Understanding Personality Helps With Career Planning – Photo courtesy of the United States Army – photographer: Kari Hawkins, USAG RedstoneCredit: Photo courtesy of the United States Army – photographer: Kari Hawkins, USAG Redstone

Most people understand the difference between introverts and extroverts.  Simplicity applied, introverts are loners, and extroverts are social butterflies.  However, there is more to these two basic personality traits. 

Introverts tend to be slower thinkers, needing time to process before speaking; whereas extroverts tend to think quickly and often process while they speak.  Thus, introverts can be quiet for long periods of time in contrast to the extroverts who can be talkative for long periods of time.  

Introverts tend to conserve energy and find solitude renews their energy.  Extroverts expend energy and find companionship energy renewing.  Introverts feel safer in small groups or in control if in large groups; extroverts prefer large groups.  

Primary Posture of Introverts and Extroverts

Introverts tend to function from a defensive position.  At first they see others as mysterious and put together; but this opinion moves towards seeing others as superficial and scattered.  Introverts are selective in seeking input and process from an internal reality.  The biggest threat they perceive of others is being manipulated. 

Extroverts tend to function from an adaptive position.  Initially they see others as adventurous and skilled with the outside world.  This opinion moves towards seeing others as morbid and unexciting.  They seek input from others and process from an external reality.  The biggest threat they perceive from others is being rejected. 

These two basic personality types appear to be the foundation for all other theories of personality types.  One of these theories is John Holland’s Environmental Mode. 

John Holland’s Environmental Mode of Personality Types 

John Holland developed a theory of personality traits as they pertain to the work environment.  He concluded there are six distinct types and when seeking a career path it is beneficial to determine which type a person falls within in order to be satisfied in a career.  He contends  people who choose to work in an environment similar to their personality types are more likely to be successful and satisfied 

The first type of personality type according to the Holland theory is Realistic.  These people see themselves as practical, mechanical and realistic. They like to work with tools or machines or animals.  They value things that can be seen and touched; things that can be grown, built, or made better.  This type of personality does best in occupations such as farming, carpentry, or forestry.  Traits for the Realistic personality type include:

  • Conforming
  • Frank
  • Genuine
  • Normal
  • Persistent
  • Practical
  • Stable
  • Thrifty 

The second personality type of Holland’s theory is Investigative.  These are people who like to observe, learn, investigate, analyze, evaluate or solve problems.  They are most comfortable in the science field, thus they are most satisfied as professionals such as technicians, chemists, or biologists.  Traits of the Investigative personality type include:

  • Analytical
  • Cautious
  • Critical
  • Curious
  • Independent
  • Intellectual
  • Introspective
  • Methodical
  • Passive
  • Pessimistic
  • Precise
  • Rational reserved
  • Unassuming 

The third personality type is the Artistic type.  These people have artistic, innovating, or intuitional abilities, and like to work in unstructured situations, using their imagination or creativity.   Careers that attract this type of person include the entertainment industry, graphic design, and art teachers.  Traits of the artistic personality type include:

  • Complicated
  • Disorderly
  • Emotional
  • Idealistic
  • Imaginative
  • Impractical
  • Impulsive
  • Independent
  • Introspective
  • Intuitive
  • Nonconforming
  • Original

 The fourth personality type is the Social type. These are people who like to work with people. They like to inform, enlighten, help, train, develop, or cure them and are skilled with words.   The Social personality type includes counselors, social workers and teachers.  Traits of the social personality type include:

  • Cooperative
  • Friendly
  • Generous
  • Helpful
  • Idealistic
  • Insightful
  • Kind
  • Persuasive
  • Responsible
  • Sociable
  • Tactful
  • Understanding 

The fifth personality type is Enterprising.  These people like to work with people-influencing, persuading or performing, or leading or managing for organizational goals or for economic gain.  People in this category include sales people and real estate agents. Traits for the enterprising type include:

  • Acquisitive
  • Adventurous
  • Ambitious
  • Dependent
  • Energetic
  • Exhibitionistic
  • Impulsive
  • Pleasure-seeking
  • Self-confident
  • Sociable

 The final personality type according to Holland is the Conventional type.  People who fall into this category are those who like to work with data, have clerical or numerical ability, carrying things out in detail or following through on other’s instructions.  Traits for conventional personality type include:

  • Conforming
  • Conscientious
  • Efficient
  • Inflexible
  • Obedient
  • Orderly
  • Persistent
  • Practical
  • Self-controlled 

Career Planning Using Holland’s Personality Theory 

People do not conveniently fall perfectly into any one category of personality type.  However, it can be helpful to use Jung and Holland’s theories as guides when planning a career path.  A person can first determine whether he/she is an introvert or extrovert.   

Next the person can take into account other traits of his/her personality.  Finding the compatible environment will assist in making the decision regarding which career might produce more satisfaction and success for the individual.    



Hall Calvin S. and Lindzey Gardner. (1957) Theories of Personality. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 

careerkey.org “Holland’s Theory of Career Choice” (accessed April 8, 2010) 



The copyright of the article ”Understanding Personality Types Assists in Career Planning” is owned by Cheryl Weldon and permission to republish in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.