Holland's Codes

Shaping a Career That Suits Your Personality

Holland's Codes

© iStockphoto/izusek

You know when you are in a job you like. You also know when the task you're doing just isn't right for you.

What lies behind our feelings of work satisfaction or dissatisfaction are our fundamental work interests: These are the things that we enjoy doing, whatever the industry or the job title. The trick to finding career satisfaction can be to identify those core interests and match your job to them.

For example, if you're a science person, you may not be happy working in a job that needs quick decisions, or where you need to use your 'gut' to guide you. Likewise, artistic people would be driven mad in a profession that has lots of rules and procedures, or which demands a lot of number crunching.

In a perfect world, we would all choose careers that suit our core interests. However this is not a perfect world: For all sorts of reasons, we can find ourselves in positions where what we're doing just doesn't suit our natural interests and abilities. This is where understanding how job and personality fit together can help you change the situation for the better.

Ability and personality are the two main things contribute towards job satisfaction. You're likely to find that jobs that suit your ability and personality are much more rewarding than those that don't. Here we look at your work interests – an important part of your work personality.

Understanding the Theory: Holland's Codes

In the 1970s John Holland developed a popular theory of interest development based around these six personality types:

1. Realistic (R)

These are people who like well-ordered activities, or enjoy working with objects, tools, and machines.

Realistic people:

  • See themselves as mechanically or athletically talented, but may not be good with people.
  • Value concrete and tangible things like – money, power, and status.
  • Avoid 'social' activities, those that need interaction with other people.

Common traits:

  • Hard-headed, inflexible, persistent, materialistic, practical, and genuine.

2. Investigative (I)

Investigative people like activities that involve creative investigation of the world or nature.

Investigative people:

  • See themselves as highly intelligent, but often lack leadership skills.
  • Value scientific endeavors.
  • Avoid activities that seem mundane, commercial or 'enterprising'.

Common traits:

  • Analytical, curious, pessimistic, intellectual, precise, and reserved.

3. Artistic (A)

Artistic people like unstructured activities, and enjoy using materials to create art.

Artistic people:

  • See themselves as talented artists.
  • Value aesthetics.
  • Avoid 'conventional' occupations or situations.

Common traits:

  • Idealistic, complicated , introspective, sensitive, impractical and nonconformist.

4. Social (S)

Social people enjoy informing, training, developing, curing and enlightening others.

Social people:

  • Perceive themselves as helpful, understanding and able to teach others.
  • Value social activities.
  • Avoid activities demanded by 'realistic' occupations and situations.

Common traits:

  • Generous, patient, emphatic, tactful, persuasive, and cooperative.

5. Enterprising (E)

These people enjoy reaching organizational goals or achieving economic gain.

Enterprising people:

  • See themselves as aggressive, popular, great leaders and speakers, but may lack scientific ability.
  • Value political and economic achievement.
  • Avoid activities demanded by 'investigative' occupations and situations.

Common traits:

  • Extroverted, adventurous, optimistic, ambitious, sociable, and exhibitionistic.

6. Conventional (C)

Conventional people enjoy manipulating data, record keeping, filing, reproducing materials, and organizing written or numerical data.

Conventional people:

  • See themselves as having clerical and numerical ability.
  • Value business and economic achievement.
  • Avoid unstructured or 'artistic' activities.

Common traits:

  • Efficient, practical, conscientious, inflexible, defensive, and methodical.

Reproduced by special permission of the Publisher, Psychological Assessment Resources, Inc., 16204 North Florida Avenue, Lutz, FL 33549, from Making Vocational Choices, Third Edition, Copyright 1973, 1985, 1992, 1997 by Psychological Resources, Inc. All rights reserved.

The Model

Holland then arranged these six personality types into a hexagon (see figure 1, below) organized according to people's preference for working with different stimuli at work: people...

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