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The HR Leader in discussion with cognitive scientist on how to take charge of your career

By Jack Campbell | |5 minute read
The HR Leader in discussion with cognitive scientist on how to take charge of your career

Mimma Mason is a cognitive scientist at Pearson. She joined The HR Leader to discuss career passports and learning agility, and how to use these concepts to take charge of your career.

Shandel McAuliffe, editor at HR Leader: “What do you mean by career passport?”

Ms Mason: “Employees are taking charge of their own careers, rather than waiting and seeing what's out there or responding to a job advertisement. More and more, people are beginning to manage the route for themselves, knowing what they like, what motivates them.”


“Armed with their certifications of their hard skills and their soft skills, understanding the gaps in their skillset and driving their own training agenda. Seeking out the sort of jobs that they want and making sure that they've got all the pieces in place along the way. That's like having a passport, that you can manage that yourself,” she explained.

“Our career is changing all of the time, but this career passport can evolve with us and take us on different journeys. It's about self-awareness. It's about reflecting on what we want out of a job.”

Ms Mason added: “It's more to offer than just qualifications… More and more, jobs are being filled by looking at people's skills and their motivation. It's not just on their qualifications.”

Editor: “What is learning agility and why is it important?”

Ms Mason: “It's in reaction to being in a complex ever-changing environment, and the best weapon we have in the modern world where none of us have a clear map of exactly what we're going to do next and where we'll be, and what the next job's going to be, we need to have learning agility. Learning agility is the ability to be thrown into any situation, maybe not necessarily knowing what to do, but figuring it out anyway.”

She continued: “It's the skill we need to develop in ourselves and it's what we look for when we are hiring others. That ability to know yourself, be aware of your impact on other people, be able to deal with a diverse range of people and problems. It's mental agility, sizing up a situation as it's happening and quickly prioritising what's important and what's not. It's about being just able to act, confident enough to act, and put your learning into practice to get better at it, even if it's new and scary.”

Editor: “Should businesses be teaching their staff learning agility?”

Ms Mason: “Absolutely. We had a young leader’s course at Pearson where we put them through a learning agility course. It was multi-week and it was backed up with lots of opportunities to practise and buddy up with someone and test ideas out on each other.”

She continued: “We've actually got data to show that they were more productive and had greater success with their teams as a result of just being aware of the tools that were available to them.”

“That's what we teach. That's what the learning agility course was all about, is just making sure that they understood themselves and understood all of the resources around them that they could use,” said Ms Mason.

The transcript of this podcast episode, when quoted above, was slightly edited for publishing purposes. The full conversation with Mimma Mason is below.


Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.