The average employee may not be familiar with Holland’s theory of vocational choice. But it has likely played a major role in shaping your career to this point. And it will continue to do so, influencing the opportunities that open up to you in ways you can’t predict.
The theory’s premise is that people can fall into one of six distinct personality types: realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising, and conventional. And those personalities shape our view of the world, influencing our choice of occupation.
Holland’s theory is a useful heuristic for managers and career coaches alike. But like any algorithm, it needs to be used carefully. Wrong interpretations can lead employers to have a negative perception of certain types, and the implications could be particularly threatening to one group: doers.
Doers on the fringe
In Holland’s theory, people with a realistic personality type are frequently called ‘doers.’ That’s because they are drawn to practical tasks and problem-solving. They tend to be reserved and prefer to interact with objects rather than people.
Such a disposition is actually quite valuable in the modern workplace. Yet employers tend to filter for other personality types in many different ways.
For instance, leaders are advised to seek out human skills in preparation for the so-called ‘Industry 4.0’: a world where machines can take over even more mechanical tasks. This can affect the way we gauge candidates during interviews and the relative weight we assign to the skills and experience listed on a CV.
Without the nuanced application of such advice, employers may be inadvertently priming themselves to overlook doers for high-level jobs. That’s their loss, but it’s also unfortunate for the doer-types. They can become even more pigeonholed into occupations associated with manual labor, operating machinery, doing tasks that may be unrewarding in terms of either compensation or meaning.
Ideally, as we gain experience and move forward in our careers, we nevertheless acquire some of the strengths associated with other personality types. Creativity is not limited to the artistic types, for instance. Neither is effective collaboration restricted to social types.
The challenge most people face is that opportunities to expand their capabilities are seldom afforded on the job. This is more pronounced for doers because of their tendency to largely play a self-contained, peripheral role.
If employment doesn’t offer you the chance to learn and grow, why not start a business? It doesn’t have to be the exclusive purview of the enterprising personality type.
You don’t actually need product or process expertise to turn entrepreneur. For example, knowing what to do best with German Amarillo hops is a matter for the local brewer to resolve. All you need to know is where to source them, what markup to apply, and what volume of demand to expect.
Hard-won business lessons
Starting a business is the best way for a doer to break out of the imaginary restrictions placed upon them by employers who fail to use heuristics properly.
It takes guts and drive to back yourself and launch a business. No matter what happens, that speaks volumes about you and carries more bearing than almost anything else on your CV.
Sure, it also takes many different skills to succeed in business. But those things don’t have to come from you. You can hire other people, and in the process, demonstrate how good your interpersonal skills are, contrary to type.
The evidence backs it up, too. Failure in business doesn’t doom your career. It actually strengthens your earning potential.
If you’re a doer and feel like people aren’t giving your skills and credentials a fair look, bet on yourself. Start a business, and work your way out of that box.