John Holland's contributions: a theory-ridden approach to career assistance.
Holland influenced practice and research in career development by contributing a clear theory useful in organizing information about individuals and career alternatives and for understanding individuals' entry and persistence in occupational and other environments. His theory was repeatedly revised in response to evidence. As Holland's own career unfolded in a succession of organizational environments, he used the research opportunities these environments afforded to conduct large-sample tests of his ideas and assessment tools. J. L. Holland's (1970) Self-Directed Search is intended to be a career intervention, and Holland developed it and tested it as such. In outlining Holland's contributions to career counseling, a precis of his theory and some biographical context are provided.
Holland's theory, assessment instruments, and intervention tools transformed the delivery of vocational assistance by counselors, schools, and impersonal mechanisms. This occurred because of the organizing power of his theory of persons and environments, the case with which the theory can be communicated to counselors and clients, and the self-directed nature of the interventions and assessments he developed. This influence on counseling is due partly to the results of a long-term program of science in the pursuit of solutions to practical problems in vocational counseling and partly to the creativity and craft of an author devoted to helping clients understand themselves, their vocational alternatives, and their career situations.
In this article, we first describe the assessment and intervention tools that Holland developed. We then relate how Holland used the opportunities in the environments he experienced over the course of his career to test and elaborate the theory over time. Finally, despite its influence on career counseling, many practitioners and researchers remain familiar only with certain parts of Holland's theory of vocational personalities and work environments. Therefore, in a final section, we provide an overall sketch of the theory to direct attention to portions of Holland's work that have practical applications in counseling, but that some counselors and researchers often overlook.
Assessment and Intervention Tools
After an energetic decade of developing, testing, and revising a typology of vocational personalities and work environments (Holland, 1959), Holland used the theory as a template for the Self-Directed Search (SDS; Holland, 1970). Unlike his earlier inventory to assess vocational personality (Vocational Preference Inventory [VPI]; Holland, 1958), Holland regarded the SDS as both an assessment instrument and a vocational intervention, sometimes referring to it as a counseling simulation. There will never be enough counselors to provide direct services to individuals who might benefit from career assistance, and the SDS provides test takers with a self-directed exploration of themselves and of occupational alternatives. The SDS provides a structure for organizing this information in parallel terms and for making inferences about the congruence between the self and occupational alternatives. This inexpensive, self-directed exploratory experience was part of a plan to provide "vocational guidance for everyone" (Holland, 1974, p. 9) by using a "theory-ridden, computerless, impersonal vocational guidance system" (Holland, 1971, p. 167). The SDS included a pair of booklets that allowed clients to express their occupational daydreams and give psychological meaning to them by using an occupational classification; it helped clients to assess their preferences, activities, competencies, and self-estimates using a parallel classification; and it encouraged clients to explore a range of occupational alternatives organized using the typology.
Because he viewed the SDS as both an assessment tool and an intervention, Holland and his colleagues set out to test the effects it had on users. In a series of experiments, the SDS was found to increase the occupational options being considered, develop knowledge about the classification of occupations, and reduce clients' concerns about career planning. The SDS intervention was shown to have similar beneficial effects for both young men and young women. Unlike the typical test manual that reports only psychometric data, the SDS manual (Holland, Fritzsche, & Powell, 1994) also reports the results of the experimental investigations of the effects of SDS as a vocational intervention on test takers.
The SDS became a widely used and widely imitated instrument. Holland's theory was incorporated in a revision of the Strong Vocational Interest Blank (Campbell, 1971) through the cooperative effort of David P. Campbell and Holland (1972) to produce the Strong-Campbell Interest Inventory (Campbell, 1974)--the forerunner to the current Strong Interest Inventory (Harmon, Hansen, Borgen, & Hammer, 1994). Other inventories also incorporated or were developed using Holland's personality typology. Today a variety of inventories using it are available in self-scored, machine-scored, and Internet forms in multiple languages worldwide. Equally important, the theory undergirding the SDS stimulated research by others. As a result, there can be little doubt today that the classification and the approximate hexagonal configuration has broad applicability across gender and cultural differences (Day, Rounds, & Swaney, 1998).
Any one theory has a limited scope of convenience. The person-environment (P-E) explanations of vocational behavior usually known as Holland's theory are limited by what is included in the personality and environmental formulations. Many influences on people's careers are outside of the scope of the P-E theory. For instance, caring for a child or an aging parent places requirements on an individual that influence vocational behavior and adjustment. Similarly, a person's general psychological health, the influence of an abusive work environment, work overload, and geographical or other personal constraints influence satisfaction and other areas of vocational adjustment. The Career Attitudes and Strategies Inventory (CASI; Holland & Gottfredson, 1994) was developed to supplement the P-E theory by providing a direct assessment of some other aspects of adult career status. Like the SDS, the CASI is intended to be both an assessment tool and an intervention. The limited experimental research on its effects on clients is promising (Russell, 2006), and more research on its effects would be helpful.
Holland's Career in Environmental Context
John Lewis Holland was born in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1919. His English-immigrant father had been a laborer but became a successful advertising man in the United States. The family had intellectual and artistic interests: John's mother had been a teacher, his brother Bill became a steel company president, his sister Jean is a professor of pathology and benefactor of the arts, and his brother Dick was successful in advertising and investing and has become a prominent philanthropist and patron of the arts.
Holland considered becoming a musician, but he decided against it because others seemed to him to have more talent. Nevertheless, he maintained a lifelong interest in art and music--collecting art, continuing to play the piano, and beginning voice lessons in his 80s. He also explored a career in the life sciences before settling on psychology. After graduating from the Municipal University of Omaha, Holland served in the army for 3 1/2 years as a clerk, test proctor, classification interviewer, and psychological assistant. As a personnel clerk during World War II, Holland began to regard the soldiers whose biographical information he processed as representative of a few personality types. This was the origin of what later developed into his taxonomy of vocational personalities.
His concern with the classification of work environments came later, as he found that counselors who delivered career-related services were hampered by unwieldy collections of ill-organized occupational information. On the one hand, counselors had the Kuder Preference Record (Kuder, 1951) or the Strong Vocational Interest Blank to assess interests, and on the other, they had a mismatched classification of occupations embodied in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (U.S. Employment Service, 1949). Therefore Holland set to work on the practical problem of occupational classification. His whimsical idea of developing a personality inventory composed entirely of occupational tides facilitated the task of occupational classification. Holland's (1958) VPI was composed entirely of occupational titles, and the tides that composed the six occupational scales of the VPI became his initial occupational classification. The demands of Holland's own work environments--vocational counseling at Western Reserve University and at the Perry Point VA (Veterans Affairs) Hospital--led him to see the potential of parallel taxonomies of persons and work environments. A taxonomy of occupations that corresponded with a taxonomy of persons would provide a structured way to help clients consider occupations not explicitly keyed in an inventory. But before developing his theory of personalities and environments, Holland first navigated the empirical-atheoretical environment of his graduate studies at the University of Minnesota.
Holland's adviser at the University of Minnesota was John G. Darley, who helped foster a respect for the guidance that could be found in data that became a hallmark of Holland's approach to psychological problems. Despite the skepticism about theory that characterized the faculty at the University of Minnesota, Holland was influenced there by Herbert Feigl (1956), whose contemporary positivist philosophy of science convinced him that data require organization by theory to enable useful interpretation. Later Bill Alston, another philosopher, advised Holland to clarify and simplify his theory when both were at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. Alston's advice proved useful, because the resulting 1973 version of Holland's theory became clear and simple enough that even counselors and psychologists who had not actually read Holland's statement could understand and recite at least fragments of it. Clarity and simplicity are virtues for a practical theory.
Beginning in 1957 when he became director of the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC), Holland explored and tested his emerging taxonomy of persons and environments using large samples. Because some of Holland's early research on the theory involved the talented samples of young people available to him at NMSC, early critics of his work often suggested that his theory applied only to elite samples. When he became vice president for research and development at the American College Testing Program (ACT), Holland had the opportunity to study large samples of typical, college-bound students. The results helped to stanch the criticism that the theory applied only to elites. After he arrived at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) in 1969, Holland and his colleagues continued to test and develop the theory using large samples that were even more representative of the general population. During these years at the VA, NMSC, ACT, and JHU, Holland was both influenced by and himself influenced a succession of colleagues who had scientific imagination and skills in data analysis. Among others, these included Alexander W. Astin and James M. Richards, Jr., who shared in research on the assessment and classification of college environments; and Douglas R. Whitney and Nancy S. Cole, who shared in the discovery and provided technical accounts of the hexagonally ordered arrangements of personality types that became a hallmark of Holland's theory.
Over the years, other colleagues who worked directly with Holland--sometimes briefly and sometimes at a distance--provided him with practical ideas, encouragement, research resources, and social support. Their work was also influenced, in turn, by Holland and his theory. Thomas H. Magoon (who had been a graduate student along with Holland at the University of Minnesota) helped test the SDS in relatively large-scale application and used Holland's theory to organize career services at the University of Maryland. Charles F. Elton, W. Bruce Walsh, Robert C. Reardon, Joseph A. Johnston, John C. Smart, Jack Rayman, and Arnold Spokane encouraged Holland's efforts, conducted empirical research, or spread the application of the theory and tools into additional areas. Keith F. Taylor, Geoffrey I. Kelso, and Paul G. Power--all visitors from Australia--provided fresh perspectives and promoted distant applications of Holland's work. David C. Campbell worked with Holland to integrate Holland's theory with Strong's interest inventory and data archive. And Paul M. Muchinsky and Benjamin Schneider helped to integrate Holland's theory with developments in organizational psychology and provided more evidence from organizational settings about P-E transactions.
A time line of selected events that mark the development of Holland's career and his contributions to career counseling in relation to the work environments he occupied is provided in the Appendix.
Chronology of the Career of John Lewis Holland
Year Event 1942 BA, Municipal University of Omaha (now University of Nebraska at Omaha) 1942-1946 Classification Interviewer, Clerk, Psychological Assistant, U.S. Army 1952 PhD, University of Minnesota (Psychology, Educational Psychology) 1950-1953 Instructor and Director of Counseling Center, Western Reserve University 1953 Occupational classification based on Kuder data published in Journal of Applied Psychology 1953-1956 Chief, Vocational Counseling Service, Perry Point VA Hospital 1957-1963 Director of Research, National Merit Scholarship Corporation 1958 First version of Vocational Preference Inventory published in Journal of Applied Psychology and by Consulting Psychologists Press 1959 First statement of Holland's theory appeared, Journal of Counseling Psychology 1961 Astin and Holland describe "Environmental Assessment Technique" to classify college environments in Journal of Educational Psychology 1963-1969 Vice President, Research and Development, American College Testing Program 1966 A classification for occupations and college majors published in Journal of Counseling Psychology, and first book on the theory (Psychology of Vocational Choice) 1965-1966 Fellow, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University 1969 President, Division of Counseling Psychology, American Psychological Association 1969-1975 Director, Center for Social Organization of Schools, Johns Hopkins University 1969-1977 Professor of Social Relations, Johns Hopkins University 1970 Self-Directed Search published by Consulting Psychologists Press 1973 Major revision of Holland's theory incorporated in Making Vocational Choices 1974 E. K. Strong Gold Medal Award for Contributions to Interest Measurement 1976 Extensions and clarifications of theory published in The Counseling Psychologist 1977-1980 Professor of Social Relations and Psychology, Johns Hopkins University 1980 Eminent Career Award, National Vocational Guidance Association 1982 First edition of Dictionary of Holland Occupational Codes empirically classified all occupations in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles 1985 Major revision of the person-environment theory incorporated in second edition of Making Vocational Choices 1991 Position Classification Inventory (PCI) published, an inventory to classify any job 1994 Award for Distinguished Professional Contributions to Knowledge, American Psychological Association 1994 Career Attitudes and Strategies Inventory published to supplement the theory in understanding adult career status 1995 Extended Research Award, American Counseling Association 1996 Third edition of Dictionary of Holland Occupational Codes incorporates a substantive complexity classification of occupations and uses PCI data for some occupations 1997 Third edition of Making Vocational Choices emphasizes vocational identity (persons) and environmental identity 2008 Award for Distinguished Scientific Applications of Psychology, American Psychological Association
The Theory of Vocational Personalities and Work Environments
Holland's (1997) theory of vocational personalities and work environments was developed to describe, understand, and predict the vocational choices people make, including fields of study, occupations and successive jobs, and other choices involving environments. The theory is also intended to account for the differential attraction of environments for certain kinds of people. Although the theory was developed in this vocational context, its applications are broader--including the description, understanding, and prediction of behavior in a variety of settings and the description of many kinds of environments. Entry into and persistence in P-E transactions are the primary outcomes the theory is designed to explain. Holland's theory evolved in response to evidence. The earliest formulation (Holland, 1959) is now primarily of historical interest, as are a number of subsequent revisions. The authoritative current statement is provided in Holland's 1997 book; a brief summary is provided here.
The Main Ideas
The main ideas in Holland's theory are (a) work and other environments differ and can be characterized in terms of a typology of environments, (b) individual differences among people can be characterized in terms of a typology of persons, and (c) some environments are better matched to some individuals and some individuals are better matched to some environments. The following paragraphs outline these theoretical ideas.
Environments. Vocational and other environments can be characterized in terms of their resemblance to six model environments. The actual environments people experience resemble the ideal environments to different degrees, and an environment may be described in terms of the environmental models it most resembles. Environments include occupations or specific jobs, colleges or college majors, clubs, other places, and other people. The six environmental types, described most fully by Gottfredson and Holland (1996), are Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional. A specific, experienced environment is expected to make the demands, provide the rewards and opportunities, and encourage the values characteristic of the model environment it most resembles. Specific environments can be characterized by their pattern (i.e., subtype) and degrees of resemblance to the six models. The Position Classification Inventory (Gottfredson & Holland, 1991) assesses environments in terms of the theory.
Persons. Individuals can be characterized in terms of their resemblance to six ideal personalities. Each personality type displays distinctive competencies, preferences, values, and self-evaluations. Individual people resemble the six model personalities to different degrees, and a specific person may be described in terms of the personality types he or she most resembles. The six personality types, described most fully by Holland (1997), are Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional. The SDS (Holland et al., 1994) assesses persons in terms of Holland's theory.
P-E interaction. A person tends to display the characteristics and pursue the values of the personality type he or she most resembles. For example, a person who resembles the Conventional type is distinguished by a preference for following rules and displaying organizational skills. Similarly, an environment tends to make the demands, reward the competencies, and encourage the values typical of the environmental model it most resembles. For instance, an environment such as a university chemistry department, which will generally most resemble the Investigative environmental model, will demand and reward technical and scientific accomplishments even for individual employees who themselves may not much resemble the skeptical, analytical Investigative personality type. The interaction of these personal dispositions and environmental demands and rewards result in degrees of congruence or incongruence of person and environment.
Theoretically, environments attract congruent persons. For instance, a Realistic environment will recruit and hold on to Realistic persons, but it will not attract Social persons. Similarly, persons will prefer congruent environments: A person who resembles the Conventional type will seek and persist in Conventional environments because they demand the competencies the person has, foster the person's values or outlooks, and reward the distinctive accomplishments of Conventional persons. In contrast, a person who resembles the Artistic type will avoid environments that resemble the Conventional model.
Levels of congruence and typological resemblance. The degree to which environmental models--and the personality types--are related to other models are represented by a hexagonal arrangement. The personality or environmental models are displayed as a hexagon with the Realistic and Social, Investigative and Enterprising, and Artistic and Conventional types representing opposing vertices. The types are arranged around the hexagon in RIASEC order of initial letter. For instance, the demands of a Conventional model environment have more in common with those of Realistic and Enterprising model environments than with the demands of an Artistic model environment. Similarly, the Investigative personality type resembles the Realistic and Artistic personality types more than it does the Enterprising personality type, other things being equal. An Investigative personality type in an Investigative model environment is most congruent with the environment, whereas an Artistic personality type in a hexagonally opposed Conventional model environment is very incongruent. Other things being equal, Holland's theory postulates that individuals seek and persist in congruent environments and avoid and leave incongruent environments. Similarly, the theory postulates that environments attract and retain congruent persons, ceteris paribus.
Level. People differ in their capacity for coping successfully with complex environmental demands; and occupational, educational, and other environments differ in the complexity of the demands they make on those who inhabit them. A level dimension distinguishes both occupational environments and people of the same RIASEC type. Environments (e.g., college majors, occupations) that make substantively complex demands are usually more difficult to attain and succeed in than are less demanding environments. Level of an individual's aspirations, preferences, or capability for coping with complex demands and level of complexity of an environment's demands are important in understanding vocational choices and other vocational behavior. For this reason, the Dictionary of Holland Occupational Codes (Gottfredson & Holland, 1996) provides not only a RIASEC classification for most occupations in the U.S. economy, but also an indicator of the substantive complexity of these occupations.
Identity. A person's vocational identity refers to the clarity or focus of his or her vocational preferences, aspirations, and self-perceptions. An environment's identity refers to the focus and clarity of its demands, goals, and expectations for its inhabitants. Theoretically, both persons and environments of high identity more clearly display the characteristics of the model or types that each most resembles. That is, an environment of high identity more forcefully exerts the demands and expectations characteristic of its environmental type, and an individual of high identity is more likely to find and persist in satisfying environments and, generally, to have better vocational adjustment. A highly focused environment is more likely to attract and retain satisfactory inhabitants and produce desired outcomes. The Vocational Identity scale (Holland, Gottfredson, & Power, 1980) assesses a person's level of identity, and the Organizational Focus Questionnaire (Gottfredson & Holland, 1997) assesses environmental identity.
Differentiation. Differentiation refers to the extent to which a person or an environment resembles one or two types to the exclusion of other types. A person who shows great resemblance to one of the personality models and does not resemble the other models has a differentiated profile. An environment with no distinctive resemblance to any one environmental type is undifferentiated. Other things being equal, a differentiated environment will produce more predictable outcomes, and the vocational choices of an undifferentiated individual are less predictable. Although differentiation was proposed at an earlier point in the developmental history of Holland's theory than was identity, the identity construct has generally proven to be more powerful than differentiation in empirical tests of the theory.
Other Ideas and Influences
Holland's personal and environmental typologies were developed as a means to understand and predict the many vocational choices people make. In other words, the P-E theory aims to explain educational and occupational choices, career stability, and satisfaction in terms of a few easily communicated explanatory ideas. Despite the success of Holland's typological theory, many influences on people's careers are beyond its scope. For instance, the current sharp downturn in the economy has led many people to lose their jobs, and evolution in the worldwide economy has changed the mix of occupational alternatives available to people. Family responsibilities, romantic entanglements, general mental health, and interpersonal problems with coworkers or supervisors either lead to change or constrain against it. Although people do tend to enter and persist in congruent environments, many people enter, persist in, and may be relatively satisfied in incongruent environments. Moreover, people sometimes become dissatisfied in or leave environments that are congruent with their personalities in RIASEC terms.
Holland and Gottfredson (1994) proposed a set of constructs intended to complement the P-E theory by including influences on vocational stability and change that are outside the scope of the typology. These constructs include family commitments or freedom from such commitments, geographical constraints versus cosmopolitanism, interpersonal abuse in the workplace, career worries, proclivity to take or to avoid risks, dominant or nondominant interpersonal style, general job satisfaction, and various other barriers or career limitations.
In all likelihood, the sketch of Holland's theory and associated assessment and intervention tools we have outlined in this article has touched on aspects of his contributions with which some career practitioners and researchers have only passing acquaintance. Moreover, in this article, we have provided only a brief overview of Holland's theory and its influence on the field of career development, and we have given short shrift to evidence. For a broader review of Holland's contributions to education, the psychology of talent, and other areas--with more detailed citations to the literature, see the review by Gottfredson (1999) or the entire issue of the Journal of Vocational Behavior (Savickas & Gottfredson, 1999) devoted to Holland's contributions. Holland's (1997) latest book summarized much evidence, but the theory is yet to be fully tested by researchers. Similarly, despite the wide influence of Holland's theory, some of its implications and associated assessment-and-intervention tools have yet to be put to use by practitioners. Textbook summaries and book chapters seldom provide full accounts of the theory and instruments. Reading the original work will profit those who do so.
Campbell, D. P. (1971). Handbook for the Strong Vocational Interest Blank. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Campbell, D. P. (1974). SVIB, Strong Vocational Interest Blank; Manual for the Strong-Campbell Interest Inventory (T325). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Campbell, D. P., & Holland, J. L. (1972). A merger in vocational interest research: Applying Holland's theory to Strong's data. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 2, 353--376.
Day, S. X, Rounds, J., & Swaney, K. (1998). The structure of vocational interests for diverse racial-ethnic groups. Psychological Science, 9, 40--44.
Feigl, H. (1956). Some major issues and developments in the philosophy of science of logical empiricism. In H. Feigl & M. Striven (Eds.), The foundations of science and the concepts of psychology and psychoanalysis (Vol. 1., pp. 3--37). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Gottfredson, G. D. (1999). John Holland's contributions to vocational psychology: A review and evaluation. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 55, 15--40.
Gottfredson, G. D., & Holland, J. L. (1991). Position Classification Inventory. Odessa, PL: Psychological Assessment Resources.
Gottfredson, G. D., & Holland, J. L. (1996). Dictionary of Holland occupational codes (3rd ed.). Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.
Gottfredson, G. D., & Holland, J. L. (1997). EIS Organizational Focus Questionnaire. In J. L. Holland, Making vocational choices: A theory of vocational personalities and work environments (3rd ed., pp. 273--275). Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.
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Gary D. Gottfredson and Marissa L. Johnstun, both at Department of Counseling and Personnel Services, University of Maryland, College Park. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Gary D. Gottfredson, Department of Counseling and Personnel Services, University of Maryland, 3214 Benjamin Building, College Park, MD 20742 (e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org).
[C] 2009 by the National Career Develiopment Association. All rights reserved.
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|Author:||Gottfredson, Gary D.; Johnstun, Marissa L.|
|Publication:||Career Development Quarterly|
|Date:||Dec 1, 2009|
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