Holland’s Theory of Career Choice

The problem of career choice has become particularly relevant nowadays, against the background of the diversification of labor and workforce migration. As a result, people often face it due to the influence of internal and external factors. Currently, under the influence of scientific and technological progress, professional flexibility and mobility, i.e. the ability to quickly retrain or even change the profession become the most important elements of professional qualification. The willingness of a person to look a new job, develop the skills required for such search, the propensity to change profession and place of residence defines the competitiveness of such worker on the labor market and success in employment and is studied by the various counseling theories. Almost all of them aim at the prediction of the following factors: (a) direction of a professional choice, (b) career plans, (c) behavior at work, (d) presence of satisfaction from the activity, and (e) career stability. The following research focuses on Holland’s theory of career choice, including the determination of its relevance in the modern conditions, its review from the personal standpoint, and its application to the case study.

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Theory Description

The theory of career choice, which was developed by Holland in 1959, puts forward the position that the professional choice of an individual depends on the type of personality that forms in the course of upbringing. In turn, it is possible to identify the six personality types: social, enterprising, conventional, realistic, artistic, and investigative. Each of them is a typical product of the interaction between cultural diversity and personal factors, including parents, social class, physical environment, heredity, and so on. This experience forces a person to prefer certain activities which can lead to the formation of certain abilities and result in an internal selection of a particular profession.

The people of realistic type are honest, open, courageous, materialistic, persistent, practical, and thrifty.  Their core values include specific things, money, power, and status. They prefer work that is usually mandatory in its nature and has a connection to the systematic manipulation of objects. Moreover, such individuals tend to avoid the didactic and therapeutic activities related to social situations, favoring the occupations requiring motor skills, dexterity, and specificity. Thus, they are strong in agriculture, mechanics, machinery, and manual labor in general.

The people of research type are analytical, cautious, critical, intellectual, methodical, precise, rational, unassuming, and independent. Its core values are science-centered. They prefer the professions related to systematic observation and creative research on biological, physical, and cultural phenomena with the purpose of controlling and understanding those. On the other hand, they tend to avoid business activities.
The individuals belonging to social type are the natural leaders, being sociable, friendly, understanding, and responsible. Their core values are of a social and ethical nature. They prefer activities associated with affecting the other people (teaching, informing, healing, etc.). The professional choices of this type include pedagogy, healthcare, and clinical psychology. Such people tend to solve problems relying mostly on emotions, feelings, and the ability to communicate.

The people of artistic type are emotional, imaginative, impulsive, impractical, original, flexible, and tend to make independent decisions. Their core value is aesthetic quality, with them preferring the activities of a creative nature, including music, art, and literature. Their verbal ability prevails over all others, so they avoid systematic and precise activities business.
The representatives of enterprising type are risky, energetic, domineering, ambitious, sociable, impulsive, and optimistic. Their core values are the political and economic achievements. Thus, such people prefer the activities that allow manipulating the others to achieve organizational goals and economic benefits. They tend to avoid repetitive mental work, unambiguous situations, and manual labor, being interested in tasks associated with management, status, and power.

Finally, the individuals of conventional type are conformal (i.e. they agree with the generally recognized norms and rules), diligent, skillful, agile, discreet, and obedient. Their core values are the economic achievements. As a result, they prefer clearly structured activities, which must be carried out in accordance with the requirements and instructions. Their approach to problems is stereotypical, action-oriented, and concrete. Thus, they tend to choose the profession related to office work and calculations, such as accounting, banking, statistics, and computer programming.
The individuals of each type tend to surround themselves with certain people and objects and are aimed at solving specific problems, i.e. they create a corresponding type of environment. As a result, the theory also identifies six environmental models. Professional satisfaction, achievements, and stability depend on the consistency between personality type and the type of environment. The more significant is the difference, the more dissatisfied, uncomfortable, and destructive professional relationships may become.

Relevance and Applicability of the Theory

Holland has developed the theory of career choice more than fifty years ago, which makes it possible to assume that it may not be applicable to the contemporary conditions. In particular, the analysis of its concepts allows determining the following bottlenecks and shortcomings. First of all, within the theory, the vocational identity of a person (e.g. the traits that define its choice of occupation) may also represent career indecision. Nowadays, the diversity of available jobs, as well as the ever-changing nature of the labor markets can make it difficult to apply it to certain situations. In turn, the understanding of the vocational identity as a factor that can be used during the forecasting of career stability over time is necessary. At the same time, the relationships between the described personality types are rather well studied, on the contrary to the ones between the environmental models. Holland claimed that the latter are very consisted and differentiated. However, it is possible to note that such consistency usually has no relation to persistence during a person’s period of education. The ability to predict the stability of one’s career is also limited, which make it difficult to apply the theory in the conditions of globalization, which features an increase in the degree of interaction between the different environments.

Moreover, the provided personality types lack testing in the domains outside the career. For example, the structure of an individual’s family may be quite different from that of the professional interests. As a result, it may be difficult to apply Holland’s theory to the cases of retirees that continue to work. By taking into account that work after retirement has become a common phenomenon in the United States, one can state that the forecast of a person’s career stability may be unreliable. This statement is especially true in the case a retiree expresses the desire to try out the new type of professional activity.
Therefore, the points provided above can be useful in making the implications for the use of Holland’s theory in the contemporary conditions. First of all, its limited ability to forecast such factors as job satisfaction dictates the need for the specific perception of the interest scores obtained during the process of its application to a particular situation. For example, it is advisable to consider them as a single element of a complex system of variables that identify the suitable work environments. It is also imperative to clarify the difference between the satisfactions from the nature of work and the extrinsic one. Moreover, in the current conditions, the labor force is highly unstable, being affected by such factors as economic changes and migration. As a result, many of the people are likely to have limited career options. In turn, they may not be free when it comes to the use of interests for choosing their professional activity. However, such limitation does not make the theory of career choice irrelevant, only presenting the requirements related to the familiarity with the constraints of reality. As a result, in the contemporary conditions, Holland’s theory and the scores obtained during the process of its application to the case of particular people may be used for the exploration of the feasible career options.

Personal Application

From the personal standpoint, it is possible to apply Holland’s theory to one’s situation. In particular, nowadays, in the conditions of globalization and internationalization of almost all aspect of life, a significant role is being played by the cross-cultural principle of interaction between nations. Therefore, it presents an important issue for higher education through the introduction of the constituent elements of the globalization to the educational process. As a result, it has a considerable effect on the level of skills of the labor force on the national level. Moreover, the educational standards of many universities are recognized by the global community, providing one with the ability to work not only in the U.S. but also many other countries, thus broadening the range of potential career options. Such situation dictates the need for the identification of the most feasible choices that may ensure the stability of one’s career in the future. In this regard, Holland’s theory may become a valuable tool.

On the other hand, the globalization of the world financial sector entails the strengthening of its instability due to the increasing scales of the financial crises, which affect the economy and, therefore, the level of employment. In this case, the risks to the national labor markets, which experience the effects from the country’s participation in the global processes, are obvious, potentially leading to various economic constraints. In particular, one can experience forced career transitions, as well as the rapid shifts in the nature of work (Chen et al., 2012). In this regard, Holland’s theory can be quite useful as its application to the one’s case may provide the entire family of occupations to explore instead of the particular professional activity. The obtained score can be used not only as a basis for the current career decisions but also the future ones. As a result, the negative effect of the majority of the transitions described above can be mitigated, which will also contribute to the stability of one’s career.

Case Study

The scope of Holland’s theory makes it possible to apply it not only to the commonplace process of career choice but also to more exotic cases, including those related to the people that suffer from mental disorders but are still capable of integrating into the society. In this regard, one can point out the case study that took place between 2007 and 2010 by Joanne Elizabeth Williams, targeting the students of Wenhill College (England) with the purpose of identification of their career choices, as well as the factors that facilitated them, including mental issues. It is interesting to note that in the course of study, the majority of the participants expressed the desire to work in the field of counseling. According to Holland’s theory, such activity is suitable for the individuals that possess the social type of personality, i.e. the ones that have the need for interacting with the other people and demonstrate social responsibility. In this case, the core skills to be possessed include verbal, communicative, and interactive abilities. Moreover, the personal characteristics and values are to include idealism, humanism, morality, the ability to understand others; and optimism.

At the same time, the motives were different for each of the participants. For example, Debbie has chosen to work in the field of counseling due to the positive example provided by her grandmother, whom she perceived as a maternal figure, which may be considered a sign of social responsibility. Moreover, the desire to give people their lives back demonstrates her humanistic nature. As a result, she can be quite motivated, being able to overcome most of the challenges on her way.

On the other hand, Emma justified her choice by stating that the people suffering from mental disorders are more likely to open up to a person in the similar position, which indicates the ability to understand the others, as well as the compassion. Additionally, the wish not to see people being in pain is a demonstration of altruism. In turn, she may be able to establish the connections with those in need of help with relative ease, which can become a rewarding experience and contribute to the stability of her counseling career.

Thus, potentially, all the reviewed students can work in the field of counseling. However, it is imperative to take their personal traits, which are undoubtedly affected by their mental state, into account. One cannot deny that failure to achieve this goal, being facilitated by low career stability, is likely to have a devastating effect on the health of these people, potentially rendering the previous efforts of reintegration useless. The application of Holland’s theory to the case of each participant will allow defining the shortcomings that are in need of addressing, as well as the overall level of satisfaction from the job.
In the case of Debbie describing herself as an escapist that sometimes wants to have a time out, the negligence towards work may become a problem. In other words, she may experience problems when trying to cope with the challenges that arise in the course of counseling, namely ethical and moral dilemmas. At the same time, the high motivation may give her the strength to deal with such problems, especially since she has a positive example to follow. As a result, she will become closer to her role model, which will improve the level of job satisfaction. Thus, in accordance with Holland’s theory, her chances of becoming a successful human services specialist are relatively high.

On the other hand, Emma, being stressed relatively easily and, most importantly, being affected by the others, may wish to reconsider. As a person that is prone to depression, she is unlikely to maintain an optimistic outlook for long. By taking into account that counseling usually revolves around depressing topics, one cannot exclude the possibility that her altruism and the ability to understand the others can vanish in the middle of a session, resulting in failure. Thus, not only her level of job satisfaction will be low, but she may have a negative impact on a person she wishes to help, which may lead to mood swings – a state that is dangerous for a mentally unstable person.

It should be noted that the obtained data is to be used only for guidance, i.e. the ultimate choice must be made by a person. However, provided that the motivation of the reviewed participants is high, they may use it to obtain an insight into their shortcomings and deal with them, developing skills and attributes required for the stable work in the social environment. An increase in career stability will contribute to the success of the reintegration of such individuals, reducing the risk of them returning to their previous, destructive lifestyles significantly, and thus improve the overall health level of the society.


The analysis of Holland’s theory allowed identifying certain shortcomings that may affect its relevance in the modern conditions. These include the low stability of the work environments, the presence of career indecision, and the limited possibilities of its application to the cases that are not related to the professional activity of an individual. Nevertheless, these problems do not lower its value. This statement receives support from the usefulness of Holland’s theory in the globalized environment, with it providing an opportunity for reviewing the entire families of occupation, as well as making the long-term plans. Moreover, its application to the cases of people experiencing mental issues allowed obtaining the information on the challenges they may face in the position of their choice, as well as the shortcomings they require addressing in order to achieve career stability. Thus, Holland’s theory may become one of the tools that can be used to facilitate the reintegration of such individuals into the society, ensuring that they remain its productive members that are capable of helping others. In this regard, the usefulness of Holland’s theory is undeniable.

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