Early Career Learning Processes and Activities

In People Development

Eraut’s (2007) longitudinal study of early career engineers, accountants and nurses highlights that workplace learning is more about learning through work than through formally organised learning events.  Its suggested strategies extend beyond career novices, and help create a learning organisation that is more than a rhetorical aspiration”.  The study found (a)  what was being learned, (b) how it was being learned, and (c) factors such as ‘created confidence’ and workplace culture affected the quality and degree of learning uptake.  This learning in the flow of work is summarised in the following typology of learning processes.

Learnings and Takeaways

Implications for learning program design include:

  • The best mentoring is provided by ‘buddies’ or helpful others who are already on the spot.
  • Working alongside a colleague for a while enables someone to learn by asking questions and receiving feedback about shared activities and events as they happen. It also allows the learner to see how a colleague reads situations, monitors them and takes decisions. Since these activities are largely tacit and difficult to explain, working in groups with people who have different kinds of expertise helps with understanding the nature of that expertise and making better use of it.
  • For novice professionals to make good progress, their workload needs to be strategically balanced between achievable challenges and time to think about these challenges. This enables them to respond to these challenges reflectively, rather than develop coping mechanisms that might later prove ineffective.


Source: Michael Eraut, Early career learning at work: Insights into professional development during the first job, University of Sussex, Teaching and Learning Research Briefing, TLRP & ESRC, 2007.