Is International Assignment Great for Your Professional Career?

March 2, 20204:21 pm2299 views
Is International Assignment Great for Your Professional Career?
Is International Assignment Great for Your Professional Career?

In our globalised economy, working abroad is no longer a novelty for the fortunate few, it has become the new mainstream. 

VN Express reported that more and more professionals seek foreign assignments with the number set to double by 2020. Working abroad creates limitless opportunities to learn and gain international exposure. International career also helps individuals develop cultural intelligence, something that is essential in today’s world of work. However, does international assignment truly benefit your professional career? 

The short answer is YES. International assignment benefits you. 

Being an expatriate offers plenty of opportunities to boost your career, help you acquire new skills and experiences, as well as establish an international network which might pay well in the future. 

Long-term impacts of international work experience on career success are generally positive and mainly unrelated to whether the work experience was acquired as an assigned or self-initiated expatriate. Vesa Suutari et al. study revealed that the nature of careers has changed and companies might now value international work experience more than they did previously. Besides, companies today are fascinated with recruiting employees with international experience. 

See also: How to Manage Employees Travelling on International Work Assignments?

Surveying 203 individuals with which 56 percent are assigned expatriates (AEs) and the remaining are self-initiated expatriates (SIEs), Suutari found that international work experience is good for the career of both AEs and SIEs. Nearly all respondents cited that international assignments make them highly marketable and resulted in work satisfaction several years after their assignments. The result concerning the objective career success indicates that they have also had successful careers in the eyes of others. 

There is only one significant difference that AEs and SIEs achieved from their international assignments, wrote Suutari. The difference is that AEs benefit from better job entitlement and offer after their assignments have ended, while only half of the SIEs can secure their job at the end of the assignments. This indicates that assigned expatriates seemed to benefit more from their social capital within their employer organisation.

But it might hinder you from going up the ladder.

Expatriation in managerial and professional spheres is often welcomed by employees, however, foreign assignments might not be good for you who aim to a higher level like executives of C-suites, as revealed by Monika Hamori and Burak Koyuncu survey

Investigating 1001 CEOs from 23 countries by studying different variables related to international assignments, such as length and number of assignments, and their number influence on career progress, Hamori found that executives with international assignment experience take longer to reach the top. 

In other words, the more assignments one has completed and the more time one has spent outside the home organisation, the slower is career progression. Hamori explained that it might be that international experience removes a professional from respondents’ headquarters social networks. This is consistent with other research that suggests employees who are more central in a firm’s social network, who occupy more central positions in an organisation and who have greater access to resources and information will advance faster. 

Similarly, Hamori stated that expatriate experiences report career prospects as one of the main concerns for accepting an assignment, as quite often expatriates feel forgotten, left out of the loop at their home organisation, and are unaware of any career plan upon repatriation. 

In conclusion to Hamori and Koyuncu study, international assignments could slow down one’s path to the top more than assignments at the same company. This suggests expatriates who want to move to a higher ladder to stay active within professional associations, so when they come back to the home country, they can more easily change employers upon return or ask for higher promotion.  


Concluding from both study, here are points to consider when you want to take that international job desks. 

  • Foreign assignments are perceived to be more successful when an individual takes it instead of an employee who works on a firm. 
  • International assignments are beneficial to improve your experiences and open up your world view. 
  • You are a good hire when you have experiences of working overseas.  
  • International assignments might hold you from moving to the upper roles as you need to spend less time connecting with the headquarter team. 
  • Expatriates who leave organisations after an international experience are often seen as a failure by the internal team, but from the perspective as an individual, leaving the current employer can lead to a better career. 

Read also: 9 in 10 Malaysian Willing to be Relocated Internationally for Better Career Opportunities and Work-life Balance

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