Posted by: Alison Damast on November 25, 2009
MBA students considering doing successive global stints post B-School might want to think twice before pursuing that route. Employees who take on more than one international assignment for their company may be doing themselves more harm than good, a study of repatriated managers and executives suggests. Associate Professor Maria Kraimer at the University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business followed the career paths of 84 employees from five Fortune 500 companies sent on international assignments for work who returned home in the last two years. Her finding: employees who had only one overseas experience (73% of the pool) were more likely to be promoted than those who took on multiple stints abroad (27%). Those with two or more international work assignments were eight times more likely to perceive that they were demoted when they returned home, giving new weight to the old adage “out of sight, out of mind,” Kraimer says. On average, the respondents had 14 years experience, with 22% indicating that their assignment was an executive-level position.
Her findings, published in the Human Resources Management journal, mesh with other studies that have shown the longer executives work abroad, the longer it takes them to get to the top. Though companies value global experience and spend $1 million on average per expatriated employee, most high-level positions are in the U.S., so the longer a person is away, the less likely they are to be considered for these roles, Kraimer says. As a result, employees who returns home after multiple assignments “often have to take whatever job they can find,” leading them to feel overqualified and underappreciated, she says. Many choose to leave their jobs shortly after returning to the U.S.; related studies have shown that 44% of repatriated managers leave their employers within two years of returning home. Kraimer’s advice? Those considering successive posts abroad should think seriously about the implications for their career and “if you start taking more than one, you should probably be doing it for your own personal reasons” rather than career advancement, she says.