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The darker side of an international academic career

Julia Richardson (York University, Toronto, Canada)
Jelena Zikic (York University, Toronto, Canada)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 3 April 2007




This paper aims to examine the “darker side” of what it means to engage in an international academic career. Extending beyond well‐documented themes relating to the difficulties of cross‐cultural adjustment and unfulfilled expectations/opportunities for promotion, this paper seeks to introduce “transience and risk” as two important dimensions of this very specific career choice. The paper draws especially on the contemporary “new” careers literature, including conceptions of career exploration as a framework to understand the research findings.


The paper employs a qualitative methodology, drawing on semi‐structured interviews conducted in situ with 30 expatriate academics in four different countries.


Transience and risk were identified as two important dimensions of the “darker side” of pursuing an international academic career. However, these two dimensions also had further positive aspects, thus signalling the complex and often contradictory nature of this specific career form.

Research limitations/implications

Introduces a more cautionary note to the contemporary literature on international careers and career exploration more generally.

Practical implications

Careers that evolve across international boundaries require support that extends beyond cross‐cultural training.


The paper contends that in as much as an international academic career offers a broad range of opportunities for fulfilment it also presents significant challenges that should be acknowledged.



Richardson, J. and Zikic, J. (2007), "The darker side of an international academic career", Career Development International, Vol. 12 No. 2, pp. 164-186.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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