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Keywords:

  • boundaryless career;
  • qualified immigrants;
  • career orientations;
  • mobility;
  • coping

Abstract

This qualitative study examines objective–subjective career interdependencies within a sample of 45 qualified immigrants (QIs) in Canada, Spain and France. The particular challenges in this type of self-initiated international careers arise from the power of institutions and local gatekeepers, the lack of recognition for QIs' foreign career capital, and the need for proactivity. Resulting from primary data analysis, we identify six major themes in QIs' subjective interpretations of objective barriers: Maintaining motivation, managing identity, developing new credentials, developing local know-how, building a new social network and evaluating career success. Secondary data analysis distinguishes three QI career orientations—embracing, adaptive and resisting orientations—with each portraying distinct patterns of motivation, identity and coping. This study extends the boundaryless career perspective by providing a more fine-grained understanding of how qualified migrants manage both physical and psychological mobility during self-initiated international career transitions. With regards to the interdependence between objective and subjective career aspects, it illustrates the importance of avoiding preference to one side at the neglect of the other, or treating the two sides as independent of one another. Practical implications are proposed for career management efforts and receiving economies. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.