John Holland’s hexagon
You will soon hear about a famous sociology professor at John Hopkins University (Baltimore, Maryland, USA) whether you want to or not. You can count on it. Someone will eventually blurt out something about Holland’s Occupational Themes – whatever they are. You will become aware of 14 different RIASEC tests you could take in no time flat. I wonder if anyone has ever been so closely identified with a specific shape?
The small island nation of Bermuda may rightfully lay claim to the triangle, but one solitary individual in the whole wide world has the hexagon; that would be John Holland.
John and his trusty hexagon have been around for over half a century. And while John Holland is now gone, his hexagon remains. I wouldn’t want you to get the wrong impression: I am thankful for John Holland and even for his hexagon. For his occupational interest tool – and illustration method – has helped many career-confused souls gain a greater sense of self-understanding.
Knowing who you really are makes it that much easier to make major career and life decisions with confidence. But if you can’t identify core areas of interest it becomes very difficult to know where to begin.
So picture a pristine hexagon in your mind, with one of the following letters, RIASEC, parked proudly at each particular point. Traditionally, the “R” is placed on the top and to the left, with the rest of the faithful letters following in a clockwise direction. Got it? Then, in order to avoid the build up of too much suspense, quickly fill in the following information beside each letter:
- Realistic: This is the “‘Git’er’ done” group
- Investigative: And here we have the “Reflect & dissect” group
- Artistic: Followed by the “Creative/artsy” types
- Social: And the “I-just-love-hanging-out-with-you-guys!” crowd
- Enterprising: Not to forget the “Make-it-happen-management-type-people”
- Conventional: And finally, the “Faithful-background-organizers”
You should be aware that you are dealing with my interpretation of John Holland’s theory. But although we are just scratching the proverbial surface here, I think I am getting pretty close to what he was trying to communicate.
So what is all the fuss about? John’s theory suggests that each person reading this fits into some of these categories better than others. Apparently, most people usually find that they fit in three out of the six categories. In other words, three of these letters probably won’t describe you.
Let’s say that you just read this description and instantly gravitated to the artistic group; point number three on the hexagon. And let’s also say that you are actually a hard-core Artistic-type person, very creative indeed, who has just signed up to spend the next four years studying to be a Conventional accountant. Oh, no. John Holland’s theory would suggest that you might as well sign up for a four-year prison term, and that whoever you end up working for may wish that you had.
Okay, so I may be overstating things just a little bit, but you get the idea. Does it make sense to try to ram your artistic self into a conventional-shaped role? No. If you really enjoy working outside with your hands, accomplishing important and meaningful tasks, would it be a good idea to train for a career that involves sitting at a desk all day? Hardly. And if you are as sanguine and social as the day is long, would you really want to commit to a career that involves working alone most of the time? Unthinkable. That would be crazy. If you haven’t been the life of one single party as long as you have been alive, why would you ever commit to a highly relational career? Why?
Sure, you may need to tough it out and do what you have to do sometimes. Many people, particularly in poor countries, don’t have much of a choice when it comes to what they do for a living. But if you can choose, be sure to choose wisely and choose well.
In case you are wondering, I have taken one of the 14 RIASEC tests mentioned above and came out as an IAC. And what am I doing right now? I am focused on typical IAC type work while developing and managing this website. If I was more of an enterprising individual, this website would likely be much farther along than it is right now. But that is alright, because I like to analyze; I like to create; I like routine. I enjoy writing and working at a computer day after day.
How about you? Where do you see yourself? Where do you fit? Click here to find out more about your occupational profile and John Holland’s hexagon.
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