Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

The Socialization of Expatriate Interns

Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

The Socialization of Expatriate Interns

Article excerpt

The use of internships as a career development experience has increased substantially over the past twenty-five years. When designed and implemented effectively, internships can generate numerous benefits to both interns themselves and their employers. Surprisingly, though, most of the research on internships has been anecdotal in nature. With few exceptions (e.g., Feldman and Weitz, 1990; Taylor, 1985, 1988), there has been little empirical research on the factors which are most critical to the successful design and implementation of internship programs. Moreover, despite the increased use of overseas internships, there has been no empirical research on this growing segment of the internship market at all. The present study, then, has two goals.

First, this study examines the factors which are most critical in the socialization of interns on overseas assignments. In doing so, we focus on the two sets of variables which have been most consistently examined in the domestic internship literature, namely, the design of the internship job (Feldman and Weitz, 1990; Hackman and Oldham, 1980) and the "people processing strategies" used to integrate newcomers into their jobs and work groups (Jones, 1986; Van Maanen, 1978).

Second, this research examines the consequences of the effective socialization of expatriate interns. Drawing on both the internship literature (e.g., Feldman and Weitz, 1990; Taylor, 1985, 1988) and the expatriate literature (e.g., Black et al., 1991; Guzzo, 1996; Mendenhall et al., 1987), we consider here such outcomes as satisfaction with the internship experience, the amount of learning about international business, the likelihood that expatriate interns will receive and accept job offers from their internship employers, and the perceived career instrumentality of the internship.

In the next section, we present the formal hypotheses on the effects of job characteristics and people processing tactics on intern socialization and the effects of that socialization on important outcome variables. In the following two sections, we describe the research methodology used to test the hypotheses and present the results of the data analyses. In the final section, we discuss the findings of the research in more detail and present some implications of the results for future research on overseas internships and for the design and management of overseas internship programs.

THEORY

Job Characteristics

Past research suggests that the "motivating potential" of the work itself (Hackman and Oldham, 1980) will influence how satisfied interns are with their internships and how much effort they will exert on them (Taylor, 1985, 1988). Although a wide array of job characteristics have been studied in the job design literature, three consistently emerge as especially critical in the context of overseas assignments (Feldman and Tompson, 1993).

First, the amount of job autonomy should be positively related to the effective socialization of overseas interns (Hypothesis 1). Because internships are used as a developmental tool, opportunities to work independently are critical in helping students plan and schedule their own time and derive a sense of accomplishment from working without close supervision.

H1: Job autonomy will be positively related to the socialization of interns on overseas assignments.

Second, task identity should be positively related to the effective socialization of overseas interns as well (Hypothesis 2). By task identity, Hackman and Oldham (1980) mean the ability to take an assignment from beginning to end or to complete a meaningful part of that assignment. In the context of expatriate internships, students do not get much sense of accomplishment by simply filling in for others who are on vacation or by rotating each week from task to task. Rather, expatriate interns' sense of task accomplishment is heightened by personal ownership of some project and by tangible progress on (or completion of) that assignment. …

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