Michael perceives that international work experience will provide him opportunities for new knowledge and skill development which may ultimately help him advance his career. In fact, Michael’s perception conforms to the Human Capital theory that predicts that expatriate assignments are valuable learning tools and often result in substantial learning. However, the assumption that such learning will lead to advancement in career is a matter of debate and warrants some verification.
Link to Outcome
Expatriate assignments have shown to provide a depth of experiences to develop career competences such as leadership abilities (Gregersen, Morrison and Black 1998; Mendenhall 2001), general knowledge of international business (Tung 1998; Carpenter, Sanders and Gregersen 2001), and specific international technical skills. However, many researches show that these learning don’t necessary result into higher salary and promotion upon repatriation. In fact, it has been observed that repatriates are paid less and are promoted less often than comparable domestic employees without expatriate experience (Benson, G., and Pattie, M. 2008). Moreover, the expatriation appears to adversely affect the long term career prospect. Literature on long term career consequences of expatriate experience have shown that executives with international assignment experience take longer to reach the top corporate positions (Hamori and Koyuncu, 2011). In fact, the more international assignments they have and the longer time they spend outside their home organizations the slower they reach the CEO position.
Perceived career competencies acquired during expatriation can be illustrated through a frame work of “knowing how, knowing whom, and knowing why”. The “knowing how” career competencies include personal benefits such as a global mind-set, enhanced intercultural and interpersonal skills, foreign language fluency, and increased self-confidence (Dickmann & Harris, 2005; Riusala & Suutari, 2000; Stahl et al., 2002). International experiences influence the “ knowing how” competencies by providing a broad spectrum of responsibilities, the challenging nature of the international environment, a high level of autonomy, and cross-cultural differences.( Suutari and Mäkelä (2007). The “Knowing whom” career competencies stem from the development of a worldwide network of associates, including intra- and inter firm professional and social relationships (Dickmann & Harris, 2005; Stahl et al., 2002). Expatriates tend to have a large number of ties, though week as a result of time and geographical distances, within the company that give them better and quicker access to information (Mäkelä & Suutari, 2009). The “Knowing why” competencies acquired by expatriates include a crystallized view of values and identity, an understanding of personal strengths and weaknesses, clearer career interests and aims, and enhanced self-awareness (Dickmann & Harris, 2005; Suutari & Mäkelä, 2007).
By assuming the role in China, Michael will have the chance to be a "mini-CEO." He'll be in charge of sales, marketing, manufacturing, new product development, government relations. All these aspects of a general management role will undoubtedly enhance his “knowing how, knowing whom, and knowing why” competencies. Like Michael, most expatriates believe that such learning will make them more valuable to the organizations and pave the path to future promotions upon repatriation (Stahl et al., 2002), but researches indicate that, in fact, only very few employees are promoted when they come home (Black et al., 1992). A paucity of evidence of the actual positive benefits of an expatriate assignment in terms of employees' career prospects (Welch 2003: 155) indicates that Michael’s expectations regarding his career progression upon his return to his home organization may remain unfulfilled. Accumulated findings through researches have generally shown that working