The purpose of this paper is to address the research question of “How does a global career involving multiple international relocations influence the career capital of an individual manager?”, and to examine the typical career‐capital‐related characteristics, drivers and outcomes associated with global careers. The importance of understanding the careers of global leaders, whose work paths typically include various international positions and assignments, has increased due to the globalization of business. A particularly relevant approach for studying such careers is through a framework of career capital, which adopts an individualistic perspective to explain how actors consciously acquire portable capabilities, construct networks and identify their own motivations, applying them in their specific work contexts.
The study adopts a qualitative design based on interviews with 20 managers on a global career path involving multiple international assignments.
The results indicate that international work experience has an extensive developmental effect on the career capital of managers. First, the interviewees reported that their global careers had strongly increased their knowing‐why career capital, referring to meaning and self‐awareness. With regard to knowing‐how career capital, their multiple international experiences had considerably enhanced several work‐related competencies. The key drivers behind this development included the broad range of responsibilities, the nature of the international environment, a high level of autonomy, and cross‐cultural differences. Finally, in terms of knowing‐whom capital, the results of the study indicate that the contact network managers acquire during their international assignments was of very high importance for their future careers. As a further outcome of their global careers, the managers were found to have a very strong career identity.
This paper provides a novel perspective on a topic that is of increasingly critical importance in today's global business.
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