Exploring Career Agency During Self-Initiated Repatriation: A Study of Chinese Sea Turtles

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Drawing on career and self-initiated expatriation/repatriation literatures, this paper aims to examine the career experiences of Chinese self-initiated repatriates after their return to China. Design/methodology/approach: The authors conducted an exploratory, qualitative study involving in-depth interviews with 20 Chinese individuals who returned to China after spending at least three years living, studying and/or working in a range of “host” countries. Findings: This study shows that the career agency of Chinese returnees reflects both independent and interdependent factors. It provides specific empirical support for Tams and Arthur’s argument that career agency is impacted by both individual and contextual factors. Research limitations/implications: The findings indicate the central role played by individual proactivity and contextual influences during self-initiated repatriation. The small sample size allows for rich data, but limits the generalizability of the findings. Practical implications: Managerial practices that address the unique career values and expectations of self-initiated repatriates can facilitate the application of skills and knowledge acquired abroad to the local context. Policy makers should provide more institutional support to encourage and facilitate the return of overseas Chinese. Originality/value: This study is among only a small number to explore the experiences of self-initiated repatriates in developing countries. Recent research has addressed the importance of recognizing and identifying the boundaries that constrain and enable global careers. This study identifies a number of such boundaries and also adds to the understanding of the challenges and difficulties of repatriation.


This research was partially funded by the Sacred Heart University Research and Creativity Grant and Keene State College Faculty Development Grant.