Guest Editors 

Maike Andresen, University of Bamberg, Germany, [email protected] 

Akram Al Ariss, TBS Toulouse Business School, France, [email protected] 

Cordula Barzantny, TBS Toulouse Business School, France, [email protected] 

Herbert Brücker, Institute of Employment Research, Germany, [email protected] 

Michael Dickmann, Cranfield University, UK, [email protected] 

Sara Louise Muhr, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark, [email protected] 

Thomas Saalfeld, University of Bamberg, Germany, [email protected] 

Vesa Suutari, University of Vaasa, Finland, [email protected]  

Mette Zølner, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark, [email protected] 

Objectives of the Special Issue 

Self-initiated expatriation has attracted a growing interest since the classical articles by Inkson, Arthur, Pringle and Barry (1997) and Suutari and Brewster (2000). By now, we have gained a general understanding of the phenomenon. However, looking at the samples underlying publications on self-initiated expatriates (SIEs) shows that the term SIE has been employed to cover a large variety of distinct populations that differ in a number of key contextual factors such as educational level, profession, gender and family status, country of origin and destination country as well as employing organizations. But context matters: expatriates in and from different places, at different times and in different kinds of organizations present different challenges for SIEs which impacts the extent of required personal initiative, their work experiences and career trajectories (Andresen, Pattie, & Hippler, 2020). For instance, diverse dangers in physically (COVID-19 pandemic, terrorism) or psychological environments have a substantial impact on SIEs’ behaviors, attitudes and careers (Bader, Schuster, & Dickmann, 2019). In most of SIE research samples are mixed, allowing us to draw only limited conclusions about the relevance and influence of contextual factors. This impedes the systematic comparison and integration of SIE knowledge. Thus, the role of context and its impact on SIEs’ career-related decisions and behaviours needs further exploration.  

This Special Issue on SIEs deepens our understanding of SIEs’ careers by focusing on the contextual influences of space, time and institutions on the heterogeneous SIE population. More specifically, this Special Issue sheds light on spatial conditions in terms of home and host country impacts on the self-initiated expatriation experience (e.g., transferability of career and human capital between countries) and looks at developments over time in terms of temporality of conditions and changes of SIEs’ life-course (e.g., adjustment and long-term career effects). Moreover, the contributions are envisaged to analyse the influence of the institutional and economic context in terms of occupational and organizational specificities on the heterogeneous SIE population.  

Studies focusing on SIEs from a single home country living in a specific host country (space), being in similar life and career stages (time) or working in the same institutional contexts regarding their occupation or organisational environment, e.g. in terms of size and sector, are extremely rare (for an exception see Ramboarison-Lalao, Al Ariss, & Barth, 2012). We often find mixed samples of SIEs in terms of space, time and institutions, leading to considerable variance of relevant factors that influence the expatriation experience. For example, depending on ‘space’ the personal initiative and cultural intelligence needed to successfully relocate and adjust abroad are likely to differ, because the career norms, cultural values and languages that SIEs need to master vary between countries. In terms of ‘time’, we lack studies focusing on long-term effects of different spatial and institutional conditions on SIEs’ adjustment, careers and lives as well as longitudinal studies. And in terms of institutions, apart from the national level institutional differences, many studies conflate SIEs in different sectors and organisations. There have been some studies of particular occupations: For some reason scholars seem fascinated by academic SIEs (e.g., Selmer & Lauring, 2013) and there have also been studies of nurses (Bozionelos, 2009), professional service firms (Richardson & McKenna, 2014) and even religious leaders (Ramboarison-Lalao, Brewster, & Boyer, 2019). However, there have been almost no comparative studies of the differences between occupations or between organisations within a sector. 

Theoretical contributions and practical importance of the Special Issue 

This Special Issue contributes to conceptual clarity in the burgeoning field of SIE research by drawing attention to the importance of exploring context and, thus, boundary conditions to careers. Crucially, it can refine and enrich our theoretical understanding by incorporating context, thereby nuancing our understanding. In addition, it offers specific guidance for an improvement of managerial practice. 

In terms of the theoretical contribution, our aim is to deepen the understanding of SIEs’ careers, focusing on the contextual influences of space (home and host country conditions), time (temporality of conditions; changes of the life-course; longitudinal effects) and institutions (occupational, organisational and societal specificities) on the heterogeneous SIE population. All submissions should be based on strong theoretical foundations that serve to conceptualise “context“ and that contribute to theoretical advancement. Relevant theories to explain and predict the how, when, and why of SIEs’ careers in context are, for example, structuration theory (Giddens, 1981; Giddens, 1984) as a grand theory to explain the dependency between structure and agency; the multiple cultures perspective (Sackmann & Phillips, 2004) to understand the role of culture as related to space and institutions; the chaos theory of careers (Bright & Pryor, 2011) to analyse the effect of time in terms of sequences and patterns; the social identity theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1986) to understand the group with which SIEs are associated, the resulting boundaries and their perceived permeability, leading to different mobility strategies across institutions, space and time. Also the seminal human capital theories of migration and labor markets may contribute to our understanding on the impacts of temporary and permanent labor mobility and their returns for individuals, households and organizations (Sjaastad, 1962; Mincer, 1958, 1978) considering inter alia risk and uncertainty of mobility decisions (Dixit & Pindyck, 1994; Burda, 1995) and return migration (Dustmann & Görlich, 2016). We expect major theoretical advancement and refinement in our understanding of SIE through the incorporation of context.  

In terms of practical implications, there are significant challenges for international HR managers to identify and manage the varying types of expatriates within an organization (Andresen, Dickmann, & Suutari, 2018). While the majority of research within the literature has focused on expatriate management within MNCs (Suutari, Brewster, Mäkelä, Dickmann, & Tornikoski, 2018), the increasing numbers and wide variety of SIEs creates the need for IHRM to develop different HR policies and practices to support them within organizations (Howe-Walsh & Schyns, 2010) and in their host contexts (Bader, Reade & Froese, 2019). These HR practices concern all key career transitions points, including SIEs’ pre-departure (e.g. selection, training and development, support activities for SIEs), during their self-initiated expatriation (e.g. mentoring, appraisals, development), as well as SIEs’ repatriation.  

Illustrative topics  

Exemplary research questions within the intended scope of this Special Issue include, but are not limited to, the following: 

1. Contextual influences of space on SIEs 

  • How are home and host country conditions impacting on self-initiated expatriation? 

  • How is the quality of the host environment shaping the experiences and career journeys of SIEs?  

  • What is the role of physical threats (COVID-19; crime, terrorism, nature) and psychological dangers (fear, anxiety, stress induced by the context) shaping the career patterns of SIEs? 

2. Contextual influence of time on SIEs 

  • How does the temporality of contextual conditions influence the life-course and career patterns of SIEs?  

  • What are the longitudinal effects of accumulation, transfer and utilization of career and human capital of SIEs? 

  • How does context shape the careers of self-initiated repatriates? 

3. Contextual influence of institutions on SIEs 

  • How do macro-societal factors, including economic circumstances, labour and immigration laws and institutional arrangements influence the careers of self-initiated expatriates? 

  • How do occupational patterns, regulations and customs affect SIEs and their careers? 

  • How do organizational configurations, HR approaches and culture shape SIEs’ attitudes and behaviours in relation to their careers? 

Clearly, research that explores interrelationships between the broad topics, using multi-level frameworks and/or explores linkages to broader international business frameworks would be highly interesting. The above list is only meant as an illustration of possible research directions and is by no means meant to be exhaustive. Additional ideas and research questions are certainly welcome and encouraged if they advance research on SIEs in context.  

We welcome conceptual, theoretical, qualitative or quantitative papers. Contributions should report original research that is not under consideration at any other journal. This call for papers is open and competitive, and all submitted papers will be subject to anonymous review by referees with expertise in the field. 

Review Process 

Submitted papers will be subject to a double-blind review process and will be evaluated by the special issue guest editors and expert reviewers. Authors should prepare their manuscripts for blind review. 

We are offering a paper development / CDI session for authors who submit a structured abstract of their papers to the 2nd International Conference on Self-Initiated Expatriation to be held in Bamberg, Germany on the 11th and 12th April 2022. Should authors chose to avail of this opportunity, please submit your short paper through the conference website ( by November 15, 2021, stating your desire to participate in the CDI session.

Submissions to the Special Issue are open to participants attending the 2nd International Conference on Self-Initiated Expatriation and all other authors. Submissions to CDI open 30th April 2022 and the submission due date is 30th July 2022.

Please submit enquiries to [email protected]

Submissions should be made through ScholarOne Manuscripts:

Specific details on the format for submitted manuscripts can be found at the journal’s website  

Please direct any general questions about the journal or any administrative matters to the Editor, Professor Jim Jawahar ([email protected]). 


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