Holland Occupational Themes: Different Personalities Suit Different Jobs

According to Holland's model, different personality types suit different occupational environments. Find out what they are and which job might suit you.
Holland Occupational Themes: Different Personalities Suit Different Jobs
Elena Sanz

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Last update: 19 February, 2023

You spend almost a third of your life working. For this reason, the position you choose will have a tremendous effect on your quality of life.

Vocational guidance seeks to point you in the right direction and help you make the right decision. In fact, there are various models and theories in this area. One of the most interesting and most employed in professional practice is the Holland Occupational Themes (RIASEC).

This model is based on an approach that focuses on the characteristics of each individual and on the degree of adjustment required in different jobs.

A woman works hard making reports
According to Holland, we look for occupations and jobs in which we can use our abilities and skills and display our interests and values.

Holland’s Occupational Themes Model

Holland’s Occupational Themes model is based on the premise that all occupational preferences are a veiled expression of underlying character.  Therefore, individuals will choose different careers according to their personalities.

Of course, you might be working in a professional field that’s unrelated to who you are. This could be due to economic reasons or job availability. However, you tend to be more attracted to the kinds of jobs that fit your own personality traits. In addition, you perform better in these jobs.

This has different implications. On the one hand, it’s understood that professional choices are an expression of personality. Therefore, if you follow your vocation, you’ll likely find people with similar traits as you in your work environment. On the other hand, you’ll feel more satisfied and fulfilled and will enjoy greater job stability as long as you choose an environment that suits your personality type.

Holland’s environments and personality types

Holland’s Occupational Themes model is hexagonal. It describes six different personality typologies that correspond to six occupational environments.

The description of these personalities is based on the shared traits possessed by the members of a given work group. For example, competencies, values, goals, or problem-solving style. They’re as follows:

1. Realistic (Doers)

The realistic personality tends to have an objective and concrete vision of the world. They’re constant and dynamic individuals. They’re focused mainly on the material and practical plane.

These people feel greater attraction to and tend to be skilled in tasks that imply the orderly and systematic manipulation of objects, tools, and machinery. For this reason, some of their favorite professions may be related to agriculture, livestock, mechanics, electricity, or engineering.

2. Investigative (Thinkers)

The investigative personality is more focused on the theoretical plane, which involves analysis, and abstraction. Consequently, they tend to avoid situations with a highly practical component. They’re observant people. Moreover, they possess a great curiosity about the functioning of physical, biological, or cultural phenomena, which they wish to investigate and understand.

These individuals are drawn to creative and mentally challenging tasks. As a result, they often do well in theoretical and investigative occupations. For example, law, physics, chemistry, or economics.

3. Artistic (Creators)

Artistic individuals are mainly focused on the expression of emotions and sensations and on creating and projecting through originality and imagination. They tend to move away from conventional and extremely realistic occupations. Instead, they opt for free and little systematized environments in which they can be independent and pour out their artistic sensibilities. Musicians, dancers, writers, designers, and decorators fit this profile.

4. Social (Helpers)

The social personality enjoys interacting with others and possesses good communication skills. They’re empathetic individuals with a desire to help others. They tend to be leaders and idealists and have a positive self-image. They prefer occupations related to care, training, and guidance. For instance, medicine, psychology, teaching, or social work.

5. Enterprising (Persuaders)

The enterprising personality typology is characterized by a high achievement orientation and leadership capacity. They’re persuasive, bold, dynamic, and energetic individuals. Capable of taking risks, they avoid the intellectual and aesthetic plane. Therefore, they focus more on communication, organization, and the search for profit. Marketing, public relations, commerce, banking, and, in general, the business world, tend to be their preferred areas.

6. Conventional (Organisers)

This last option encompasses logical, disciplined, and organized individuals. As such, they tend to be formal and conformist. They prefer orderly and systematic activities. For instance, recording, filing, organizing, and processing data. Administrators, librarians, bank tellers, and office workers tend to have these kinds of personalities.

Holland’s model is useful to guide the individual in their choice of study.

The contributions of Holland’s  Occupational Themes

According to this model, individuals with similar traits tend to create, in their interactions, specific atmospheres. In addition, Holland identified six types of work environments in accordance with the six identified personality types.

Various cross-cultural studies have made it possible to identify and corroborate the different vertices of Holland’s hexagonal model. In the same way, inventories that classify both people (in personality typologies) and occupations (in occupational environments) have been created. They seek to guide the individual toward the most suitable job for them.

Holland’s model is useful in guiding a person in their choice of study, when deciding on their first job, or when they feel they need a change of career. Based on their traits, values, interests, and skills, they can select the environment that best suits their needs. Consequently, they’ll achieve more success and satisfaction.

However, it should be remembered that it’s not always this simple. That’s because we all have, to a greater or lesser degree, characteristics of various typologies. Therefore, it’s always important to carry out an individualized analysis.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Martínez, J. M., & Valls, F. (2003). Estudio y análisis del position classification inventory (PCI) de Gottfredson y Holland. Electronic Journal of Research in Educational Psychology1(1), 121-136.
  • Martínez, J. M., & Valls, F. (2008). Aplicación de la teoría de Holland a la clasificación de ocupaciones. Adaptación del inventario de clasificación de ocupaciones (ICO). Revista mexicana de psicología25(1), 151-164.
  • Rivas Martínez, F. (1976). Teorías vocacionales y su aportación a la orientación. Revista española de Pedagogía, 75-106.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.