John Holland started working on his theory of vocational choices in the 50s, culminating in his career-defining work, The Holland Occupational Themes.
The idea that forms the basis of Holland’s theory is that the careers you would enjoy are linked to your personality. Choosing a profession that matches your personality means that you are more likely to flourish at your job and find it fulfilling.
Holland identified six categories of personality, and the careers associated with them. No one’s personality fits neatly into just one category, but by finding which of the categories you are closest to, you will see the list of professions which correspond best to you.
Holland called the six categories he identified by the names: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional. His theory is referred to as the Holland Codes or the RIASEC model - an acronym formed from the first letter of each category. Ever since Holland’s Occupational Themes came out, his theory has been widely used in careers counseling research and practice.
The six categories
Holland’s six personality categories are described below. Take our test to find out yours!
- Realistic (R) - Doers who like building things and working with their hands.
People who score highly in this category tend to be confident, competitive, and good at getting on with things. They are practical, honest and straightforward. They prefer to approach a problem by trying different, concrete solutions, rather than thinking about it for too long. They enjoy working in mechanical or practical science fields, working outdoors or with animals, using tools and machines, or their own physical strength.
- Investigative (I) - Independent thinkers who love working on interesting problems.
People who score highly in this category enjoy theories and ideas. They are confident in their intellect, curious about everything but cautious about action. They like to observe and to make sure they understand a situation completely before they do anything. They enjoy working with data and research, in scientific fields, technology, or academia.
- Artistic (A) - Creatives who often rebel against rules and structure.
People who score highly in this category are open and inventive, and enjoy making things. They like working in free environments where they can be impulsive, and want to produce work which is original and unique. They are sensitive to others and perceptive about the world around them. They enjoy working with their hands or with people, and in fields involving art, design and self-expression.
- Social (S) - People-lovers who enjoy close personal relationships.
People who score highly in this category want to help others and improve their lives. They like to work in teams or in cooperative environments, where everyone shares a goal. They are idealistic and generous, and easily forgive. They enjoy working in fields like education or health.
- Enterprising (E) - Persuasive talkers who enjoy being the centre of attention.
People who score highly in this category are assertive and charismatic, and good at motivating others. They like adventure and have lots of energy. They are ambitious, like to start and lead projects, and to have responsibilities and be in a decision-making position. They enjoy working in fields like business, law or politics.
- Conventional (C) - Great organizers who like working within a clear structure.
People who score highly in this category are efficient, accurate and hard-working, and always do the best job that they can. They like working with others if the relationships are clear and professional, and they are good at shouldering responsibility. They like working with data, computers and processes.