GLOBAL: Plan for your own international career

Individuals looking for global experience must venture out on their own career path to satisfy personal international goals as organisations are less inclined to structure a career path for employees in today's uncertain climate, according to research by Belgian Professor Maddy Janssens.

Today, careers have become less about advancement and more about knowledge acquisition and strategic planning. Because of this Janssens says employees must know what they want and what skills they will need to get it.

Janssens is a professor of Organisational Studies at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium, who, along with colleague Tineke Cappellen has compiled research from interviews with three transnational companies with headquarters in Belgium. Based on her research Janssens has outlined three steps to help employees plan for a global career.

"Start by observing and interpreting the particular career script being offered to you by your existing employer," Janssens says.

The career script is everything a company engages in, in terms of international human resources and career planning. It also establishes the norms and behaviour expected of employees, according to Janssens.

The second step comes once the individual has figured out what motivates their career within their existing organisation; Janssens says the employee must then set out their career expectations.

"So what does a global career mean to you? Do you want strategic decision-making power in a global economy or are you happy to work in a subsidiary and be immersed in another culture? And what do you think of balancing a global career with family demands?" Janssens says.

In one of her research groups, individuals found that all strategic decisions came from headquarters and that working in a subsidiary of the company meant simply executing these decisions. Because of this the group realised that their career goal was to work at the organisation's headquarters.

The third step applies if there are discrepancies between the organisation's career script and the individual's career goals. Janssens says employees should find activities or actions that could compensate for these differences.

"For instance, to pick up the new skills that you think are required for a global career, you might yourself look for additional training offered by the company or by universities or outside training centres," Janssens says.

"In some instances, the compensatory actions involve changing companies. If your aspiration of defining global strategy is not met, you might need to leave your current employer to search for an environment that gives you strategic power."

Whatever the individual chooses, Janssens says it is important to consider your career trajectory, and if you want to work in the global economy then aim towards goals that will help attain your desired career.

"Our research showed that companies do not yet offer a career script that fits with the global aspirations of individuals who want to work in the global economy," Janssens says. "Managers wanted to work at a worldwide level rather early in their career, gain strategic decision-making power, and also achieve family stability. This all requires a broad skill base which again, companies do not always offer."