The Expatriate Future

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Until this past week’s reading, I had heard the term “expatriate” before but honestly couldn’t have told you a definition. Aside from being in the dialogue of slick, CIA thrillers on the big screen, the word was completely lost on me. While it is truly an ignorance on my part to have never understood the term, I quickly realized after reading excerpts from chapter 3 of  Organizational Behavior that I darn well better understand “expatriate”  looking ahead into the future.

Why?  In short, because our economy is going global. Companies whose targets used to only include markets at home have increasingly looked abroad as potential outlets for branding and products. As this shift toward globalization continues to evolve, it is reasonable to believe that anyone my age could end up in an expatriate work assignment in the future.

With this in mind, we (as potential global employees of the future) need to prepare ourselves for if/when these job opportunities may arise. The writings indicate the typical expatriate worker goes through  two types of “shocks” during the process: initial assignment shock followed later by culture shock. How can young adults (like myself) start the process now to overcome those shocks if we take a foreign job posting in the future?

1. Expand our horizons/ adjust our expectations: While my parent’s and grandparent’s generations may have been focused on getting a job in their hometown or moving to a big city, our world today is expanded. Companies, people and products move across borders easily. Barriers to travel have been lowered. Despite whether or not a person is a “glass half full” or “glass half empty” type, it is important to realize that we aren’t living in the 50’s. When I say adjust expectations, I mean that we need to realize where a job in the future could take us: not just across the state line, but potentially across international borders as well. See it as an opportunity to experience a new culture and also realize the potential benefits of company advancement if you do a good job. Remember that you had to have been selected for a reason!

2. Become culturally aware sooner rather than later: Honestly I don’t see this as being as much of an issue for my generation but it is still a point worth explaining. Beating culture shock in the future means become familiar with other cultures now. Growing up in this new age of technology and social media has certainly helped people my age become aware of what is happening around the globe. Use it to your advantage and learn about things happening abroad that may have an impact in the future if you happen to work or visit another region of the world.

Companies and business also need to recognize where the future is headed. If foreign markets are a potential avenue for a company, it is best to have a plan in place if having to manage expatriates becomes part of your job description. A blog post by Jane M. Von Bergen on February 1st  lists 12 strategies for companies with “globally mobile employees”.

Schermerhorn, Jr., J. R., Hunt, J. G., & Osborn, R. N. Organizational behavior. (7 ed., pp. 50-52). New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.