Chapter 4: Interests and Personality


Have you ever noticed that you enjoy spending time working on, or engaging in, activities that you are interested in? Have you ever thought of applying this principle to your career choice?  The first part of this lesson will focus on exploring the concept of applying our interests to our career choice.

Holland’s Theory of Vocational Choice

Article source: Holland’s Theory of Vocational Choice (n.d.)

The theory of vocational choice developed by John L. Holland is one of the most widely researched and applied theories of career development. Based on the premise that personality factors underlie career choices, his theory postulates that people project self-and world-of-work views onto occupational titles and make career decisions that satisfy their preferred personal orientations. The theory incorporates several constructs from personality psychology, vocational behavior, and social psychology, including self-perception theory and social stereotyping.

Applications of Holland’s theory of vocational choice involve assessing individuals in terms of two or three prominent personality types and then matching the respective types with the environmental aspects of potential careers. The theory predicts that the higher the degree of congruence between individual and occupational characteristics, the better the potential for positive career-related outcomes, including satisfaction, persistence, and achievement.


Holland’s Theory of Vocational Choice. (n.d.) Career Research.


Below you will read about the 6 different interest/personality areas referenced in Holland’s theory.  Often, these areas are displayed in a hexagon like the one seen in this interactive link:

Read on to learn about how interests (often referred to as personality) and work relate.

Holland’s Theory

Careers are determined by an interaction between our personality and the environment in John Holland’s Theory of Career Choice. We want jobs with people like us.

John Holland’s Theory of Career Choice (RIASEC) maintains that in choosing a career, people prefer jobs where they can be around others who are like them. They search for environments that will let them use their skills and abilities, and express their attitudes and values, while taking on enjoyable problems and roles. Behaviour is determined by an interaction between personality and environment.

Holland’s theory is centred on the notion that most people fit into one of six personality types:








Description of interest area Some key skills Some occupations with Realistic components Subjects you could study to give you the skills
Likes to work mainly with hands, making, fixing, assembling or building things, using and operating equipment, tools or machines. Often likes to work outdoors Using and operating tools, equipment and machinery, designing, building, repairing, maintaining, working manually, measuring, working in detail, driving, moving, caring for animals, working with plants Pilot, farmer, horticulturalist, builder, engineer, armed services personnel, mechanic, upholsterer, electrician, computer technologist, park ranger, sportsperson English, Maths, Science, Workshop, Technology, Computing, Business Studies, Agriculture, Horticulture, Physical Education


Description of interest area Some key skills Some occupations with Investigative components Subjects you could study to give you the skills
Likes to discover and research ideas, observe, investigate and experiment, ask questions and solve problems Thinking analytically and logically, computing, communicating by writing and speaking, designing, formulating, calculating, diagnosing, experimenting, investigating Science, research, medical and health occupations, chemist, marine scientist, forestry technician, medical or agricultural laboratory technician, zoologist, dentist, doctor English, Maths, Science, Computing, Technology


Description of interest area Some key skills Some occupations with Artistic components Subjects you could study to give you the skills
Likes to use words, art, music or drama to communicate, perform, or express themselves, create and design things Expressing artistically or physically, speaking, writing, singing, performing, designing, presenting, planning, composing, playing, dancing Artist, illustrator, photographer, signwriter, composer, singer, instrument player, dancer, actor, reporter, writer, editor, advertiser, hairdresser, fashion designer English, Social Studies, Music, Drama, Art, Graphic Design, Computing, Business Studies, Languages


Description of interest area Some key skills Some occupations with Social components Subjects you could study to give you the skills
Likes to work with people to teach, train and inform, help, treat, heal and cure, serve and greet, concerned for the wellbeing and welfare of others Communicating orally or in writing, caring and supporting, training, meeting, greeting, assisting, teaching, informing, interviewing, coaching Teacher, nurse, nurse aide, counsellor, police officer, social worker, salesperson, customer service officer, waiter, secretary English, Social Studies, Maths, Science, Health, Physical Education, Art, Computing, Business Studies, Languages


Description of interest area Some key skills Some occupations with Enterprising components Subjects you could study to give you the skills
Likes meeting people, leading, talking to and influencing others, encouraging others, working in business Selling, promoting and persuading, developing ideas, public speaking, managing, organising, leading and captaining, computing, planning Salesperson, lawyer, politician, accountant, business owner, executive or manager, travel agent, music or sports promoter English, Maths, Business Studies, Accounting, Economics, Social Studies, Drama, Computing, Text Information Management, Languages


Description of interest area Some key skills Some occupations with Conventional components Subjects you could study to give you the skills
Likes working indoors and at tasks that involve organising and being accurate, following procedures, working with data or numbers, planning work and events Computing and keyboarding, recording and keeping records, paying attention to detail, meeting and greeting, doing calculations, handling money, organising, arranging, working independently Secretary, receptionist, office worker, librarian, bank clerk, computer operator, stores and dispatch clerk English, Maths, Business Studies, Accounting, Economics, Computing, Text Information Management

Holland asserts that people of the same personality type working together in a job create an environment that fits and rewards their type.

Within this theory there are six basic types of work environment, which correlate directly to the personality types. Holland emphasises that people who choose to work in an environment similar to their personality type are more likely to be successful and satisfied. This idea is important as it shows Holland’s theory can be flexible, incorporating combination types.

Holland’s theory takes a problem-solving and cognitive approach to career planning. His model has been very influential in career counselling. It has been employed through popular assessment tools such as the Self-Directed Search, Vocational Preference Inventory and the Strong Interest Inventory.

There is much research to support Holland’s typology. However it is not without criticism, the most common being the prevalence of females to score in three personality types (artistic, social and conventional). According to Holland this is because society channels women into female-dominated occupations.


Holland’s Theory. (2019, August 13)’s%20Theory%20of%20Career%20Choice%20(RIASEC)%20maintains%20that%20in,on%20enjoyable%20problems%20and%20roles.


Did you know that another very important aspect of yourself to consider when looking for your perfect career is to consider your personality?

All of us have different personality traits and those traits can be explored, identified, and understood in this process of self-assessment as it relates to career planning. For instance, do you prefer and enjoy doing work that involves paying close attention to detail or looking at the big picture? Do you prefer to lead a planful, organized life or are you more spontaneous and prefer to ‘go with the flow?’ Do you like to talk things through or do you like to think before you talk?

All of these questions are tied to our personality, or our preferred way of doing things.

For this lesson, you will be taking the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to learn more about your preferences.  Below are a few articles that help to further explore the concept of personality preferences and career development.

Personality and Careers

Article from

Knowing your personality type, as measured through the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® instrument, can help you with career planning at every stage: from your choices of subjects and majors in school to choosing your first career, to advancing in your organization or changing careers later in life.

People often find difficulty defining what kind of work they want to do or why a given field makes them comfortable or uncomfortable. Personality type is a practical tool for investigating what works for you, then looking for and recognizing work that satisfies your preferences. Knowing your MBTI® type may, for example, prove helpful in deciding what specific areas of law, medicine, education, or business a person prefers. A person with a preference for Introversion may find he or she is happier doing research, while a person who prefers Extraversion may favor a field with more interaction with people.

Work environments influence how comfortable you are at your job. Someone with a preference for Introversion, for example, who is required to do a lot of detail work or think through a problem, may find it disruptive to be in an environment that is too loud or where a lot of interaction is required. When you know this about yourself, you can make arrangements to do your work in a more suitable location or at a time when there is less activity and interference.

Even when circumstances make it necessary for you to do work that you have not chosen or which you must do as part of your overall job description, knowledge and understanding of type can help you discover and use your strengths to accomplish the work. When you find an unsatisfactory job fit, you can examine the reasons and seek solutions based on your preferences.

When you do have an opportunity to take a new path in your work, type can help you analyze the fit of your type with your past work and consider what new direction can best fit with your preferences.


Personality and Careers. (n.d.) Retrieved April 17, 2021 from

The MBTI assesses one’s personality preferences and categorizes those preferences into one of 16 different types. “MBTI type descriptions characterize 16 types at their best; provide positive, self-affirming goals; and note blind spots and problems to avoid.” (MBTI; Myers & McCaulley, 1985)

Each type is identified by a 4 letter code.  Each letter comes from a scale that measures the following preferences:

  • Where do you focus your attention and get energy? (Extraversion or Introversion)
  • How do you prefer to take in information? (Sensing or Intuition)
  • How do you make decisions? (Thinking or Feeling)
  • How do you deal with the outer world? (Judging or Perceiving)

The following article gives more information on these scales and on the MBTI instrument including the history of its development. There are also links for each of the 16 difference personality types that you might want to refer back to after receiving your MBTI results.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Guide

By Kendra Cherry

Have you ever heard someone describe themselves as an INTJ or an ESTP and wondered what those cryptic-sounding letters could mean? What these people are referring to is their personality type based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).

The Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator is a self-report inventory designed to identify a person’s personality type, strengths, and preferences. The questionnaire was developed by Isabel Myers and her mother Katherine Briggs based on their work with Carl Jung’s theory of personality types. Today, the MBTI inventory is one of the most widely used psychological instruments in the world.

The Development of the Myers-Briggs Test

Both Myers and Briggs were fascinated by Jung’s theory of psychological types and recognized that the theory could have real-world applications. During World War II, they began researching and developing an indicator that could be utilized to help understand individual differences.

By helping people understand themselves, Myers and Briggs believed that they could help people select occupations that were best suited to their personality types and lead healthier, happier lives.

Myers created the first pen-and-pencil version of the inventory during the 1940s, and the two women began testing the assessment on friends and family. They continued to fully develop the instrument over the next two decades.

An Overview of the Test

Based on the answers to the questions on the inventory, people are identified as having one of 16 personality types. The goal of the MBTI is to allow respondents to further explore and understand their own personalities including their likes, dislikes, strengths, weaknesses, possible career preferences, and compatibility with other people.

No one personality type is “best” or “better” than another. It isn’t a tool designed to look for dysfunction or abnormality. Instead, its goal is simply to help you learn more about yourself. The questionnaire itself is made up of four different scales.

Extraversion (E) – Introversion (I)

The extraversion-introversion dichotomy was first explored by Jung in his theory of personality types as a way to describe how people respond and interact with the world around them. While these terms are familiar to most people, the way in which they are used in the MBTI differs somewhat from their popular usage.

Extraverts (also often spelled extroverts) are “outward-turning” and tend to be action-oriented, enjoy more frequent social interaction, and feel energized after spending time with other people. Introverts are “inward-turning” and tend to be thought-oriented, enjoy deep and meaningful social interactions, and feel recharged after spending time alone.

We all exhibit extraversion and introversion to some degree, but most of us tend to have an overall preference for one or the other.

Sensing (S) – Intuition (N)

This scale involves looking at how people gather information from the world around them. Just like with extraversion and introversion, all people spend some time sensing and intuiting depending on the situation. According to the MBTI, people tend to be dominant in one area or the other.

People who prefer sensing tend to pay a great deal of attention to reality, particularly to what they can learn from their own senses. They tend to focus on facts and details and enjoy getting hands-on experience. Those who prefer intuition pay more attention to things like patterns and impressions. They enjoy thinking about possibilities, imagining the future, and abstract theories.

Thinking (T) – Feeling (F)

This scale focuses on how people make decisions based on the information that they gathered from their sensing or intuition functions. People who prefer thinking place a greater emphasis on facts and objective data.

They tend to be consistent, logical, and impersonal when weighing a decision. Those who prefer feeling are more likely to consider people and emotions when arriving at a conclusion.

Judging (J) – Perceiving (P)

The final scale involves how people tend to deal with the outside world. Those who lean toward judging prefer structure and firm decisions. People who lean toward perceiving are more open, flexible, and adaptable. These two tendencies interact with the other scales.

Remember, all people at least spend some time extraverting. The judging-perceiving scale helps describe whether you extravert when you are taking in new information (sensing and intuiting) or when you are making decisions (thinking and feeling).

The MBTI Types

Each type is then listed by its four-letter code:

Taking the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator can provide a lot of insight into your personality, which is probably why the instrument has become so enormously popular. Even without taking the formal questionnaire, you can probably immediately recognize some of these tendencies in yourself.

According to the Myers & Briggs Foundation, it is important to remember that all types are equal and that every type has value.

When working in group situations in school or at work, for example, recognizing your own strengths and understanding the strengths of others can be very helpful. When you are working toward completing a project with other members of a group, you might realize that certain members of the group are skilled and talented at performing particular actions. By recognizing these differences, the group can better assign tasks and work together on achieving their goals.

How MBTI Differs From Other Instruments

First, the MBTI is not really a “test.” There are no right or wrong answers and one type is not better than any other type. The purpose of the indicator is not to evaluate mental health or offer any type of diagnosis.

Also, unlike many other types of psychological evaluations, your results are not compared against any norms. Instead of looking at your score in comparison to the results of other people, the goal of the instrument is to simply offer further information about your own unique personality.

Reliability and Validity

According to the Myers & Briggs Foundation, the MBTI meets accepted standards of reliability and validity. However, other studies have found that the reliability and validity of the instrument have not been adequately demonstrated.

Studies have found between 40% and 75% of respondents receive a different result after completing the inventory a second time.

A 1992 book by The Committee on Techniques for the Enhancement of Human Performance and the National Research Council suggests that “there is not sufficient, well-designed research to justify the use of MBTI in career counseling programs. Much of the current evidence is based on inadequate methodologies.”

The MBTI Today

Because the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator is relatively easy to use, it has become one of the most popular psychological instruments currently in use today. Approximately two million U.S. adults complete the inventory each year.

While there are many versions of the MBTI available online, it should be noted that any of the informal questionnaires that you may find on the Internet are only approximations of the real thing.

The real MBTI must be administered by a trained and qualified practitioner that includes a follow-up of the results. Today, the questionnaire can be administered online via the instrument publisher, CPP, Inc., and includes receiving a professional interpretation of your results.

The current version of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator includes 93 forced-choice questions in the North American version and 88 forced-choice questions in the European version. For each question, there are two different options from which the respondent must choose.


Cherry, K. (2021, July 23) The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Guide.

Final Thoughts

This lesson is often a favorite for students.  It can be fun to dive into better understanding our interests and our personality preferences and can lead to some interesting insights.  The Strong can confirm career ideas the one has had and can also highlight some careers that may not have been considered.  The MBTI can often help us articulate our preferences for interacting with others, making decisions, gathering information, and general overall being in the world.

Have fun with this material and remember to reach out to your instructor if you have any questions.


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Career & Life Planning by Dawn Forrester and Eden Isenstein is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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