Translate Your Interests Into Career Possibilities

By Gerald Walsh ©

Psychologist John Holland (1919-2008) pioneered one of the most commonly-used frameworks, called the Holland Code, to help people understand the relationship between their interests and career choices.

Holland concluded that you are more likely to excel in your work and experience greater job satisfaction if you are able to express your personality through your work.

For example, if you are friendly, outgoing and like helping other people, you should find careers such as teaching, nursing, and social work more satisfying than ones which require you to work in an office cubicle by yourself.

Likewise, if you are a practical, get-things-done sort of person, you may become frustrated working in an environment where everyone else prefers to sit back and discuss abstract ideas.

While this may seem obvious, it is surprising how many people end up in jobs that do not match their personality.

Holland’s model uses six groupings to help people identify their personality (and job) preferences:

Realistic people (“doers”) tend to excel in jobs that produce tangible results. They are mechanically inclined and enjoy working with tools and machines while they fix, build and repair things. The jobs that satisfy them usually involve physical activity and are very much hands-on.

For the most part, these people would rather avoid dealing with people and discussing abstract ideas. They also avoid reams of data and just want to get down to solving problems. They also tend to avoid careers that involve dealing with others. Instead they are drawn to careers that require problem solving like computer technician, architect, electrician, and plumber.

Investigative people (“thinkers”) prefer thinking over doing. They are most satisfied when their work involves tasks such as developing ideas, conducting research, gathering information, and analyzing trends. The more complex the problem is, the happier they are. Since they are at their best sorting through problems on their own, they usually avoid working in large teams.

Artistic people (“creators”) are creative, sensitive, innovative, and non-conforming. Like Investigative types, they prefer to work with ideas and concepts and tend to express themselves in art, writing, dance, theatre, or design. They do their best work in unstructured environments that offer a lot of variety and avoid occupations that are too conventional or traditional.

Social people (“helpers”) like to work with people. By nature, they are caring, helpful and friendly. They prefer work that involves social interaction and helping others. They like working in teams and are very effective solving problems collaboratively. Since their focus is people, they do not like a lot of numbers and avoid work that might require using machines or tools. Social people are drawn to careers in nursing, teaching, counselling, and other occupations that involve helping people.

Enterprising people (“persuaders”) prefer to lead and influence others to achieve business or organizational goals. Because they are usually extroverted, ambitious, and confident, they thrive in work environments where they are in charge. In these roles, they often achieve status and recognition. And because they are so persuasive and motivational, they are effective in getting other people to “join in.” Not surprisingly, careers like law, business, and entrepreneurship are ones that fit this interest most.

Conventional people (“organizers”) value precision, accuracy and clear procedures. They are at their best when organizing activities that require attention to detail and planning. They approach work methodically and are efficient in getting things done. Generally, they work better in structured environments, prefer large organizations, and lean toward careers in accounting, engineering, human resources, and administration.

Where do your interests lie?

Here is a short exercise that will help you identify your own interests and link them to possible career options that appear to fit those interests. They also hold the best promise for a rewarding career.

After completing the exercise, think about some of the career options this exercise has suggested. Are these jobs you could see yourself doing? Do you have the necessary training and skills to consider them? How might you explore these options further?


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Gerald Walsh is an executive recruiter, career coach, public speaker and author. He is the author of “PINNACLE: How to Land the Right Job and Find Fulfillment in Your Career. You can follow Gerry on Twitter @@Gerald_Walsh