Holland’s Theory of Career Choice

Strengthen your career well-being with a career or major that fits your personality.

Choosing a career or education program that fits your Holland personality is a vital step toward career well-being and success–job satisfaction, good grades, and graduating on time. You want to say, “Yes!” to the question, “Do you like what you do each day?” Your career well-being depends on it.

The Holland theory is the best known and most widely researched theory on this topic. It is widely used by professionals. (Watch our videos)

Understanding the theory and using an accurate Holland assessment like Career Key Discovery will help you identify careers and education programs that fit who you are and put you on a path to career well-being.

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Summary of Holland’s theory:

  1. In our culture, most people are one of six personality
    types: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising,
    and Conventional. Some refer to these as Holland Codes or RIASEC.
  2. People of the same personality type working together create a work environment that fits their type. For example, when Artistic persons are together on a job, they create a work environment that rewards creative thinking and behavior — an Artistic environment.
  3. There are six basic types of work environments: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, Conventional. “Work” includes doing things to achieve a purpose, like paid and unpaid jobs, volunteering, sports, or hobbies.
  4. People search for environments where they can use their skills and abilities and express their values and attitudes. For example, Investigative types search for Investigative environments; Artistic types look for Artistic environments, and so forth.
  5. People who choose to work in an environment similar to their personality type are more likely to be successful and satisfied.
    For example, Artistic people are more likely to be successful and satisfied if they choose a job that has an Artistic environment, like choosing to be a dance teacher in a dancing school — an environment “dominated” by Artistic type people where creative abilities and expression are highly valued.
  6. Graphic of personality types matched to careers

  7. How you act and feel at work depends to a large extent on your workplace (or school) environment. If you are working with people who have a personality type like yours, you will be able to do many of the things they can do, and you will feel most comfortable with them.

Next step: Match your personality to compatible environments

Choosing work or an education program that matches, or is similar to your personality, will most likely lead to success and satisfaction. This good match is called “congruent” (meaning compatible, in agreement or harmony).

So for example, imagine you score highest for the Realistic type on the Career Key Discovery assessment. On the table below, you see that your most compatible work environment is Realistic, a congruent match. It’s best if you choose a Realistic job, or you might also choose Investigative or Conventional jobs.

Compatible Work Environments

  • Your Personality Type
  • Realistic
  • Investigative
  • Artistic
  • Social
  • Enterprising
  • Conventional

Most people, in reality, are a combination of types–like Realistic-Investigative, or Artistic-Social.  Therefore,
you will probably want to consider occupations in more
than one category.

In summary, you are most likely to choose a satisfying work if you choose to do something that fits your personality type.

If your two strongest personality types are “inconsistent”–Realistic and Social, Investigative and Enterprising, or Artistic and Conventional–be sure to read the next section, below, and this article.

Holland’s Hexagon

John Holland created a hexagonal model that shows the relationship between the personality types and environments.

CK chart

Notice that the personality types closest to each other are more alike than those farther away. You can see this most clearly when you compare the personalities opposite each other, on the hexagon. For example, read the description of the types for Realistic and Social. You will see that they are virtually the opposite of each other. On the other hand, Social and Artistic are not that far apart.

The same holds true for the work environments. Read their descriptions and you will see.

See how the hexagon reflects introversion and extroversion; personality-environment match applies to those dimensions also.

Inconsistent Personality Patterns

If your two strongest personality types are Realistic and Social, Investigative and Enterprising, or Artistic and Conventional, read about inconsistent personality patterns and how they can work to your advantage.

Two requirements for using Holland’s theory

To benefit from Holland’s theory, you must use a:

  1. Valid (accurate) measure of Holland’s personality types, supported by published research, and
  2. List of careers and majors that are accurately assigned to the correct personality types.

The assessment in Career Key Discovery is one of the few that meets these two requirements.

Career Key Discovery for Individuals   »

Career Key Discovery for Groups   »

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