After years of worldwide travel and an exciting life style, Global Cosmopolitans, Steve and Rosa, want to start a family in New York. Both have American passports, excellent work opportunities in NYC and regard it as "home" in some sense. Now in their mid-thirties and equipped with freshly minted MBAs, they hope that work will be sufficiently challenging - and provide opportunities to learn that will match the challenges of diversity, complexity and change that they both find exciting.

Since they are not afraid of change, both will change companies if necessary, but they would like to be able to commit to developing an exciting career and enjoy the benefits of loyalty. Like many Global Cosmopolitans, they are not afraid to apply different perspectives to problems in order to innovate - and have developed a lot of expertise at bridging or negotiating across difference. Now, it is up to them to make sure that their organizations understand what they need to keep them.

What arguments should they use with their employers to make sure they both get that perfect NYC posting? How would you advise Steve and Rosa?

For my part, I would point out that, while linguistic ability and cultural knowledge might be obvious benefits, there are many less obvious skills that Global Cosmopolitans develop. Finding a place to use the expertise developed on a global life path, can feel challenging since the benefits of this expertise can remain invisible. For example, people with a strong adaptive capacity sometimes need reminding that they can do more than just adapt to returning home, but can apply the multiple skills they have developed, such as Cultural Competence.

Cultural Competence is different from cultural knowledge. Learning how to adapt to diverse cultures, Global Cosmopolitans often have a deep understanding of differences of all kinds. They learn how to function effectively within new contexts of beliefs, behaviors and needs.

I would also warn Steve and Rosa that re-entry can be challenging for Global Cosmopolitans. Their experience, their skills, their sense of who they are can feel invisible, as the people and work in their lives pull them back into the person that they know and feel comfortable with. Many get bored if there is not enough complexity and difference at work and can associate changing cultures as a way to ensure enough challenge and opportunities for learning at work.

Can anyone else out there give Steve and Rosa some advice? Perhaps you have had similar experiences. Or maybe you know people just like them. Use the feedback box to let me know how you react to their situation.

About the Author

Linda Brimm Ph.D.

Linda Brimm, Ph.D., is a Professor of Organizational Behavior at INSEAD, and the author of Global Cosmopolitans: The Creative Edge of Difference.

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