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Expatriates' developmental networks: network diversity, base, and support functions

Yan Shen (Human Resources Policy Institute, School of Management, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)
Kathy E. Kram (Department of Organizational Behavior, School of Management, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 25 October 2011




The purpose of this paper is to examine expatriates' developmental networks in terms of their structure and content.


The study employed in‐depth interviews with 64 expatriate professionals and managers in Singapore and China.


The study highlights the unique characteristics of expatriates' developmental networks in cross‐cultural contexts including the nature of cross‐border and culturally diversified network structures, the dominance of psychosocial support, and the importance of cross‐cultural transition support.

Research limitations/implications

Expatriates' self reports and retrospective sense‐making may suffer from hindsight bias and/or attribution bias. A longitudinal study that follows expatriates over time is necessary to examine relationship dynamics through different relocation stages.

Practical implications

The findings suggest the necessity for companies to recognize the limited role of formal mentoring in expatriates' overseas adjustment and relocation success, and to encourage a wider range of developmental relationships that comprise expatriates' developmental networks.


This paper makes two main contributions to the mentoring, developmental networks, and expatriate literature. First, it highlights the necessity of using “network base” as a new structural dimension of developmental networks to examine expatriation and repatriation adjustment. Second, it points out the importance of psychosocial and cross‐cultural transition support in expatriates' relocation success.



Shen, Y. and Kram, K.E. (2011), "Expatriates' developmental networks: network diversity, base, and support functions", Career Development International, Vol. 16 No. 6, pp. 528-552.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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