Career Exploration

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Define the difference between a job and a career.
  • Become familiar with the six Holland codes.
  • Increase your understanding of your interests.

text of a job offer letterA job lets you enjoy a minimal level of financial security. A job requires you to show up and do what needs to be done. A career involves holding jobs, but it is more a means of achieving personal fulfillment. In a career, your jobs follow a sequence that leads to increasing mastery, professional development, and personal and financial satisfaction. A career requires planning, knowledge, and skills. If it is to be a fulfilling career, it requires that you bring into play your full set of analytical, critical, and creative thinking skills to make informed decisions that will affect your life in both the short term and the long term.

What Do You Want to Do When You “Grow Up”?

The Department of Labor defines 840 occupations in its Standard Occupation Classification system, and new occupations are being created at an ever-faster rate. Just ten years ago, would anyone have imagined the job of a social media marketing specialist? How about the concept of a competitive chef? As new careers develop and old careers morph into almost unrecognizable versions of their original, it’s okay if you aren’t able to pinpoint exactly what occupation or career will be your lifetime passion. However, it is important to define as best you can in what field you will want to develop your career because that will help dictate your major and your course selections.

The process of career exploration can be a lot of fun as it allows you to discover a world of possibilities. Even those students who have a pretty clear idea of what they want to do should go through this process because they discover new options as backups and occasionally a new direction even more attractive than their original choice. The career exploration process involves four phases.

Phase A: Who Am I?

Woman looking in mirrorGetting to know who you are is the first step. As you complete Exercise 1 below, be careful to base your self-discovery on what you think. You are a unique individual with a distinct combination of likes, dislikes, personality traits, and skills. Even though we are all different, we can all identify with certain personality types, and those types may help you narrow your career choices. Visit the Career Center (Building 3 Room 108, Brighton Campus) or Student Services (5th Floor, Damon City Campus).  They will be able to offer you a variety of assessments to define your personality type and interests; you can also find similar tests online at “My Next Move”  ( or Focus2  (

Many of these assessments are based on the career theory developed by Dr. John Holland. Holland defined six categories of personality types based on career interests. People with similar interests and personalities gravitate toward similar careers. While no one person is often just one of these personality types, determining your top three can be helpful in better understanding yourself and narrowing down your career options.

  1. Realistic. These people describe themselves as honest, loyal, and practical. They are doers more than thinkers. They may have strong mechanical, motor, and athletic abilities; like the outdoors; and prefer working with machines, tools, plants, and animals.
  2. Investigative. These people love problem solving and analytical skills. They are intellectually stimulated and often mathematically or scientifically inclined; like to observe, learn, and evaluate; prefer working alone; and might be described as reserved.
  3. Artistic. These people are the “free spirits.” They are creative, emotional, intuitive, and idealistic; have a flair for communicating ideas; dislike structure and prefer working independently; and like to sing, write, act, paint, and think creatively. They are similar to the investigative type but are interested in the artistic and aesthetic aspects of things more than the scientific.
  4. Social. These are “people” people. They are friendly and outgoing; love to help others, make a difference, or both; have strong verbal and personal skills and teaching abilities.
  5. Enterprising. These people are confident, assertive risk takers. They are sociable; enjoy speaking and leadership; like to persuade rather than guide; like to use their influence; have strong interpersonal skills; and are status conscious.
  6. Conventional. These people are dependable, detail oriented, disciplined, precise, persistent, and practical; value order; and are good at clerical and numerical tasks. They work well with people and data, so they are good organizers, schedulers, and project managers.

Exercise 1: What’s My Type?

Using the descriptions above, choose the three types that most closely describe you and list them in order in the following table. Most people are combinations of two or three types. Then list the specific words or attributes that made you think you fit in that type description.

Occupational type Words and attributes that closely describe me
Primary type (the one I identify with most closely)
Secondary type
Tertiary type

Note: Your Holland occupational code is made up of the initials of the three personality types you selected, in order. Your Holland Code will be revisited in the next section of this chapter to help you choose one of MCC’s six academic schools and a major, if you haven’t done so already.

Phase B: What’s Out There?

Woman sitting in front of windowOnce you have determined your occupational type, you can begin to explore what types of careers might be best suited to you. Exercise 1 is a rough beginning to find your occupational type, but you should still seek out more detailed results through the Career Center (Building 3 Room 108, Brighton Campus) or Student Services (5th Floor, Damon City Campus).

Holland studied people who were successful and happy in many occupations and matched their occupations to their occupational type, creating a description of the types of occupations that are best suited to each personality type. Just as many individuals are more than one personality type, many jobs show a strong correlation to more than one occupational type.

Occupational Options by Type

Type Ideal Environments Career Options
  • Structured
  • Clear lines of authority
  • Work with things and tools
  • Motivated to use hands-on skills to produce tangible results
  • Contractor
  • Emergency medical technician (EMT)
  • Mechanic
  • Military career
  • Packaging engineer
  • Nonstructured
  • Research oriented
  • Intellectual
  • Work with ideas and data
  • Motivated to probe questions of intellectual curiosity
  • Pharmacist
  • Lab technician
  • Nanotechnologist
  • Geologist
  • College professor
  • Non-structured, creative
  • Rewards unconventional and aesthetic approaches
  • Creation of products and ideas
  • Motivated to express themselves through their work
  • Advertising career
  • Architect
  • Animator
  • Musician
  • Journalist
  • Collaborative, collegial
  • Work with people and on people-related problems/issues
  • Work as a team or community
  • Motivated to help and empower others
  • Teacher
  • Counselor
  • Correctional officer
  • Coach
  • Nurse
  • Typical business environment
  • Results oriented, driven
  • Work with people and data
  • Entrepreneurial
  • Motivated to persuade others on the merits of an idea or product
  • Sales manager
  • Banker
  • Lawyer
  • Business owner
  • Restaurant manager
  • Orderly
  • Clear rules and policies
  • Consistent processes
  • Work with systems to manipulate and organize data
  • Motivated to organize information and bring order to data and things
  • Auditor
  • Insurance underwriter
  • Bank teller
  • Office manager
  • Database manager

Use the “My Next Move”  ( to get a deeper understanding of your occupation.  For each occupation, this site lists the type of work, the work environment, the skills and education required, and the job outlook for that occupation. It is a truly rich resource and beneficially resource.  Another similar site is the Occcupational Outlook Handbook (

Phase C: What Factors Might Affect My Choice?

You may now have a list of careers you want to explore, but there are other factors you will need to take into consideration as well. It is important to use your creative thinking skills to come up with alternative “right” answers to factors that may present an obstacle to pursuing the right career.

  • Timing. How much time must I invest before I actually start making money in this career? Will I need to spend additional time in school? Is there a certification process that requires a specific amount of experience? If so, can I afford to wait?
  • Finances. Will this career provide me with the kind of income I need in the short term and the security I’ll want in the longer term? What investment will I need to make to be successful in this field (education, tools, franchise fees, et cetera)?
  • Location. Does this career require me to relocate? Is the ideal location for this career somewhere I would like to live? Is it somewhere my family would like to live?
  • Family/personal. How will this career affect my personal and family life? Do friends and family members who know me well feel strongly (for or against) about this career choice? How important is their input?

Phase D: Where Do I Go from Here?

It may seem odd to be thinking about life after school if you are just getting started, but you will soon be making decisions about your future.  Regardless of the direction you may choose, there is a lot you can do while still in college to prepare you for the future.  One thing to do isDirectional signpost focus your studies by choosing a major; then find opportunities to explore the careers that interest you to ensure you are building the right kind of experience on which to base a successful career. These steps will make your dreams achievable.

Another thing you can do is start developing a relationship with the counselors in Career Center (Building 3 Room 108, Brighton Campus) or Student Services (5th Floor, Damon City Campus).  All too often students meet with these counselors only near the end of their college days when the pressure is just on getting a job or transferring to a 4-year college. But these counselors can be of great help in matching your interests to a career and in ensuring you are gathering the right kind of experience and coursework to prepare you for your next step.

Keep in mind that deciding on and pursuing a career is an ongoing process. The more you learn about yourself and the career options that suit you best, the more you will be able to fine-tune your career plan.

Key Takeaways

  • The right career for you depends on your interests, your personality, and your skills.
  • Defining your occupational type may confirm career choices you have already made and/or open entirely new options for you.
  • Career planning is an ongoing process involving knowing yourself, knowing about career options, and understanding the context in which your decisions will be made.


1. Using your occupational type, identify a career opportunity you might be suited for that you have not yet considered. Now write a paragraph on what life might be like if you were to pursue that career.





2. Visit “My Next Move” ( and look up one of the careers you may be considering. What kinds of things does “My Next Move” tell you about that career?





3.Take the Focus2 assessment  ( and write about your results.





4. Explore the Occupational Outlook Handbook ( to discover what your future career might be like in terms of working conditions, pay, demand, and typical duties you might perform in a day.