Are you like a quilt?

Now, which square do I want to be today?

Now, which square do I want to be today?

During my training I remember coming up against a few theories that I really struggled with. Mostly because they seemed to me to be overly academic and I couldn’t see how they could be implemented effectively in my everyday work. One of these theories was Integrative Life Planning (ILP).

ILP, developed by L. Sunny Hansen in the late 1990s uses a quilt as a metaphor. The quilt is composed of many different levels, all telling their own story but also weaving together to represent a person’s whole life. This quilt can be understood on three levels:

  • Global world where there are dramatic, overarching changes
  • The career world, where profession knowledge and practice are changing
  • The ILP model itself, where a person’s world is ever changing


ILP draws strongly on Super’s developmental model and presents a holistic approach to careers guidance. Hanson presents six critical tasks which she believes careers professionals should use with clients and also engage in themselves. These tasks are:

  1. finding work that needs doing in changing global contexts
  2. weaving lives into a meaningful whole
  3. connecting family and work
  4. valuing pluralism and inclusiveness
  5. exploring spirituality and life purpose
  6. managing personal transitions and organizational change

What I struggled with regarding ILP is that many clients I see are having enough trouble focusing on themselves let along focusing on finding work that needs to be done in a global context! However, as a tool for reflecting on my practice as a whole, I find ILP quite useful. There are so many different angles you can use it from.  Ccould I have taken this client out of their world more to view the overall picture? Should I have helped this client see their world as more connected? Maybe this client would have responded better to more metaphors as a whole? The questions you could ask yourself as a practitioner around Hanson’s theory are endless!

  • Can you relate to the quilt metaphor when looking at your career?
  • Do you think the six critical tasks of ILP are relevant for career development with your client group?
  • Can you think of ways to bring ILP theory into your careers practice?

Related post: Is helping too fluffy?

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  1. #1 by Tristram Hooley on 26 October 2009 - 14:13

    The problem with these sorts of approach is that they are essentially a statement of the theorists ideology rather than a method of guidance. We may or may not agree that our practice should be about encouraging clients to “valuing pluralism and inclusiveness” or whatever, but it doesn’t actually show us how to do this. If we are offering Nick Griffin careers advice this particular aim might be rather more challenging than if we are offering advice to Trevor Phillips.

    What I would agree with is that there is value in us thinking about what our practice is trying to achieve. It isn’t really enough to say that we just want to empower clients to take their own decisions. “So, you want to operate a gas chamber, have a look at our occupational leaflets under G for genocide…” When we are giving advice/guidance/careers education we are engaged in a complex moral and personal dialogue and I think that we need to recognise that and spend time working out where we position ourselves on a variety of issues.

    What I’m not sure is that useful is simply importing someone elses ideology in the heart of our practice and this is essentially what I would see the Hanson model as doing.

    • #2 by David Winter on 27 October 2009 - 01:05

      To what extent is this peddling an ideology and to what extent is it actually raising issues that could be important for building a career in the modern world?

      The world of work is more global and changes at an increasing rate. If we change the perspective from finding a job that exists at the moment to ‘finding work that needs doing’, perhaps we can equip people to think in a way that works better with the modern employment situation.

      Perhaps valuing pluralism and inclusiveness isn’t just a nice thing that we would like people to do. Perhaps it is an attribute that increases an individual’s likelihood of success by helping them to tune into the current zeitgeist.

      Nick Griffin could only ever be successful in the BNP (and perhaps not even there!). Trevor Philips has been successful in a number of areas.

      So, maybe it’s pragmatism as well as ideology.

      But, yes. How do you do it?

  2. #3 by Amy Wildash on 27 October 2009 - 04:13

    For me the good thing about looking at different models is it does challenge us as practitioners to reflect on our practice, but as with most things wholescale uncritical acceptance of theories and ideas is not often that helpful. For me some of the ideas from ILP can help me to understand clients motivations which may be different to my own and the concepts have proven useful when trying to shift traditional views of career education and development of the “get me a job and a job for life” variety or of the that client is from a particular socioeconomic group, ethnic background or of a certain gender and is therefore somehow not entitled to a life beyond paying the bills type.
    Theory on its own is never enough.

  3. #4 by Aminder K Nijjar on 27 October 2009 - 20:58

    I like the holistic approach of ILP. The six critical tasks are a lot to expect, but this is a positive, as it requires the practitioner to expand their own perspective.
    Thank you for your interesting and informative posts.

  4. #5 by Mission Living on 3 December 2011 - 23:57

    The quilt metaphor makes sense, but I am left wondering if its possible to know a single purpose for the quilt as a whole. Can my patchwork life be driven through a holistic guise? If so, how do I define that guise?

    These six tasks resonate well with me. I have personally struggled with each and I see others struggling with them, too.

    Mission Living
    missionliving.wordpress.com

  1. The First Model « Careers – in Theory

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