No Image Available


Read more from TrainingZone

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Expat Heroes Reap Development Rewards


Professionals who move abroad independently and are willing take a career risk may gain more for their personal development in the long run than those sent on international assignments by their companies, according to a new report.

The research by Cranfield School of Management surveyed over 500 readers of Expatica, a website for expariats.

Those who went on their own steam were reported achieving much greater clarity of work goals – despite the fact they were much more likely to take a less challenging job in their new country than that back home. Both groups agreed working abroad was likely to enhance their future career prospects.

The age-old quest for adventure was a significantly influential driver and – combined with the more contemporary desire for work/life balance – formed a powerful pull for those who had moved abroad under their own steam. In contrast, “classic expats”, which made up a third of those surveyed, going on international assignments backed by their employers were more likely to be motivated by financial incentives and career advancement.

Commenting on the findings, Dr Noeleen Doherty of Cranfield School of Management, said: “The desire for adventure and freedom from fixed purpose of those who self-initiate a foreign work experience significantly differentiates them from the corporate employee and may underpin a more holistic developmental outcome that may pay dividends for their career later on.”

She added: “Individuals who embark on the heroic journey of expatriation take a risk, but the rewards are a positive life and career enhancing experience certainly in the short term, and more clarity regarding long range plans. Employers looking to stimulate interest in international working should be mindful that the willingness to expatriate is a key element in the hero or heroine’s psyche that needs to be nurtured.”

The survey sample comprised 522 individuals, almost evenly split on gender lines and educated to a high level, with 48% indicating they have obtained a postgraduate or equivalent qualification.

Key Points in the research:

  • Respondents had been abroad for an average of six years, but those who were self-initiated were significantly more likely to have a longer stay.

  • Respondents who were company backed were significantly more likely to go to a role that was more responsible and challenging, while the self-initiated were more likely to go to what they perceived to be a less challenging role.

  • Company-backed expatriates were motivated by career and professional factors, while the self-initiated were driven by non-work factors such as work-life balance, a sense of adventure and the opportunity to develop language skills.

  • The self-initiated were more likely to have an existing network of personal contacts before going abroad compared to their corporate counterparts, who were more likely to have a network of work contacts.

  • Newsletter

    Get the latest from TrainingZone.

    Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


    Thank you!