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The Career Key By Lawrence K. Jones, Ph.D., NCC
Your Personality
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Unusual Combinations of Holland

Personality Types and Work Environments

Sometimes personality types combine in unusual ways in people.  For example, if you read the descriptions of the Investigative (I) and Enterprising (E) types, you would not expect a person to have them both as his or her two strongest personality types.  Investigative persons generally avoid leading, selling, or persuading people.  Whereas, Enterprising people are just the opposite;  they like these activities.  But, there are people who have this unusual IE or EI combination.  The two other combinations like this are Realistic-Social (RS or SR) and Conventional-Artistic (CA or AC).

Does your personality fit together in this unusual way?  Then, you will be interested in a letter I wrote to a person who had a Investigative-Enterprising personality pattern.  He wrote, "Do you see something abnormal with these results?  And more importantly, how do I go about choosing a career with these 'conflicting' results?"  This is how I replied,
"I can understand your confusion, but your interpretation is exactly right:  there are occupations where 'inconsistent personality patterns' work especially well.  The example you gave of a sales person (E) working in a technical field like science (I) or engineering (I) is a good one. I happen to have an inconsistent personality pattern myself:  Realistic (very strong) and Social.  Patterns like these are not seen very often.  The theory (and common sense) would predict that people with patterns like these have more difficulty making career decisions and, possibly, "fitting in" to a particular work environment.  For example, I worked as a counsellor educator (primarily a Social occupation), and was aware that I was different from the other professors in my department who were strongly Social and Enterprising.  The same was true for the students who were preparing to be counsellors.  They were mostly Social.  In other words, I was a Realistic person working in a Social work environment. At times, I did not feel as if I fit very well in this job.  The students rated me as a good teacher, but not outstanding -- as they did for the other professors.  Fortunately, there is an Investigative side to my personality.  This, together with my Realistic side, motivated me to do research directed to practical outcomes:  'How can I use counselling psychology to help people?' My personality has led me in directions and given me opportunities in my work and life that my Social co-workers did not have, or were not interested in -- like creating practical career measures like the Career Key and career guidance self-help books;  enjoying books about nature and science; and camping, fishing, astronomy, etc. So, our patterns are somewhat unusual, but that makes us a little more unique, gifted.  There's nothing wrong with us.  It makes life more challenging, and possibly rewarding.  But, being aware of our personality differences helps us understand ourselves and, then, valuing who we are as persons. I hope this is helpful.  In writing it, I'm thinking I should probably add it to the website for the other "unusual" people like ourselves. Wishing you well, Larry"
There are numerous occupations that attract, or are compatible, with two of the three inconsistent personality patterns.  Here are some examples: 


Teachers of agriculture, forestry, vocational education, and technology
Recreational Therapy
Bus Drivers
Physical Therapy
Athletic training and sports medicine
Occupational Therapy

Sales Engineers
Urban and Regional Planners
Managers in engineering, mathematics, and natural sciences
Scientific reporters
Editor of technical or scientific publications

  1. If your personality combines in an unusual way, keep in mind: You are not abnormal; we all have differing gifts;  value your uniqueness.
  2. Choosing a career is likely to be more challenging, but there are many jobs for which  you are uniquely qualified. And, once you are in a career, you will likely find opportunities to do tasks, or related jobs, that better fit you.
  3. You may need to look for ways outside of work to satisfy the other side of your personality.
  4. Professional career counsellors are well qualified to help.  You may want to seek the help of one.  Click here for more.

Return to: summary of Holland's theory

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