What The Holland Code Means When You’re Seeking Career Clarity – Forbes post

By: Rachel Montanez Contributor

We all have distinct gifts and personalities. Some of our traits would not be accepted or appreciated by customers or coworkers, while others may provide entree into career paths we never thought of.

The Holland Code was invented and codified by John Holland, an American Psychologist during the 1950s to the 1980s. In the 1990s, the Department of Labor accepted Dr. Holland’s theories as part of their work in helping people change careers.

While we are not licensed nor trained to test people on the Holland Scale, we can give you some guidance as to what these slices may mean to you during and after a coaching session or two. We glean the information from the conversations we have, as well as looking closely at your career path to date.

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When I worked as a career coach with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Workforce Innovation Occupation Act, our primary electronic assessment was based on the Holland code. John Holland was an American psychologist whose theory of career choice is based on personality types. In the 1990s, the Department Of Labor started using his personality theory in the “Interests” section of the Occupational Information Network (O*NET ), an online database. The idea is that everyone has a Holland code, and it’s usually made up of multiple letters that correspond with occupations.


Over the last decade, I’ve seen that fulfilling career changes require a comprehensive approach answering how, when, what, how much, where and why. Holland’s personality theory can help raise awareness on what careers might be a good fit. In my eyes, this isn’t set in stone, and I wouldn’t want you to think there isn’t any wiggle room with where career roles sit. Let’s talk about what each letter stands for along with some of the career occupations as identified by O*NET. 

The Holland Code
Rachel Montanez, LLC

R: Realistic

Are you often described as a doer and do you see yourself that way? 

Do you like to work with “things” that require motor coordination like your hands, tools or a machine? 

Are you assertive?

When you’re faced with a problem, do you prefer to approach it by doing rather than talking or thinking? 

When describing, thinking or talking about your interests, is there a pattern and common theme related to scientific and mechanical areas? 

Career options


Architect (with Artistic and Enterprising) 

Dentist (with Investigative and Social) 

Engineer (with Investigative and Conventional) 

I: Investigative 

Are you often described as a thinker and do you see yourself that way? 

Do you prefer to work with data, ideas and concepts?

When you’re faced with a problem, do you prefer to use analytical thinking and logic rather than doing? 

Are you observant and a deep thinker? 

When describing, thinking or talking about your interests, is there a pattern and common theme related to scientific and mechanical areas? 

Is intellectual stimulation a key requirement for you? 

Career options

Professor/Research – Ph.D. 

Economist (with Conventional and Social)


A: Artistic 

Do people often comment on your creativity? 

Are you energized by using your imagination and working with ideas and things? 

Does working with too much structure and rules make your workday dull? 

Do you prefer to work with people as opposed to being engaged in physical work?

Would others describe you as emotional, intuitive or sensitive? 

Career options

Broadcast journalism (with Enterprising) 

Translator (with Social)

Editor (with Social)

Advertisers (with Enterprising)

Fashion designer (with Realistic and Enterprising)

S: Social

Do you love working with people?

When thinking about what makes you happy, is it often teaching, coaching or helping someone in another functional capacity? 

Do you have at least one social problem that you’re really passionate about and actively engaged in through volunteering, donations or in any other way? 

Are you energized or intrigued by people?

When thinking about the type of environments you’ve enjoyed working in, are they often collaborative? 

Do you consider a job meaningful when where more than 70% of your day-to-day tasks are spent actively improving the lives of others?

Career options

Nurse (with Realistic and Investigative)

Social worker (with Investigative)



Head of learning and development (with Enterprising)

E: Enterprising 

Are you able to persuade and influence others through your speech? 

Do you like to work with people and data? 

When thinking about your values, are they often things like building a great reputation, status and money? 

Do people compliment you on your ability to lead and motivate others? 

Do you feel bored at work when there aren’t regular opportunities to take on new challenges? 

Career options

Broadcast journalism (with Artistic) 

Lawyer (with Investigative and Social) 

Public relations (with Artistic) 

Sales (with Conventional and Social) 

Executive or Manager

C: Conventional 

Do you thrive when there’s lots of structure, rules and regulations?

Are tasks that require a high-level of precision and attention to detail appealing to you? 

Do you prefer to work on tasks that require managing data, information and processes?

Is the term “conservative” a word that you’ve heard others use to describe you? 

Would others describe you as very logical? 

Career options

Certified Public Accountant (with Investigative and Enterprising)


Copy Editor (with Artistic and Investigative)

Financial Analyst (with Investigative)

Don’t forget, your Holland code only answers a small fraction of “what path should I pursue?” Additionally, after finding a path, you’ll still need to figure out the type of organization that best matches your values and can support your capabilities. You’ll also want to transfer and bridge your experience plus market and brand yourself. Career changes require a high-level strategy, energy and focus, but I know you can do this. 

Work with Rachel in her career change coaching program

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