The changing nature of employment : how self-employed professionals manage their lives, learning and knowledge

Evans, Christina Fay (2002). The changing nature of employment : how self-employed professionals manage their lives, learning and knowledge. PhD thesis The Open University.



This research has investigated how one particular group of knowledge workers, self-employed human resource professionals, are managing their lives, learning and knowledge.

Its contextual background is the changing nature of work and employment in late 20th century Britain, informed by the 'informational technological paradigm' (Castells, 1996), and the changing landscape of careers.

Although there is other empirical work that has investigated the lives of individuals pursuing nontraditional career models (e.g. 'portfolio career', or 'lifestyle career'), this research is different. First, it is based on a broader view of a career, where the term career is seen as applying to all lifeareas, not just an individual's working life. Second, it has adopted a different methodological approach, applying the Life History Methodology. The research sample included twenty-six participants, seventeen male and nine female, identified through non-probability sampling.

By taking a broader perspective of the term career the research has illuminated how the decisions that these individuals make about their work career is balanced with the needs and demands from other life-areas e.g. family and learning, together with the availability of key resources.

The findings include: a description of the structural changes that occur in these individuals' lives; the benefits, threats, opportunities and paradoxes associated with the self-employed lifestyle, and the strategies adopted for managing their learning and knowledge. Whilst formal learning was found to have an important place in these individuals' lives, at strategic points, much of their learning falls into six informal learning categories.

The thesis concludes by discussing the implications and opportunities for policy making. These fall into two main areas. First, the insights into the different ways that individuals construct work-life balance could help organisations rethink policies aimed at addressing the phenomenon of work-life balance. Second, the insights into the tensions that these professionals experience with their learning could help inform the provision of learning resources aimed at 'Self-employed professionals.

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