Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

A Tribute to David Tiedeman

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

A Tribute to David Tiedeman

Article excerpt

This tribute to Tiedeman takes the form of an invitation to read his written work. The author concludes that Tiedeman's body of work is unique and paradoxical, abstract and challenging, and deeply practical. He offered principles intended to change the way counselors think about careers and career development.

A special section of The Career Development Quarterly honors the legacy bestowed by David V. Tiedeman on the career development profession. My part will be to highlight the professional benefits that I have experienced from David's mentoring and from reading his scholarly works and to invite the reader to share these benefits.

David's Men forin g Qualities

David Tiedeman was my intellectual mentor in the 1970s and 1980s; the relationship was an unspoken agreement that was timely and essential to my professional career development. From our first face-to-face meeting at an American Personnel and Guidance Association Convention, I recognized that David personified the qualities I admire most about National Career Development Association scholars, leaders, and members.

In the fullest sense, he was a gentle person-polite and kind, comfortable to be around, self-assured but not the least self-important or arrogant. As our relationship grew, I found David to be wonderfully encouraging and supportive. He literally gave me courage to try out new ideas and take on new projects, emphasizing that projects be consistent with my own intentions. He went out of his way to recognize and validate the resulting ideas and products. Most of all, I admired his brilliant thinking and its manifestations in our intermittent conversations and letters and the papers he shared. David was an enthused intellect. When he discovered a fresh idea, his eyes would gleam and his voice would rise in glee. It was simply a joy to share such occasions.

Make no mistake about this relationship; it was clear who was the intellectual giant and who labored to reach the giant's shoulders and access a fresh perspective on career development.

The shared joy when two Davids experienced an insight together was matched by my private joy when reading and studying Tiedeman's scholarly work. I discovered early in my career, somewhat to my surprise, that only a few colleagues experienced these satisfactions. They missed important intellectual benefits. My intent is to convince you that reading Tiedeman's work can reap those benefits for you.

Unique and Paradoxical

From his earliest writings, David advanced a unique perspective on career development made evident by three distinctive claims. First, he insisted that he did not write a career theory. Rather than advancing theoretical propositions amenable to empirical tests, he offered "primitive terms in a science of career development" (Tiedeman & O'Hara, 1963, p. v). He believed that each person can become a career theorist, that each of us is capable of developing a theory of our own career. In a sense, David took Kurt Lewin's (1952) famous contention that "there is nothing as practical as a good theory" (p. 169) and turned it on its head so it would read "there is nothing as theoretical as a good career in practice." He offered "principles that change the way you think" (Miller-Tiedeman & Tiedeman, 1984, p. 601 ). Thus, his readers are challenged to reconsider their system of thinking about careers, career development, and career interventions. (Many of David's ideas appear in dual-authored papers. Although I have ascribed all the ideas to David, it is not clear whether they were his ideas exclusively. This is especially difficult in the many papers he coauthored with his wife, Anna Miller-Tiedeman.)

Second, David conceptualized the human career as a process, not an outcome, such as a series of occupational roles. From his perspective, career is "a lifetime achievement, always in the process of emergence" (Tiedeman, 1971, p. 123). He frequently used the analogies of motion and flow when describing career. …

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