In the past, the term international career was used by scholars to indicate building a career based on periods abroad and at home, typically between two countries. However, with globalisation linking business across multiple countries simultaneously and the proliferation of different ways of doing global work, the term global career is more distinct and is more prevalent. A broad definition of a global career is a career based on international experience gained over time through performing work with global responsibilities and cross-cultural exposure.
What we know about global careers to date has largely been based on individuals going abroad on an organisation-sponsored work assignment. Most research on the topic is not necessarily examining the work experience contextualised within a larger global career. However, researchers have begun to examine the notion of global careers as developing across multiple assignments over a long-term horizon. Global careers also can be initiated by individuals themselves in the form of self-initiated work assignments abroad. While working abroad (for example, on an expatriate assignment) might enhance overall career advancement, it is unclear to what degree pursuing a career that is considered global requires ongoing international mobility.
An employee pursuing a global career today differs from the image of older, male “jet-setting” corporate managers or expats from the past. Younger employees of both genders are increasingly building their careers in a global context. This evolution in the profile of a global careerist can be due to a shift toward the importance of global experience in organisational career development, as well as a growing prevalence of global aspects in many jobs today.