Global careerists’ identity construction A narrative study of repeat expatriates and international itinerants

Detta är en avhandling från Umeå : Handelshögskolan vid Umeå universitet, Umeå School of Business

Sammanfattning: Research on international work experiences has to a great extent focused on an international assignment as a single event, and on how to optimize it from the organization’s perspective. This thesis addresses individuals’ subjective experiences of international work experiences and focuses on individuals with global careers, who see working abroad as a major element of their careers, involving several international assignments or international work experiences. With the recognition that individuals will work abroad on their own initiative a differentiation is made between repeat expatriates; expatriates with at least two international assignments for the same company, and international itinerants; working abroad for at least two different companies.The main purpose of this thesis is to contribute to the understanding of global careers through applying an identity construction perspective on narratives of global careerists’ working lives.To address this purpose the global careerists’ identity construction processes are explored, and their career orientation, their identification with the organization and career, and country and culture are considered more directly. An important sub-purpose of this thesis is to make a comparison of repeat expatriates and international itinerants, in terms of their identity construction and identifications.An individual’s identity, or sense of self, is seen as constructed in social interaction, encompassing dualities such as both differentiation from and identification with others. This thesis addresses social identities as part of an individual’s identity construction in the transition in social, cultural and organizational context that an international work experience involves.The approach taken is that the increased understanding aimed for can be reached through narratives. Interviews were made with twenty Swedish global careerists. Each interview was constructed as a narrative and structured according to elements of narratives to construct aggregate narratives of repeat expatriates and international itinerants. The narratives were analyzed and comparison of repeat expatriates and international itinerants was made.The findings in this thesis show that all the global careerists in this study have experienced shifts in their identities and identity reconstruction in the course of their careers. External circumstances such as the type of location, the time abroad, and if the work abroad is perceived as temporary, is important to the global careerists’ identity construction.The findings illustrate that there are differences in repeat expatriates’ and international itinerants’ career orientations, in their identifications with the organizations they work for, with their careers and with what they do. The two types of global careerists differ in how they identify with their home country and culture and the countries and cultures they live in. The repeat expatriates and international itinerants also show different patterns in their identity construction.