Explanation of my Holland Codes career inventory type?
March 18, 2012 5:42 PM   Subscribe

Anyone know about the Holland Codes personality assessment for career planning?

I'm pretty geeky when it comes to personality tests. Most of them make sense to me, but I keep having issues with the Holland Codes (RIASEC) inventory. I understand the basic gist and I find it easy to fit my friends and co-workers into the categories. The problem is, I'm having a hard time understanding where I fall. I always test as Social, followed by Artistic and then Investigative. But on the other hand, I'm really not that "social" of a person in the common sense of the term. I enjoy teaching and volunteering and working in customer service (all social careers), but I'm shy and reserved. My sister and dad would probably find it hilarious if I told them I'd tested as "social" on any test. So what's the deal? I enjoy working with people and words, but I'm not outgoing and most wouldn't describe me as extremely friendly. Is the problem that I fit into NO category and social is just the closest fit? I have no artistic talent, but I'm pretty individual--maybe I'd fall in artistic if I learned how to paint or sing? Or Investigative if I liked chemistry instead of history?

In sum: Does it make sense for a person to fall into the social category of the Holland Codes if he is not, well . . . very social by nature? And by extension, would I enjoy the "social" careers (according to the test) if I'm people oriented but reserved?
posted by sunrisecoffee to Work & Money (4 answers total)
My grad school classes are fairly far behind me, but I'm going to give this a go.

The Holland codes describe what you like to have as your primary focus while you're at work. They don't necessarily correspond to personality traits like being social that might apply in other situations. Your options for things to focus on at work in the Holland scheme are:


Social means you prefer to focus on people more than data, things, or ideas. And, as you say, you enjoy working with people.
Artistic means you prefer people and ideas.
Investigative means you prefer things and ideas.

The other options that didn't apply to you were Realistic (just things), Enterprising (data and people) and Conventional (data and things).

So, people not like you, who may or may not be very outgoing in everyday life but prefer to deal with things or data at work, might be accountants or programmers or work with their hands. The whole test makes much more sense if you don't think about it as a personality test, but instead as an employment test. Sometimes what works for you at work and what works for you in life are two different things.
posted by donnagirl at 7:07 PM on March 18, 2012

One of the challenges that exists is that the RIASEC theory seems to be among the more psychometrically sound ones. Just like donnagirl, my grad education is far behind me also, but I wanted to point out that the RIASEC was always frustrating to me for the same reasons it is to you...there seemed to be a disconnect between who I see myself as and the results.

In your case, the disconnect seems to be in the definition of the word "social". You say "I enjoy teaching and volunteering and working in customer service (all social careers)..." and I think that's what you need to take away from your work experience as it relates to the results.

tl:dr Sometimes what works for you at work and what works for you in life are two different things.
posted by Hypnotic Chick at 8:00 AM on March 19, 2012

Thanks for your perspective. So could I look at it like, "I think people are more interesting than things or ideas, therefore I am the social type?" I definitelly do find people more interesting, I just prefer listening to them over talking to them.
posted by sunrisecoffee at 12:19 PM on March 19, 2012

Yes, that's exactly how to look at it. People are way more interesting to me than things or data, too, and I consider myself fairly introverted. Really, it's the test's fault for the confusion. If they'd chosen another word (Helper, Collaborator, anything, really), it would be much less frustrating to all the quiet folks who want to work with people.
posted by donnagirl at 4:32 PM on March 19, 2012

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