Timeline of career theories and models

This timeline shows how career theories have evolved over time.

Early 1900s

Theory: Person-environment fit, trait factor

Names: Parsons, Williamson, Holland

Vocational guidance is accomplished first by studying the individual, then by surveying occupations, and finally by matching the individual with the occupation.

Late 1950s

Theory: Developmental

Names: Ginzberg & Associates, Tiedman, Super, Gottfredson, Roe

Career development is a process that takes place over the life span. Career development activities should be designed to meet the needs of individuals at all stages of life.


Theory: Client-centred

Name: Rogers

Career development is focused on the nature of the relationship between the helper and client. It encompasses the core conditions of unconditional positive regards, genuineness, congruence and empathy.

Late 1970s

Theory: Social learning

Name: Krumboltz

The individual's unique learning experiences over their lifespan develop primary influences that lead to career choice. 


Theory: Post-modern

Name: Kelly, Cochran, Jepsen

Truth is discovered subjectively through dialogue rather than through objective testing. This approach emphasises the individual’s experience and decision making through exploring personal constructs and the client’s narrative about their life.


Theory: Neuro-linguistic programming

Names: Richard Bandler, John Grinder

A way of coding thinking, language and behaviour based on the principle that changing the way one thinks can change behaviour.


Theory: Happenstance

Name: John Krumboltz

Chance events play a role in every career. The goal for clients is to generate beneficial chance events and have the ability to take advantage of them.


Theory: Narrative therapy

Names: Michael White and David Epston, Gregory Bateson
Clients are encouraged to separate themselves from their problems (ie, the problem becomes external). The client makes sense of their experiences by using stories.


Theory: Te Whare Tapa Whā

Names: Dr. Mason Durie
Māori health is a balance between four interacting dimensions: te taha wairua (the spiritual side); te taha hinengaro (thoughts and feelings); te taha tinana (the physical side) and te taha whānau (family).


Theory: Coaching

A model of practice. All parts of the client’s life are taken into account through regular sessions.

Updated 4 May 2016