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Jenny Bimrose Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick

One other new approach which shares many similarities with constructivist approaches is Miller-Tiedman’s (1999) ‘life-is-career’. Like other new approaches, it emanates from a comprehensive review and criticism of traditional, established career theory, derived from the Newtonian worldview. The central proposition is that ‘simply stated, Life, not job, is the big career’ (Miller-Tiedman, 1999, p.xiv). The emphasis is on career as process, not outcome, with the image of the practitioner being like a midwife: ‘a professional who understands process can help midwife the unfolding of a client’s life mission’ (Miller-Tiedman, 1999, p.xiv).

New theories are also criticised on the grounds that ‘what pass for emerging theories still linger in the shadow of trait, factor and logical positivism’ (p.41). Here, Miller-Tiedeman cites value-based, social cognition, cognitive information processing and contextual explanations of career choice and development. All such theories, it is argued, require the career professional to assess the situation, rather than the client (p.41), and suggest that clients often lack self or occupational knowledge as well as career decision skills, and that the client may not be an effective problem-solver. Instead, Miller-Tiedman suggests that career theory should place personal knowledge as primary, value the individual as a ‘theory maker’ and empower the personal journey of the client in a framework larger than the job.

Other key concepts in this model include complementarity, uncertainty and connectedness; self-organising systems; left and right handed decisions and living for today. Complementarity, uncertainty and connectedness are taken from quantum physics. They are borrowed to emphasise the notion that focusing on one thing risks missing something else (Miller-Tiedeman, 1999, p.6), that if we look for something, we will find it, thus creating our own reality (p.10), and that things cannot be divided, because everything is connected (1999, p.10).

Two major aspects of self-organising systems which are emphasised are ‘self-renewal’ (systems continually renew and recycle their components while maintaining the integrity of the overall system) and ‘self-transcendence’ (living systems can grow beyond physical and mental boundaries), with growth remaining a choice (p.11). Finally, the concept of left and right handed decisions focuses on the value of wrong as well as correct decisions and events in life. Mistakes (left turns) provide information for the next decision and should be valued as highly as ‘right’ decisions (p.12) and the fourth concept, that of living for today, reminds us of the importance of making every day count. This should help prevent ‘living under tomorrow’s stress’ (p.12), which in turn increases the probability of ‘flow’ with the rhythm of life, and listening to the signals.

Eleven principles that support living ‘life-as-career’ are identified and the differences between this model and traditional careers are explored (Miller-Tiedeman, 1999, p.7). Its implications are discussed in some detail (pp.181-271), with the conclusion that by the year 2050 career practice as we know it today may be totally irrelevant. Children will ‘mature vocationally with the help of their parents and technology, and they won’t ask questions like today’s children do in regard to work’ (p.181). Professionals will ‘work with individuals and groups assisting them in understanding that life is a whole fabric, even though the design keeps changing’ (p.182).

Amongst new methods and techniques that should be embraced is the electronic CV and job search via the internet (p.189), financial planning (p.225) and reducing stress and maintaining health (p.311). In the UK context, these expanded roles for careers counselling have also been identified by Collin and Watts (1996, p.395).


Miller-Tiedeman 1999

Miller-Tiedeman, A. (1999) Learning, practicing, and living the new career, Ann Arbor, Michigan, Accelerated Development.

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