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The Life Cycle Of The Expatriate Work Assignment: A Simple Model For Engineering Education And Engineering Students

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.530.1 - 4.530.9

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R. Andrew Schaffer

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 3560

THE LIFE CYCLE OF THE EXPATRIATE WORK ASSIGNMENT: A SIMPLE MODEL FOR ENGINEERING EDUCATORS AND ENGINEERING STUDENTS R. Andrew Schaffer Department of Organizational Leadership and Supervision Purdue School of Engineering and Technology, IUPUI

I. Introduction

As engineering educators and mentors, it is important for us to be aware of the current trends and research on expatriate assignments. Many of our students will accept jobs in multinational organizations and will be expected to work on cross-national project teams, often in international settings. However, the existing literature on expatriate assignments tends to fall into very focused, topical groupings. While many theoretical and empirical papers have addressed individual elements of the expatriate experience (i.e., cross-cultural training), little has been done to consider the assignment in its entirety. This is an oversight because each "stage" of an expatriate assignment influences other stages and ultimately affects the expatriate engineer’s or engineering manager’s career success.

The model presented in this paper follows a logical approach to the expatriate assignment: The firm must decide whether it needs an expatriate, it must recruit a qualified candidate, and perhaps provide training and orientation. The expatriate must move abroad, adapt, perform the work, and return home to an organization that may have changed. Throughout the process, the engineer's career aspirations and the organization's goals will impact how the individual and the organization progress through each stage of the model. In addition, a crucial influence is the strategic orientation of the firm. Current research and sage advice on expatriate assignments rarely considers this important determinant of the expatriate experience, but our students must know this if they are to succeed in an increasingly-competitive global market.

In this paper, the primary argument is that educators should understand and explain the whole assignment for potential future expatriate engineers and engineering managers. Likewise, researchers should consider the overall assignment, and not individual elements, when developing research programs in this area.

For engineering educators, it is important to understand and explain these organizational and cultural variables to students who are very likely to face the challenge of an expatriate assignment sometime in their careers. This paper provides details of the model to assist faculty in that endeavor.

Schaffer, R. A. (1999, June), The Life Cycle Of The Expatriate Work Assignment: A Simple Model For Engineering Education And Engineering Students Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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