer to the question, ``Did you have a plan
before you set out?’’ was:
Go to London, find somewhere to stay, and
look for a job.
Few participants had any clear plan beyond
this. A total of ten out of the 50 had
pre-arranged jobs, student exchanges, or
places on educational programs. Others had
pre-arranged contacts with relations or
friends overseas, or went with broad ideas ±
and sometimes pre-purchased tickets ± about
countries to be visited, tours to be taken, and
type of work to be sought. Overall, however,
the degree of pre-planning was minimal,
particularly in relation to work/career
Duration of OE
We asked participants: ``How long did you
expect or think you might be away from New
Zealand?’’ Their answers, together with the
actual time spent away, are tabulated in
Table VI.
The mean time estimated by the 42 who
had made an estimate was 1.73 years. The
mean time stayed by those 42 was 3.65 years.
Of the 42, three returned earlier than they
expected, seven returned at the time they
anticipated (+ or ±10 per cent), and the
remaining 32 stayed at least 10 per cent
longer than expected.
Table IV
Reasons given for undertaking OE (number of participants mentioning)
R e a s o n g i v e n N u m b e r o f m e n t i o n s T o t a l
S o c i a l a t t r a c t i o n ( p o s i t i v e )
O v e r s e a s f a m i l y c o n n e c t i o n s
I m i t a t io n ± ` ` f r i e n d s d o i n g i t
S p e c i f i c a l l y s u g g e s t e d b y f a m i l y / f r i e n d s
O v e r s e a s c o n n e c t io n s , n o n - f a m i l y
1 0
1 0
1 0
5 3 5
E x p l o r a t i o n ( p o s i t i v e )
T r a v e l / o t h e r c u l t u r e s / ` ` s e e t h e w o r l d ’
A d v e n t u r e / e x c i t e m e n t / f u n
2 1
8 2 9
E s c a p e ( n e g a t iv e )
F r o m b o r e d o m / l i f e i n N Z / n a r r o w w a y o f l i v i n g
F r o m j o b
F r o m r e l a t i o n s h i p
1 3
3 2 0
P r e d i s p o s i t i o n : `` I a l w a y s w a n t e d / i n t e n d e d t o d o i t ’ ( p o s i t i v e ) 1 6 1 6
` ` N e e d e d a b r e a k / c h a n g e ’ ( p o s i t i v e a n d n e g a t i v e ) 1 1 1 1
T i m i n g : `` I t s e e m e d l i k e t h e r i g h t t i m e t o g o ’ ( e . g . r e l a t i o n s h i p b r e a k d o w n ,
g e t t i n g t o o o l d t o c l a i m v i s a ) ( n e g a t i v e )
1 0 1 0
S p e c i f i c o v e r s e a s o p p o r t u n i t y ( p o s i t i v e )
E d u c a t i o n
W o r k
3 6
I m p u l s e ( n e u t r a l ) 2 2
G e n e r a l c a r e e r d e v e l o p m e n t ( p o s i t i v e ) 2 2
E a r n m o n e y ( p o s i t i v e ) 1 1
T o t a l 1 2 1 1 2 1
Table V
Family and social support for OE (number of
participants mentioning)
S o u r c e o f
s u p p o r t
Encouragem ent
R o l e m o d e l l i n g
P a r e n t s 2 7 8
S i b l i n g s 4 1 0
P a r t n e r 7 2
F r i e n d s 1 3 2 1
T e a c h e r s 2 ±
Table VI
Numbers of participants estimating different
lengths of time away from NZ, and numbers
actually away for these lengths of time
A m o u n t o f t i m e
P r e - d e p a r t u r e
e s t i m a t e n
A c t u a l t i m e
o v e r s e a s n
L e s s t h a n t w o y e a r s 1 8 6
T w o y e a r s 1 7 8
O v e r t w o y e a r s b u t u n d e r
f o u r y e a r s
5 1 3
O v e r f o u r y e a r s b u t
u n d e r s e v e n y e a r s
2 1 4
S e v e n y e a r s o r m o r e 0 9
N o p r e - t r a v e l e s t i m a t e 8 N A
T o t a l 5 0 5 0
[ 175 ]
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``The big OE’’: self-directed
travel and career development
Career Development
8/4 [2003] 170-181
These figures suggest that OE is indeed an
unplanned experience, one which grows ``like
Topsy’’. This impression is borne out by
qualitative data. Many participants found
positive personal environments, not just
interesting jobs and new career
opportunities, but also close personal
relationships, friendships, and stimulating
cultural experiences and settings. Therefore,
when their expected time of return arrived
they simply did not want to leave. Some had
passports enabling them to stay for an
unlimited time, while others were able to
have their visas extended. Some, we suspect,
stayed on as illegal immigrants. Some, as we
will show, were drawn back reluctantly by
family ties. Some were compelled to return
by visa restrictions even though they did not
want to go.
Location of OE
Table VII shows that nearly three-quarters of
the sample spent at least half their OE in the
UK. The reasons are probably history,
tradition, familiarity, role modelling, and
convenience. A few with specific cultural
agendas chose to base their OEs in Asia. A
minority of seven participants ± including
Jack, reported earlier ± had more
``boundaryless’’ or ``global’’ itineraries.
Personal relationships during OE
OE mirrors broader life experience in that
the traveller plays multiple roles, for
example culture-seeker, adventurer, friend,
relation, partner, employee, careerist. These
roles divide broadly into cultural, social, and
work roles. Career roles are entangled with
other roles. As we have seen, the motivation
for OE is typically rooted in the person’s
personal, social and cultural life rather than
in his or her work life. The accounts of OE
reflect balance between roles (for example
giving up a good job/career opportunity in
order to undertake further exploration).
The maintenance of personal relationships
has a major influence on the OE experience.
Travellers are able to travel with their
partners but can also be constrained by their
partners’ commitments. The dynamics of
dual-career marriages (Sekaran and Hall,
1989) may be pre-figured in dual-career OE.
Loved ones may be left behind, or may set out
with the traveller, or may join him or her at a
later date. Relationships which seemed
secure ``at home’’ may collapse under the
changed circumstances of OE. In the
romantic springtime of OE, new partners
may be acquired, who anchor the OE in the
partner’s preferred location or accompany
him or her back home. Table VIII indicates
the prevalence of the issue.
From these data it appears that in OE
relationships tend to grow more than they
dissolve. In a country concerned about the
``brain drain’’ of talented young people
offshore (Bedford, 2001), the arrival of these
foreign partners may represent an important
force counterbalancing the outflow of
national talent.
Types of OE
Our reading of the OE stories which we
collected suggested that there were
distinctive ``forms’’ or ``types’’ of OE, based on
the priority attributed to work and
employment as part of the OE experience.
These forms enable us to focus particularly
on the relationship between OE and career
As indicated earlier in this paper, work
and career are almost always a secondary
rather than primary objective of OE, at least
when it starts. Nevertheless, three types can
be recognised for whom career development
played a significant part in determining the
(1) Cosmopolitans (16 cases). This term is
taken from Gouldner’s (1957)
characterisation of the ambitious,
``go-anywhere’’ professional. These
travellers tend to utilise a qualification in
a specialist area to find work. They do not
always find employment immediately
using the qualification but eventually do
so. While travel is the primary initial
reason for their OE, their experience often
Table VII
Main country of OE (i.e. more than 50 per
cent of time spent)
C o u n t r y n
U K 3 7
A u s t r a l i a 2
Japan 2
C h i n a 1
T h a i l a n d / T u r k e y 1
N o n e ( c o n s t a n t l y t r a v e l l i n g ) 7
T o t a l 5 0
Table VIII
Partnership status of participants on departure
and return
P a r t n e r s h i p s o n d e p a r t u r e a n d o n r e t u r n n
L e f t a n d r e t u r n e d t o N Z w i t h o u t a p a r t n e r 1 8
L e f t N Z a l o n e , r e t u r n e d w i t h a p a r t n e r 1 8
T r a v e l l e d a n d r e t u r n e d w i t h s a m e p a r t n e r 1 2
T r a v e l l e d w i t h p a r t n e r , r e t u r n e d a l o n e 2
T o t a l 5 0
N o t e :
M a n y o f t h e s e f o r m e d p a r t n e r s h i p s d u r i n g O E
b u t d i s s o l v e d t h e m p r i o r t o r e t u r n
[ 17 6 ]
Kerr Inkson and
Barbara A. Myers
``The big OE’’: self-directed
travel and career development
Career Development
8/4 [2003] 170-181
refines their career aspirations. For some,
the nature of their employment eventually
becomes the dominant focus: travel, while
still a priority, must fit around the job, or
the job must be manipulated to produce
opportunities for travel. Many in this
category have work challenges and
opportunities that would not be possible
in New Zealand.
(2) Returners (eight cases). These travellers
have done more than one OE. Often the
first has been exploratory and very short,
or the traveller has been called home
before he or she was ready. The second
trip tends to be more focussed, and to
embody a career orientation similar to
that of the cosmopolitans.
(3) Boundaryless careerists (six cases). This
time the terminology is taken from Arthur
and Rousseau (1996). These travellers
have a career focus but are less
constrained by occupational or
professional boundaries. They are
developing a portfolio of skills. They are
flexible and adaptable in their work, often
working their way into a new industry or
company. They value their travel but
make a strategic connection between
travel and work.
In contrast were three forms of OE which
suggested little conscious career
(1) Alternative tourists (eight cases). Members
of this group are primarily motivated by
the desire to travel and to have
experiences and meet people outside of the
mainstream tourist experience. In
tourism studies, such people are called
``alternative tourists’’ (Cohen, 1995). Time
may be constrained, and they have little
time to seek employment. They are likely
to become ``returners’’. Those who stay
longer reflect a desire to live and work in
an authentic manner and tend to integrate
their work and non-work life very closely.
(2) Stimulation seekers (seven cases). We
originally labelled this group ``Triple I
networkers’’ (individual, independent,
international). They are similar to
``tourists’’ in that they are driven by the
desire to meet people in new places. They
seek to experience a variety of countries,
locations, people and job types. They
believe in seizing the moment and living
life to the fullest. Experiences are a result
of connections rather than as a result of
forward planning. Stimulation seekers
were all male.
(3) Londoners (five cases). These travellers
like the security of being based in London
and using it as a focus-point from which to
find employment and travel. Usually they
return to the same accommodation and
employment, or to employment gained
from a contact at the last job. Having this
base is particularly important for those
travelling alone. Travel is carefully
planned, and tends to be more important
than work. Londoners were all female.
The above typology emphasises the
heterogeneity of OE experiences. From the
distribution of types, we considered that
about half of the OEs (those of
``cosmopolitans’’ and ``returners’’) mainly
involved career continuation of occupational
work ± typically teaching, accounting, and
office administration ± in which the person
had prior experience. The others involved
career interruption and were more
dependent on casual work which had no
particular relationship to previous
experience and qualifications.
In addition, due to the desire of many
participants to move geographically,
unexpected major transitions were frequent,
as exemplified by one participant who
replied to a job advertisement in a London
newspaper ``on impulse’’, and spent the next
two years leading parties of tourists on
hiking trips through Nepal! It is likely that
the experience of impermanence engendered
by travel, and the relative lack of social
context, encourages such innovative
One element of OE which did appear less
important than expected was the
stereotypical view ± common in Australia
and New Zealand ± that most OE work
experience is in low-level service jobs such as
pumping petrol and waiting at table. While
many participants initially had to take
low-level work, most soon progressed to jobs
which were commensurate with their
qualifications and experience.
Returning from OE
Just as participants generally did not travel
for career reasons, equally they did not
return for career reasons. This is shown in
Table IX.
Family was the major factor leading to
return, and only eight respondents out of 50
provided career-related reasons for their
return. All but two participants had, after
their return, become quickly involved in
work and/or education. However, our data
were confounded by the fact that although all
participants were interviewed six months or
more after return, in some cases they had
returned as much as five years previously,
enabling substantial tracking of their careers
subsequent to OE, whereas in others they
[ 177 ]
Kerr Inkson and
Barbara A. Myers
``The big OE’’: self-directed
travel and career development
Career Development
8/4 [2003] 170-181
had barely had time to get a job. We therefore
confine our analysis to the first few months
after return, where we have equivalent data
for all participants (Table X).
Given the average of four years spent away
from home, the fact that about half the
participants did not seem to have had career
advancement after return may seem
disappointing. However in many cases initial
jobs were taken as a ``stop-gap’’ measure:
career effects tend to be cumulative rather
than immediate, and returning travellers
may have to be patient for the right
opportunity; second, there were also
examples of participants who picked up
apparently casual work overseas which then
developed into a major career interests to be
brought back to New Zealand. For example:
Siobhan’s first six months in London were
spent as assistant manager of an antique
shop. Then she worked in Body Shop for ten
months, also training in professional makeup
in college and did some demonstratio n work
in the exhibitions industry. Then through an
exhibition company she got a job on the
Chelsea Flower Show exhibition, starting as a
health and security officer, then supervising
and training a team of stewards. The job gave
her exposure to office administration,
company operations and logistics. ``It was a
major learning curve in a dynamic industry’’
(exhibitions). She moved into the recruitment
of overseas staff , where some overseas travel
was involved.
After three and a half years she felt an
``emotional pull’’ home, and returned to
Auckland. Her boss in London had asked her
to set up a New Zealand branch of the
business. ``Initially I said no, but then I
thought that I had passed over opportunities
in the past and that I should grab it.’’ Eight
months after her return, the business was
In similar manner, Suutari and Brewster
(2000) reported that 25 per cent of the Finnish
engineers they studied who had left their
home country in search of jobs had been
promised work in Finland by those same
international companies on their return.
Competencies acquired during OE
Results concerning the effects of OE on
careers should be considered in the context
that virtually all participants viewed OE as a
very positive experience. This result is based
on retrospective evaluation and mirrors the
``prospective’’ results of Suutari and
Brewster (2000), who reported that
respondents currently on self-directed
foreign experiences (SFEs) were generally
optimistic about the effects of travel on their
career prospects.
Participants’ answers to questions about
their general welfare as a result of OE had
clear relevance to their careers. In answer to
the question, ``In what ways has your life
changed since your overseas experience?’’
most respondents indicated that they had
experienced major changes, universally in a
positive direction. For example:
Table IX
Reasons given for return to New Zealand from
R e a s o n n
F a m i l y / p a r t n e r t i e s 1 7
F a m i l y i l l n e s s o r a g e i n g 9
E x p i r y o f v i s a 7
C a r e e r d e v e l o p m e n t 6
` ` B e e n a w a y t o o l o n g 5
` ` N e e d e d a b r e a k ’ 5
H o m e s i c k 3
E s c a p e n e g a t i v e s i t u a t i o n 3
C h i l d r e n ’ s e d u c a t i o n 3
F r i e n d s h i p t i e s 3
N Z l i f e s t y l e 2
B r e a k a n u n w a n t e d r e l a t i o n s h i p 2
S t a r t a f a m i l y 2
N e e d e d i n f a m i l y b u s i n e s s 1
J o b o f f e r 1
T r a u m a t i c e v e n t 1
F r i e n d ’ s w e d d i n g i n N Z 1
P l a n n e d i n a d v a n c e 1
Table X
Employment immediately after return from OE
O u t c o m e n
R e t u r n e d t o s a m e o r s i m i l a r j o b o r o r g a n i z a t i o n w i t h o u t a p p a r e n t c a r e e r a d v a n c e m e n t 1 3
R e t u r n e d t o s a m e o r s i m i l a r j o b o r o r g a n i z a t i o n w i t h a p p a r e n t a d v a n c e m e n t 1 1
T o o k u p n e w o p p o r t u n i t y d i r e c t l y r e l a t e d t o O E 7
R e t u r n e d t o s i m i l a r l e v e l o f w o r k b u t w i t h n e w s e n s e o f d i r e c t i o n , a n d l o o k e d f o r n e w o p p o r t u n i t i e s
( e . g . e n r o l le d f o r r e l a t e d e d u c a t i o n a l c o u r s e )
C o n t i n u e d c a r e e r ` ` s e a r c h i n g ’ 2
S t a r t e d f a m i l y o v e r s e a s a n d d i d n o t r e t u r n t o w o r k i m m e d i a t e l y 1
O t h e r 3
T o t a l 4 2
N o t e :
T h o s e w h o w e r e s t u d e n t s p r i o r t o d e p a r t u r e n o t i n c l u d e d i n a n a l y s i s n= 4 2
[ 17 8 ]
Kerr Inkson and
Barbara A. Myers
``The big OE’’: self-directed
travel and career development
Career Development
8/4 [2003] 170-181
I’m a different person. Before I left I was shy,
insecure, and lacking in confidence. N ow I
believe in myself and have strong self-
confidence and a good sense of what is right
and wrong for me.
Greater appreciation of New Zealand life and
opportunities ... and of the importance of
education. I’m ab le to think globally on
personal and work issues ... (I) have become
very independent.
I was able to work at a much higher level than
was possible in N ew Zealand . . . I have
developed close ties with other people ... My
mind has been broadened far b eyond the way
it was when I left.
OE has made me self-reliant. I have grown up
and made the transition from student to
Note the frequent ``blending-in’’ of
career-issue responses with more general
Additional data were obtained from
answers to two ``probe’’ questions: ``What new
skills and abilities did you develop when you
were away?’’ and ``What existing skills and
abilities did you enhance when you were
away?’’ Results are shown in Table XI.
The most striking thing about this list is
participants’ focus on self-confidence and
broader life skills. While technical and career
skills were often mentioned, this tended to be
as an afterthought ± it was broader changes
which had been noticed. These skills are
generic but also career-related.
A methodological problem is that although
participants had made substantial changes of
direction or advancement during OE, which
may be attributable to OE, it is impossible to
tell whether such changes have been caused
by OE or whether equivalent changes might
have taken place in any case in the absence of
OE. Nevertheless, the results point to
considerable career development attributed
by participants to OE.
Participants made very little negative
comment on OE, even when invited to do so.
At times in some respondents’ travel they
had experienced problems such as
unemployment, lack of money, poor working
relationships, and depression. Some had
become homesick, and a few had paid
``flying’ visits home during their OE.
Observation of the poverty in Third World
countries had shocked some, but they
reported the long-term effects of such
occurrences in positive rather than negative
terms. Even those who said they had been
robbed or mugged tended to interpret this as
a ``learning experience’’!
The data indicate that considering OE as a
work-career phenomenon is a limited view.
Although for some travellers career issues
become more salient as the OE proceeds, the
major motivations of OE actions appear in
most cases to be cultural and social. Career
development, while apparently substantial,
is largely serendipitous. Family and social
relationships and personal partnerships
apparently play a large part in moderating
career-directed OE action.
The data suggest that the stereotype of OE
as a career development process as outlined
by Inkson et al. (1997) is correct in some
respects, but perhaps overdrawn in others.
The theme of exploration ± at the heart of
early career behaviour in most
developmental formulations of career ± is
strong. However, it is clear that significant
career ``establishment’’ can take place in OE,
particularly among those we have labelled
``cosmopolitans’’ and ``returners’’. Again, the
social support phenomenon ± a contrast with
high measured levels, in New Zealand, of
individualism (Hofstede, 1980) ± may have
been underestimated: in its genesis and in its
enactment OE appears to be a social
The data also indicate that OE may not
always be quite as adventurous and
spontaneous as earlier speculations
suggested (Inkson et al., 1997). Many OE
travellers from Australia and New Zealand
spend the majority of their overseas time in
Great Britain, which has a cultural profile
Table XI
Skills and abilities developed and enhanced during OE
S k i l l s
N u m b e r o f p a r t i c i p a n t s
m e n t i o n i n g
I n t e r p e r s o n a l / r e l a t i o n s h i p s / c o m m u n i c a t i o n s k i l l s 3 2
S e l f - c o n f i d e n c e , s e l f -e s t e e m 2 8
C r o s s - c u l t u r a l s k i l l s / g l o b a l p e r s p e c t i v e 2 6
Independe nce/ autonom y 1 8
T e c h n i c a l s k i l l s ( o t h e r t h a n I T a n d t e a c h i n g ) 1 5
I T s k i l l s 1 2
N e w v a l u e s , a t t i t u d e s , p e r s o n a l i t y c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s 1 2
O p e n - m i n d e d n e s s / t o l e r a n c e / b r e a d t h o f p e r s p e c t i v e 1 1
F o c u s / d i r e c t i o n 1 1
`` S e l f - d e v e l o p m e n t ( g e n e r a l ) 1 0
T e a c h i n g / t r a i n i n g s k i l l s 9
A d a p t a b i l i t y / f l e x i b i l i t y / r e s i l i e n c e 8
S o c i a b i l i t y / i n t e r e s t i n p e o p l e 5
C o n f l i c t m a n a g e m e n t / c r i s i s m a n a g e m e n t 5
L a n g u a g e d e v e l o p m e n t 5
A p p r e c i a t i o n o f N e w Z e a l a n d 4
C a r e e r d e v e l o p m e n t 3
T i m e m a n a g e m e n t s k i l l s 3
O t h e r 4 0
[ 179 ]
Kerr Inkson and
Barbara A. Myers
``The big OE’’: self-directed
travel and career development
Career Development
8/4 [2003] 170-181
similar to that of their home countries
(Hofstede, 1980), and where such matters as
language, economic development, and
customs are familiar from home. In addition,
many travellers (understandably) use their
professional credentials and experience to
provide themselves with secure, if familiar,
employment experiences. However, a
number, particularly ``stimulation seekers’’,
are remarkably bold and frenetic in their
pursuit of cross-cultural experiences. Overall
these factors mitigate our view of OE as a
journey through strange territory, yet the
hypothesis that the greater the cultural
extension and uncertainty of OE, the greater
the personal development of the individual is
potentially testable from the type of data we
have gathered.
Overall, the contention that OE provides
major opportunities for learning that is
transferable across a range of work and
non-work situations appears to be reasonably
well borne out. Career development appears
to be ``accidental’’ for some participants, but
is apparently significant for most.
We emphasize again that although
Australian and New Zealand OE is a special
and frequent phenomenon, with its own
distinctive name and ideology, it is not a
purely local phenomenon. Self-initiated
self-directed travel is an international
phenomenon of youth. Young people the
world over are packing their bags and ± in
the words of one of our participants ± ``getting
the hell out of Dodge City’’. In many other
cases, professionally qualified people are
choosing to seek employment outside their
own national boundary (Suutari and
Brewster, 2000). The corporate expatriates
studied by Vance (2002), with the benefit of
hindsight, recommend ``pre-international
career path strategies’’ such as overseas
study, international tourism, international
internship, moving to an overseas country
and seeking employment, and teaching
English abroad.
Career practitioners and prospective
employers need to understand better how
such travellers are changed and developed by
the experience. For example, career
counsellors might consider that OE may be a
potentially useful short-term career option
for young people who are indecisive about
their career choices, need ``time out’’, or wish
to build up their self-confidence. Human
resource managers should be aware of the
potential value of self-directed overseas
experience in prospective employees, both
local people who have spent time overseas,
and temporary visitors from other countries.
Australian and New Zealand managers face
the very specific problem of maintaining the
organisational commitment of talented
former employees who have left the
organisation to do OE, are now many
thousands of miles away, and will most likely
return in due course as even more desirable
employees than when they left.
Many questions remain unanswered. For
example, although the career development of
participants in OE appears significant, we
are unable to judge how it is different from,
or whether it is greater than, the
development of equivalent individuals who
``stay home’’. Similarly, we may suspect that
specific forms of OE ± for example
``boundaryless careerist’’ versus ``Londoner’
in our typology ± provide greater career
development than others. However, given the
small numbers in this study we were unable
to test such propositions. Further studies are
needed, which first, extend the study of
travellers to other countries, and second,
involve improved designs with larger
samples, control groups of non-travellers,
and/or longditudinal follow-up. Studies of
the career development effects of non-
working tourism are also needed. The field of
study is exciting. We invite others to join us.
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travel and career development
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[ 181 ]
Kerr Inkson and
Barbara A. Myers
``The big OE’’: self-directed
travel and career development
Career Development
8/4 [2003] 170-181
... Women in early stages of their careers are motivated by challenge and ambition because they perceive their SIE experience as an opportunity "brimming with unlimited possibilities" (Sullivan & Mainiero, 2007). Inkson and Myers (2003) conducted an exploratory qualitative study of the young self-initiated expatriates from New Zealand and found that the motivations are a search for a different way of life, excitement and partner influences, rather than work or career-related factors. The findings also showed that while the SIE experience brings benefits, the process is unpredictable and complex; therefore, it requires greater self-direction, internationalisation and flexibility. ...
Az expatrióta irodalmon belül a nem vállalati kiküldötteknek (önerejéből külföldön elhelyezkedő; self-initated expatriates; SIE) bejáratott irodalma van a menedzsmentben, azonban a pályakezdő expatrióták sajátosságaival eddig még senki sem foglalkozott. Jelen összefoglaló cikk célja, hogy azonosítsa és elemezze azokat a publikációkat, amelyek kifejezetten erre a csoportra fókuszálnak, azaz, akik úgy döntenek, hogy külföldön kezdik meg a pályafutásukat, beleértve a munkatapasztalat nélküli vagy csekély szakmai tapasztalattal rendelkezőket. Külön hangsúlyt helyezünk a karriermotivációjuk, viselkedésük, és globális karrierhez való hozzájárulásuk megértésére. A cikk két tekintetben járul hozzá a szakirodalomhoz, egyrészt összefoglalja a témában az elmúlt évtizedekben készített kutatások lényeges következtetéseit, másrészt információval szolgál a pályakezdő önerejéből külföldön elhelyezkedő munkavállalók menedzseléséről. Ezen felül jövőbeli kutatási irányokat is kínál, rámutatva az észlelt hiányosságokra és elősegítve a levont következtetések gyakorlati alkalmazását.
... To do this, the researcher interviewed all the respondents and asked whether they knew any individual who might benefit the study (Green et al., 2010). Also, research in this area (Inkson and Myers, 2003;Myers and Pringle, 2005) has demonstrated that this sampling method is efficient. ...
Full-text available
Globalization and the international labor movement made the ability to work anywhere globally. These individuals are usually organizational expatriates (OEs) deployed to overseas assignments by their employers or self-initiated expatriates (SIEs) who choose to relocate and work in a foreign country. Therefore, this study examines and contrasts the variations in cross-cultural adjustment (CCA) between Chinese SIEs and OEs in Pakistan. Furthermore, it aims to understand how cross-cultural training (CCT) influences the adaptation of Chinese SIEs and OEs. Data were obtained from 35 Chinese expatriates with 17 SIEs and 18 OEs employing a qualitative technique and were analyzed via thematic analysis in MAXQDA 20. According to the study, both SIEs and OEs face distinct hurdles to their CCA in Pakistan, including cultural taboos, language obstacles, and work variations. While numerous aspects that will favorably affect their CCA, including the accessibility of necessities, the friendliness of the Pakistani people, and the brethren relations between Pakistan and China, assist them in making a smooth transition to life in Pakistan. Furthermore, the results indicate that the mediating role of pre-departure CCT and the host country mentors' support and facilitations acquired through online resources contribute to both Chinese SIEs and OEs' CCA in Pakistan. CITATION Noman M, Sial MS, Samad S, Li RYM and Miao S (2023) Adjustment of self-initiated and organizational expatriates: The moderating role of cross-cultural training.
... They move abroad without support from home organizations (Cerdin & Selmer, 2014;Suutari & Brewster, 2000) and lack social capital-knowing those from previous work networks (Jokinen et al., 2008;Dickmann et al., 2018), which is likely to create their identity strain (González et al., 2021). Furthermore, they encounter work barriers because of policies, certification procedures, cultural norms and language difficulties in the host country (Al Carr et al., 2005;Inkson & Myers, 2003), which leads them to encounter downwards career mobility (Cerdin & Selmer, 2014;Meuer et al., 2019) and challenges their work identity. ...
Full-text available
Self-initiative expatriates (SIEs) are increasingly important to the global talent pool. However, they are vulnerable to identity strain due to their self-initiative status and tendency to maintain their previous identity during temporary stays in the host country. Drawing on conservation of resources theory, we establish a resource-based model to examine the indirect effects of SIEs’ identity strain on expatriate outcomes (performance, work withdrawal, repatriation intention) through on-the-job and off-the-job embeddedness, with off-the-job relationship building as the boundary condition. With a two-wave research design, we collected data from 103 Chinese visiting scholars at 48 American universities in 2017. The results show that identity strain has indirect effects on all three expatriate outcomes through on-the-job embeddedness and an indirect effect on repatriation intention through off-the-job embeddedness. Off-the-job relationship building buffers the indirect effects of identity strain on expatriate outcomes via on-the-job embeddedness rather than off-the-job embeddedness.
... Contextual and bodily experiences are thus prerequisites for personal growth, which highlights the value of physically being abroad.A key aspect of personal growth is developing self-confidence. Both ISM and travel and tourism research have shown that experiences abroad increase self-confidence in students(Bachner and Zeutschel 2009;Gmelch 1997;Trower and Lehmann 2017), tourists(Alexander, Bakir, and Wickens 2010), and young people taking a gap year(Inkson and Myers 2003;O'Shea 2014). In an educational context, self-confidence is generally understood as a capacity that is valued and part of a 'scholarly habitus'(Watkins and Noble 2013). ...
Full-text available
One in five young people across the European Union has a migration background, meaning that either they or their parents were born abroad. Many of these young people engage in visits to the country of origin on a regular basis and/or have been mobile before they migrated to Europe. Even though there is much research on the impact of migration on young people, their actual mobility has hardly been investigated. This dissertation investigates how the physical mobility to and within Ghana shapes the lives of Ghanaian-background youth living in Belgium. It does so by examining their ‘mobility trajectories’, that is, not only the migration move but all movements young people undertake over time and across geographically distinct localities, the concomitant family constellations these moves entail, and what happens during mobility. Ethnographic research in Belgium and Ghana with 25 young people of Ghanaian-background reveals how youth use their own mobility and digital media to create and maintain effective engagements, meaning the connections with people and places in the country of origin. These connections in turn shape experiences with family reunification and separation, personal growth and future pathways, and their relationship with the country of origin.
... Notwithstanding that service as UN volunteer may enhance career-related prospects (e.g., facilitate obtaining preferred or long-term employment) because international experience -whether as volunteer or not -contributes to skill and confidence development (e.g., Fee & Gray, 2011;Inkson, Arthur, Pringle & Barry, 1997;Inkson & Myers, 2003) that likely enhance employability back home, the UN volunteers programme is not linked to a career nor the promise of a career with the UN ("being a UN Volunteer is not a career", United Nations, 2020). Hence, most of the typical extrinsic career rewards (e.g., promotion, status, financial attainment, or even some kind of job security, Dries, 2020) do not seem to apply in this case. ...
Abstract This study focused on United Nations (UN) civilian volunteers serving in “hot spots”, and tested a model to predict their intentions to apply for a new UN assignment. These individuals have characteristics of both assigned expatriates and self-initiated expatriates. In-Role Behaviours (IRB) and Organizational Citizenship Behaviours towards the Local Population (OCB-Locals) were related to sense of personal accomplishment, that in turn was related to intentions to apply for another UN assignment. Sense of personal accomplishment played a mediating role. Both the personality trait of agreeableness and the attitudinal factor of commitment towards the local population were predictive of IRB, but only agreeableness was predictive of OCB-Locals. Moderation effects were identified, but the direction of most of them was unexpected. For example, it was low openness to experience that strengthened the link between sense of personal accomplishment and intentions to re-apply. The study’s implications for expatriation research and for practice are discussed.
Purpose Despite burgeoning self-initiated expatriation (SIE) research, little attention has been given to the personal development that occurs as a result of the SIE. The authors address this gap, exploring how the SIE undertaken by older women contributes to their longer-term life-path goals. As personal development has barely featured in the SIE literature, the authors must draw from a range of other global mobility experiences as a base for identifying the personal development of the older women. Design/methodology/approach The paper employs narrative inquiry methodology, drawing on in-depth life story interviews with 21 women aged 50 or more, both professional and non-professional, who had taken a SIE. A five-step narrative process using a story-telling approach was the method of analysis. Findings The findings indicate that the existing focus on SIE and the work context in the literature needs to become more holistic to incorporate personal change experienced through the SIE. For these older women, the construct of “career” was increasingly irrelevant. Rather, participants were enacting a “coreer” – a life path of individual interest and passion that reflected their authentic selves. The SIE presented an opportunity to re-focus these women's lives and to place themselves and their values at the core of their existence. Originality/value The contributions highlight the need for a broader focus of career – one that moves outside the work sphere and encompasses life transitions and the enactment of more authentic “ways of being”. The authors identify a range of personal development factors which lead to this change, proposing the term “coreer” as one that might shift the focus and become the basis for career research in the future. Further, through the inclusion of a group of older women who were not exclusively professionals, the authors respond to calls to expand the focus of SIE studies.
This chapter focuses on the review of relevant literature. It contains an expanded discussion on the literature with a complete and comprehensive review of the various research studies that have been carried out in the context of the current study. The purpose of this chapter is to build a theoretical framework for the research by reviewing existing literature. It provides a thorough review of literature related to the Repatriation Adjustment and management, as an intertwined concept relying heavily on associated parameters and domains of Anticipatory Adjustment, Effective Repatriation and Acculturation with focus on Reverse Culture Shock. The literature reviewed, helps in problem definition and formulation of research hypothesis, by providing detailed insight into the research gap.KeywordsRepatriationManagementSocio-cultural and repatriation management
Social entrepreneurship extends beyond home country borders as individuals seek to find meaning and share passion with the world. The globalization of corporations and individuals has resulted in a surge in expatriate social entrepreneurs. These individuals have broken down barriers to pursue a passion and increase social awareness around the globe. This chapter describes an international career model of five different forms of expatriate social entrepreneurs or “social expat-preneurs” within the broader international career construct of self-initiated expatriates—(1) pre-departure, (2) transitioned, (3) retired senior, (4) avocation-driven, and (5) social expat-intrapreneur—with vivid examples of each form. This chapter also outlines benefits to host countries and examines the importance of further research.
In this article, we explore the employment relationships of self-initiated expatriates (SIE). Drawing on the concept of psychological contract, we, first, derive a typology of SIEs’ employment relationships, differentiated by their perceptions concerning both the employee’s and the employer’s mutual obligations and fulfillments. Second, we explore what characteristics SIEs with different types of employment relationships possess. Finally, we investigate what implications the identified employment relationships have for the involved SIEs. Based on our analysis, we identify four distinct SIE profiles: professional cosmopolitans, early stage careerists, lost-in-transition escapees, and dependent travelers. The analysis adds to the hitherto scarce literature on the nature and the implications of employment relationships among SIEs and, in this way, increases both our understanding of SIEs as a valuable talent pool and the ways to manage it.
There is strong evidence that work experience abroad can be very valuable for developing global competencies for career success in today's global economy-whether one's career is at home or abroad. However, career research has been notably silent in providing career models for gaining international experience for developing these competencies. In addition, the international management literature has taken a mostly corporate perspective, with little attention about what individuals can self-initiate to advance their international career interests. This study explores various career path strategies, based on the actual experience of 48 current American expatriates in five major cities in East Asia, for gaining international business experience, which appears to be vital to the development of global competence. The result of this exploratory research is the development of a comprehensive, validated taxonomy or model of "pre-international" career path strategies and activities for gaining international business experience. It is hoped that this work will begin to advance the development of a much neglected line of career research related to self-selected or self-initiated expatriation. This research also can potentially provide useful guidance to individuals as they plan for developing global competence through obtaining foreign work experience.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This study,has only,been,made,possible by,the time,given,and,interest shown,by,the many,executives,in the international departments,of the companies,consulted. Their help and support,is greatly appreciated. The study was financed,by Cranfield School of Management.
In the preceding issue the author posited a distinction between manifest and latent social roles as a basis for analyzing two types of latent organizational roles or identities. Three variables for differentiating latent roles were suggested: loyalty to the organization; commitment to professional skills and values; and reference group orientations. Cosmopolitans and locals were distinguished in terms of these three variables. Certain differences were found between cosmopolitans and locals in terms of influence, participation, acceptance of organizational rules, and informal relations. In the following essay, factor analysis is used to refine the above concepts. Types of locals and types of cosmopolitans are differentiated, and it is suggested that these two identities may reflect the tension between the organization's simultaneous need for both loyalty and expertise.