Cranfield School of Management and Expatica survey shows that independent work-related assignments are more useful that company-directed assignments abroad

Professionals who move abroad independently out of a sense of adventure and are willing take a career risk may gain more for their personal development in the long run than those sent on international assignments by their companies, research has found.

A study of 552 people by Cranfield School of Management and Expatica, the internet portal for expatriates, found nearly two-thirds had initiated their foreign work experience themselves, without company backing.

For those individuals willing to take a leap of faith as “free agents”, the quest for adventure was a significantly influential driver, combined with a desire for work-life balance. In contrast, “classic expats” going on international assignments backed by their employers were more likely to be motivated by financial incentives and career advancement.

Although both groups agreed working abroad was likely to enhance their future career prospects, free agents reported achieving much greater clarity of work goals – despite the fact they were much more likely to take a less challenging job in their new country than back home.

Noeleen Doherty, research fellow at Cranfield School of Management, said: “Individuals who embark on the heroic journey of expatriation take a risk, but the rewards are a positive life and career enhancing experience certainly in the short term, and more clarity regarding long-range plans.”

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