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Career and learning: the ins and the outs of it

Mary Mallon (Department of Human Resource Management, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand)
Sara Walton (Department of Management, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand)

Personnel Review

ISSN: 0048-3486

Article publication date: 1 August 2005




Seeks to explore how individuals talk about learning when asked about career.


Brings together three qualitative research studies, based in the UK and New Zealand on how individuals make sense of career; one focused on people in organizational employment and two on “portfolio” workers operating as freelance workers on a variety of contracts with organizations. The debate on the changing nature of careers and the imperative to life‐long learning resonates in the studies and the extent of change that has occurred is questioned.


The findings of the studies suggest that there is less learning activity (in terms of education, training or self‐development activities) being undertaken by these participants than may be expected. While participants generally believe that they should take charge of their own learning and career development, they are less sure what actions to take. Signals from the organization are still an important prompt for learning for those in employment; for those outside the lack of support and specific reasons to learn leads to a lack of formal or structured learning activity and a tendency to rely on previously learned skills.


The paper is offered in a spirit of exploration, based on signals from these specific data. In that vein, it makes tentative suggestions as to the implications of such data for human resource management.



Mallon, M. and Walton, S. (2005), "Career and learning: the ins and the outs of it", Personnel Review, Vol. 34 No. 4, pp. 468-487.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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