People tend to arrive at their careers in many different ways, including through deliberate or even subconscious choices. Researchers over the years have studied the ways in which people choose careers, in turn developing interesting theories explaining those choices. The pioneering researcher John Holland, for example, believed that people preferred jobs and careers where they could be around others like them. Holland's theory was that your career satisfaction depended on how well your personality meshed with the environment found in your workplace.
Career Choice Theory
John Holland's theory of career choice is based on the belief that most people fit into one of six personality types, known by the acronym RIASEC. Holland believed that people had either realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising or conventional personality types. Holland also believed that people searched for environments that would let them use their personalities in their careers. Your chances of career satisfaction would be greater, Holland thought, if you could express your attitudes and values while taking on enjoyable problems or roles.
Personality and Environment
In Holland's career choice theory, behavior is determined by an interaction between personality and environment. When people of the same personality types work together in a job or career, Holland said, they also create environments that fit and reward their particular personality types. If you're an artistic personality, for instance, choosing to work in a similar environment will improve your chances of success and career satisfaction. Through study, Holland also identified six basic types of work environment that directly matched his six personality types.
Holland's Work Environments
The are many different careers available to people falling within one of the six personality types identified by Holland's RIASEC acronym. For example, occupations for artistic personality types include singers, songwriters, dancers, editors, reporters and writers. To use another example, Holland believed that conventional personality types would find satisfaction in secretarial, computer operator or bank clerk-type careers among others. Yet another example from Holland's RIASEC acronym is the social personality type, with nursing, counseling, police work or teaching making for potential good career fits.
Using Holland's Theory
John Holland's theory of career choice is widely used in career counseling and could be helpful if you're struggling to find a satisfying career. You can also find Web-based assessments such as the Self-Directed Search that make direct use of Holland's career choice theories. A popular website, The Career Key, even lets you to take a career choice test based on John Holland's work. Happily, by finding a career among like personalities, you may just be able to assure yourself of lifelong career satisfaction.
Tony Guerra served more than 20 years in the U.S. Navy. He also spent seven years as an airline operations manager. Guerra is a former realtor, real-estate salesperson, associate broker and real-estate education instructor. He holds a master's degree in management and a bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies.