When I was in graduate school, I thought the most boring class I would take would be the part on career theories.  However, my very wise professor showed me how fascinating this can be since career is where adults arguably spend 80% of their time.  Career isn’t just what you do for work.  It’s most of where you live your life.  So it’s important to make sure that, to the best of your abilities and circumstances, you pick one that suits you and that you will enjoy.

I’ve found that one of the most useful approaches when exploring career choices is Holland’s Occupation Themes.  This is a specific type of career theory developed by Dr. John Holland, American psychologist, in the 1950s.  Holland postulated that people choose careers based on their personality traits and came up with a code similar to what you might see in the Meyers Briggs Personality Inventory (MBTI).

The code is RIASEC.  Broken down:

Realistic—the doers

Investigative—the thinkers

Artistic—the creators

Social—the helpers

Enterprising—the persuaders

Conventional—the organizers

You can take a test like the Strong’s Interest Inventory (Found here: https://www.cpp.com/en-US/Products-and-Services/Strong) and find out what your Holland Code is.  You will be given 3 letters which are in order of highest to lowest.  For example, my Holland Code was RAI.

What Holland then did, which I think is mega cool, is that he looked at the different career environments and gave those environments 3 letter codes as well.  So for example, my top career choice in my own inventory was physician.  Amusingly, I didn’t land too far off without the guidance of this awesome inventory so I’m going to say, based on my personal experience, this test seems pretty legit to me.  Other suggestions I got were military officer (which I actually did investigate very seriously back in college), mental health counselor, and a few other similar vocations.

If you’ve ever signed up for career counseling with me, you know I ask you to take this inventory.  Yes, it costs money but, especially if you’re under 18 and haven’t picked a career yet, it is very much worth it.  This is not the most expensive assessment I can ask someone to do and it’s really fun so I definitely advise taking it if you’re looking for guidance.

Then, I have all my clients bring their results packet in for a session or two to discuss what the results said.  Simply because an assessment prints out some results, it doesn’t always mean you agree with them.  That’s okay!  It’s actually a part of the process.  Ever try making a decision, and then you flip a coin, and the second the coin goes up in the air, you know exactly what you want?  This is kind of similar and it’s very useful because all of this is a part of deciding what you want to do.  For example, in my own life, I would have loved being a physician!  But when I was actually given the choice of what I wanted to pursue, I decided I didn’t like touching people in that setting but could listen to their stories for hours.  So even though a test told me, after I had already made my career decisions, that my number one career fit would be a physician, I don’t have to agree with that.

Assessments don’t take into account other career theories such as Krumboltz’s Social Learning Theory (i.e. Chaos Theory or Happenstance Theory) which is the idea that we may be on a set track but then something happens in life (as it always does) that knocks us onto a different course and impacts our decisions.  I also enjoy utilizing Brown’s Values Based Theory stating that competency and proclivity are less important than what an individual finds value in.  Going back to my own career as an example, I believe I would have chosen to pursue counseling regardless of what my assessment had told me given that I had a very radical experience that taught me the value of mental health.

Thus, taking an assessment on its own without the skilled instruction of a helping professional can be a little dubious as we have information that we learned through school and training that can help better shape and inform your decisions.  We can draw off of many theories at once to help you arrive at a decision that you’re comfortable with.  So for example, if a client of mine were assigned a career based on their Holland Code that suggests they should pursue of a military career but my client is a pacifist, I can then draw from the other theories I have been trained on to help them find something more suitable such as job possibly involving diplomacy or physical exertion such as a personal trainer.

However, I thoroughly enjoy utilizing Holland’s Career Themes as a very helpful starting place and integrating other relevant theories along the way.  Everyone should have a career that they love.  I know that doesn’t always happen but if you find yourself at a crossroads either ready to decide your first career or looking for a change, counseling and assessment is a great way to get some more information to help inform your decision!  Choosing a career does not have to be this daunting process.  Let’s find what works for you and get to it!