Career Construction Theory and Life Writing - Special Edition of 'Life Writing'

deadline for submissions: 
May 31, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Hywel Dix / Bournemouth University
contact email: 

There is still space available for one or two very high quality papers in this special edition of Life Writing.

Over the last twenty years, a new form of career counselling practice has emerged, one that Mark Savickas (Career Counselling, 2011) refers to as career construction theory. Where earlier forms of vocational guidance utilised aptitude tests, statistical profiling and other forms of quantitative analysis, career construction takes a far more qualitative approach to employment counselling. By encouraging clients to see their careers as stories of which they are both the metaphorical authors and the main protagonists, career construction counsellors enable them to envisage the next chapter in those stories. Periods of troubling change or uncertainty, when people do not know what to do next in their lives, are thus treated as experiences akin to ‘writer’s block’, experiences which can be overcome first by imagining new character arcs, then by narrating them and finally by performing them. Larry Cochran (Career Counselling: A Narrative Approach, 1997) defines career construction theory as a ‘narrative’ based practice because it is all about elucidating life stories and using them as resources to endow vocational decisions with meaning and value to the individual in question.

Drawing on the field of career construction theory, this special edition will explore how diverse forms of life writing have been used to think about and portray careers in new ways. It will also examine the extent to which the construction of a vocational personality (Peter McIlveen, ‘Dialogical Self: Author and narrator of career life themes’, 2007) varies according to the social environment. Potential contributors might explore connections became career construction theory and the recently emerging genre of autofiction, since as Isabelle Grell points out (L’Autofiction, 2014), it is a form of life writing in which writers invent different serialised personae for themselves, rather than assuming a single, continuous sense of selfhood across different time periods and different works.

Because the field of career construction mobilises an authorial paradigm, it has the potential to be applied to discussion of literary careers in an especially illuminating way. This work was begun by Hywel Dix in The Late-Career Novelist (2017) and by Davidson and Evans’s Literary Careers in the Modern Era (2015). We welcome submissions that further such analysis.

Potential topics to be addressed include (but are not limited to):-

- the role of autobiographical reasoning as a resource that writers (and others) both draw upon when they make vocational decisions in their professional lives and deploy in the creation of new life narratives;

- the potential insight to be gained by bringing recent narrative-based theories of career development to bear on analysis of authorial careers;

- the distinction between writing as a profession and writing as a vocation; and what difference is made by approaching writing in either of these ways;

- the use of writing as a therapeutic process in addressing past events of a troubling, challenging or even traumatic nature;

- the tension between employment counselling practices that prioritise the need of the individual and autofictional theories that emphasise mutually supportive, collective and collaborative forms of solidarity;

- the question of whether vocational counselling can help writers develop forms of narrative that critique the neo-liberal social order; or conversely the question of whether or not career counselling aims to facilitate direct participation in neo-liberal economics in a way that might vitiate and undermine such critique.

Procedure for Submission

Full length articles of between 7-8,000 words of original, previously unpublished research addressing some of these (or related) questions should be sent to Hywel Dix at by 31 May 2019. For the correct referencing style, please refer to a recent issue of the journal on the journal homepage. Please include a brief biographical note, institutional affiliation and 4-5 keywords.