Tracking Holland Interest Codes: The Case of South African Field Guides

By Watson, Mark B.; Foxcroft, Cheryl D. et al. | Australian Journal of Career Development, Winter 2007 | Go to article overview

Tracking Holland Interest Codes: The Case of South African Field Guides


Watson, Mark B., Foxcroft, Cheryl D., Allen, Lynda J., Australian Journal of Career Development


Holland believes that specific personality types seek out matching occupational environments and his theory codes personality and environment according to a six letter interest typology. Since 1985 there have been numerous American studies that have queried the validity of Holland's coding system. Research in South Africa is scarcer, despite critical expansion and development in occupational fields such as the ecotourism industry. The present article describes the Holland interest codes of male and female student and working field guides. The results indicate that the interest code typology of both groups does not match the prescribed code for this occupation in the South African Dictionary of Occupations (Taljaard & von Mollendorf, 1987). Recommendations are made for further cross-cultural and cross-national research as well as for the possible revision of dictionaries of occupations in different countries.

Vocational interests remain an important trait in the process of career selection. They are seen as predictors of the kind of work activities that individuals will enjoy and gain most satisfaction from. At the forefront of vocational interest theory and assessment has been Holland's theory (Holland, 1997; Spokane, Luchetta, & Richwine, 2002), which has inspired career research since 1950 and continues to stimulate more research than any other career concept (Flores et. al., 2003; Luzzo & MacGregor, 200). Indeed, Holland's theory and typology has become less the topic of inquiry itself and more the background for other career practice and research (Gottfredson, 1999).

Holland's (1973) initial theory was closely linked to trait-factor theory. It states that, to make an informed career decision and achieve career satisfaction, individuals need to select work environments that correspond to their personality type. Holland's theory is based on six foundational principles, two of which state that members of the same vocation should have similar personalities and that similar personality types will be attracted to similar types of careers, thus creating work environments that mirror those personality characteristics.

Holland describes six personality types and six corresponding working environments that are represented by the anagram RIASEC: that is, realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising and conventional types. They have been positioned on a hexagonal model that explains the relationship of the personality and environmental types to each other in terms of Holland's secondary constructs.

Holland describes individuals by using the three highest or most dominant personality types that emerge during assessment. Holland's interest measure, the Self-Directed Search (SDS; Holland, Powell, & Fritzsche, 1994), generates a three-letter code that can be matched to occupational environments with identical or similar codes. The theoretical ideal is to match an individual's three-letter code to a corresponding three-letter code for a specific work environment.

Amongst several secondary constructs, Holland's construct of congruence is particularly relevant to the present research. Congruence refers to the relationship of the personality to the environment. It can be established by comparing the three-letter personality code obtained on the SDS with the three-letter occupational code obtained from a dictionary of occupations. Congruence decreases as the correspondence between the three-letter codes of the person and the environment decreases.

The secondary construct of differentiation is also important to the present research. Differentiation refers to how close scores on the different personality types are and it is determined by subtracting the lowest score of any type from the highest score of any type elicited by a measure such as the SDS. A high number indicates that the individual's profile is well differentiated, thus making career choice easier. …

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