What is the Holland Code?

Matt Brady
Matt Brady
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The Holland Code is a set of assessments used to help individuals discover a career or vocation. They are also known as the Holland Codes, the Holland Codes Career Model, or the Holland Hexagon. The Holland Code was developed by American psychologist John L. Holland. In all, Holland developed six personality types which would be naturally suited for different activities and jobs. They are: realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising, and conventional. The Holland Codes are often abbreviated as RIASEC. Individuals can figure out their own personal Holland Code by taking aptitude tests that measure personality traits and ask what activities one enjoys.

The Holland Hexagon is a graphic illustration of the six personality types, in which the personality types each occupy a different corner. Holland designed it to convey what personality types he felt complemented each other, and which ones most often clashed in individuals. For example, artistic is only one corner away from social, but three corners away from conventional. This is meant to convey that artistic personalities often go hand-in-hand with social types, but not usually with conventional types. These are to some extent generalizations and not firm rules. Some individuals may well display aspects of an artistic personality as well as of a conventional personality.

The Holland Code describes each personality type. Realistic types, for example, are the most hands-on, do-it-yourself types, according to this code. These are people who enjoy manual labor, physical sports, and operating machinery. Investigative types are more analytical, using their minds to explore and solve complex problems and may be more apt to enjoy careers as lawyers and scientists. Artistic types are independent and creative, the most suited for art and performance. Social types are cooperative and enjoy working in groups. These are the individuals that enjoy teaching and counseling. Enterprising types enjoy leading groups and influencing others. Managers, business people and communications majors tend to fit this category the best. Conventional types are detail-oriented and enjoy organizational activities, such as accounting, banking and secretarial work.

Most people don’t fall under just one Holland Code, but several. As a result, most aptitude tests that measure the Holland Codes return an individual’s top three personality types. This is helpful because most people thrive at their career when able to bring a blend of personality traits. The Holland Codes have received widespread use in the world of job counseling. The U.S. Department of Labor, for example, uses the Holland Code as a part of its career counseling services.

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