Interests are helpful to understand in relation to career planning. Career interests are different than abilities or skills. However, people tend to be attracted to activities that they enjoy and are interested in, which then affords the opportunity to develop skills and abilities.

A theory devised by John Holland provides a framework of six general themes that describe broad areas or types of interest. These themes also can be used to describe work environments. People tend to seek environments that are consistent with their interests. Therefore, understanding your interests can help to highlight ways in which certain fields of study, work environments, and occupational pursuits may or may not be satisfying to you.

The six themes are shown below. For most people, primary interests combine two or three of these general themes. That combination is often called a "RIASEC Code" or a "Holland Code". It is important to keep in mind that no RIASEC code is better than another, and there are places for all six codes in every organization.

REALISTIC The "Doers"
INVESTIGATIVE The "Thinkers"
ARTISTIC The "Creators"
SOCIAL The "Helpers"
ENTERPRISING The "Persuaders"
CONVENTIONAL The "Organizers"

The following sample of potential interests is provided to help illustrate the six general themes that comprise the RIASEC model. Keep in mind that the table shows a sample only and that most people have a combination of two or three major interest themes.

Sample of Interests and Working Environments by General Occupational Theme

REALISTIC
  • Building things
  • Using tools and equipment
  • The outdoors
  • Product-driven environments with clear lines of authority
INVESTIGATIVE
  • Research and problem-solving
  • Theoretical models
  • Independent, unstructured working environments
ARTISTIC
  • Conceptualizing/Designing
  • Writing, composing, performing
  • Self-expressive, unstructured work environments
SOCIAL
  • Helping/encouraging/teaching
  • Counseling/guiding
  • Supportive, collaborative work environments
ENTERPRISING
  • Debating ideas
  • Managing people & projects
  • Selling
  • Fast-paced, entrepreneurial work environments
CONVENTIONAL
  • Organizing information
  • Writing reports
  • Operating computers
  • Structured, organized, practical work environments

The Strong Interest Inventory is a self-assessment tool that produces a RIASEC Code based on an individual's responses, as well as information about specific content or topic areas that may be interesting, and a sample of occupations in which satisfied workers tend to have similar interests.

The Learning + Organizational Development (L+OD) offers a series of career development workshops; one of these workshops uses the Strong Interest Inventory to help UC Berkeley staff members explore their interests and their relationship to work and career: Exploring Career Interests with the Strong Interest Inventory. Register at the UCB Learning Center through blu.

Meeting individually with a career counselor at Counseling & Psychological Services is another avenue to help you explore and better understand your interests and how they relate to your career planning and development. There is no charge for these services for campus staff.