Discovering your perfect career path is about identifying work where you can use skills you’re good at and enjoy the most. In these jobs, you’ll “fire at all cylinders” and perform to the best of your ability. By now, you may know what your top transferable skill sets are and may have written some reality stories showcasing these skills at your highest level of efficiency.

Even so, you might still be stumped about how you can use these skills and in which industries. A good place to start is to recognize your natural preferences that have been hardwired into you since birth. One methodology I use with clients is the John Holland Theory of Career Choice, which has been widely-used by career practitioners for decades.

According to Holland’s theory, peoples’ career choices are determined by: 1) whether they prefer to work with people, things, data or a combination; 2) how they like to solve problems; and 3) what they value in work situations.

Holland groups career choices into six vocational themes: Realistic; Investigative; Artistic; Social; Enterprising; and Conventional. When you read each description, it’s likely that you’ll discover three that will resonate most for you:

* Realistic: People with athletic or mechanical skills, who like hands-on activities such as working with objects, machines, tools, plants or animals. They solve problems by “doing.” They value frankness, independent thinking and physical activity.

* Investigative: People who like to work with ideas, data or visible facts, to analyze, learn, watch and troubleshoot. They solve problems by thinking. They value caution, creative processes, intellectual freedom, logic, precision and science.

* Artistic: People with artistic, innovating or intuitive skills, who like working in unstructured situations, using their imagination or creativity. They solve problems by expressing feelings or ideas through creating visual art, designing, performing or writing. They value artistic freedom, nonconformity and originality.

* Social: People who like to work with people, to cure, develop, enlighten, help, inform or train them. They solve problems by helpfully relating to others, verbally or through writing. They value genuineness, ethical awareness and a strong sense of community.

* Enterprising: People who like to work with people, by influencing, persuading, performing, or managing for business goals and economic gain. They solve problems by leading and taking risks. They value influencing others, making decisions and selling ideas.

* Conventional: People who like working with data, using clerical or numerical skills and completing detailed work by following instructions. They solve problems by being organized. They value efficiency, prevailing societal values, and self-control.

The Holland-based assessment I use with my clients is the Career Liftoff Interest Inventory, which scores you in all six themes (on a scale of 25-75 points each) to reveal what your top 3 are. You’ll also get a list of careers (sorted into 5-9 clusters) matching your preference mix. <Side note: My top 3 are Artistic: 59, Social: 59, and Enterprising: 46. Here’s my report to see what yours might look like.>

Another benefit of Holland assessments is their integration with the O*NET, linked to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, which provides timely statics about job details, training, salaries, etc. For example, if you’ve considered being an event planner and your top 3 themes are Enterprising, Conventional, and Social, you’ll learn that this career can be a potential fit, as long you match the job requirements and the work appeals to you.

Recognizing your inborn preferences plays a key role in choosing your ideal work. If you make your selections using the Holland philosophy, you’ll know if you’re completely off-course or confidently moving in the right direction.

© Joellyn Wittenstein Schwerdlin, The Career Success Coach 2012