Dancing to two tunes: The role of bicultural identity and strong ties in skilled migrants’ value-driven protean careers

Publication Name

International Journal of Intercultural Relations


Recent research has pointed out the lack of understanding of the way migrants manage career opportunities and barriers to mobilise their agency in the host destination. In order to better understand how some migrants succeed in host countries, we drew on interviews with 31 non-Western skilled migrants (NWSM) who felt they had achieved successful careers in Australia and the USA. Using a subjective value fulfilment approach, we analyse three illustrative cases from the NWSM sample to understand how bicultural identity, strong ties and protean careers operate together within a Western host country. The findings illustrate the protean career orientation of these skilled migrants. These cases also highlight the role of bicultural identity and strong ties in the formation of their career paths. Overall, the ability to harmoniously use and combine their bicultural identity emerges as a significant success factor in achieving protean careers. The findings also suggest that ongoing support from strong ties was influential and visible in the skilled migrants’ protean career orientation. This was a dominant pattern of findings within the 31 cases of NWSMs, accounting for 90 % (28) of the participants. The findings contribute to extending the existing literature on career orientations by studying a cross-cultural sample through the lens of the generally Westernised career approach of the protean career. In doing so, we argue that unlike Western expatriates who may benefit more from weak ties to progress in their careers, these NWSM indicated strong ties to be instrumental in their value fulfilling career trajectories, most likely due to their collectivist home country cultures. Similarly, we contribute to the career literature on skilled migrants by highlighting the positive impact of bicultural identity and a value driven approach to these migrants’ successful protean careers. Implications for skilled migrants, career counsellors and HRM professionals are also discussed.

Open Access Status

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Funding Sponsor

University of Wollongong



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