Following Your Interest (Part 2 of the Career Series)


By Justin Yap

We’re back with our second article in our career series. In our previous article we explored how “dating” a job can be an invaluable way of gaining insight into a career, thus helping us make informed career decisions. That article mainly focused on what’s out there but paid minimal attention to the individual. Therefore if you had questions such as “Am I good enough for that?” or “Do I have what it takes to succeed in that profession,” you are right on the money, pun totally intended. In this article, we start to look inward, into ourselves to further help make our decision.

One of the oft quoted lines by the late Steve Jobs is “If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.” Confucius also said, “Choose a job you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” Well, research into career satisfaction seem to indicate that these two individuals are correct. Numerous studies have already noted that Interest is the primary predictor of job satisfaction. Some also call this passion. With passion, comes motivation. With motivation, comes energy, commitment, and a will to succeed. A quick search on the definition of interest yields

  1. the feeling of a person whose attention, concern, or curiosity is particularly engaged by something,
  2. something that concerns, involves, draws the attention of, or arouses the curiosity of a person, and
  3. power of exciting such concern, involvement, the quality of being interesting.

From the above definitions, we can conclude that everyone has interests, from gardening, computer games, and playing musical instruments. However, the problem with this is the fact that what you’re interested in does not match what society would deem worthy of you being compensated for doing. So your interest is then relegated to being a hobby and not a paid profession. Therefore, we’ll need to find an occupation that marries our interests with something that society would pay us for.

There are many career interest models around, however we will use the Holland’s RIASEC Interest model. It is widely used and literature supporting its use can be found online. In simple terms, the RIASEC Interest model is a categorization of 6 types of work performed in various professions. Each category has broad similarities in terms of job behaviour as well as skill required. Therefore, if you have interest in the core behavior, it is likely you will be interested in the related occupations as well.

The first category of interest is the “Realistic” type of work. This category requires some form of movement of the limbs. For example, sports, athletics, and dancing are some jobs that fall under the ‘Realistic’ category. These jobs are very hands-on and involves the physical manipulation of either self or an object. The hands-on nature of this category extends to the usage of tools. Therefore, carpentry, photography, technical engineering, cooking, and any other career that involves some usage of tools come to mind. The theory states that, if you like hands-on work, you are likely to be interested in professions such as crafting jewellery, carpentry, electrical engineering, and many others that will require usage of limbs.

“Investigative” is the second category of interest. This type of work focuses around the usage of mental inquiry and investigation. If you often wonder how things work, you are likely to have this interest. As the nature of this interest is mainly curiosity and inquisition, most, if not all scientific careers require this drive. Sciences are founded on research and an inquisitive and curios person will not feel out of place. Some examples of careers requiring this type of work is Medicine, Engineering, Psychology, Detectives, and many more.

After Investigative comes the “Artistic” type of interest. Artistic work revolves around creative expression. This expression can come in many forms, such as language, drama, visual art, craft, and music. Therefore, this interest can drive someone towards careers such as Graphic Designers, music, and acting. One quick way to discover if you have this interest category is to assess how structured your daily schedules are. If you are inclined to go with the flow and decide what to do on a whim or intuition rather than follow a regulated timetable, chances are you would score highly on the Artistic scale.

Then comes the “Social” interest. As the name implies, this interest involves people. It is driven by the desire to be with people in some form or other. Therefore, a person with this interest will fit into any career that spends the majority of their time with people; like Customer Service, the Hospitality industry, as well as the helping professions of Counseling and Social Work. If you find yourself bored and listless without people around you, then you might want to explore this interest group a bit more.

Fifth on the list is “Enterprising.” Some call this interest the “persuaders” as work in this category usually involves the persuasion of some people.  It is not surprising then that people with this interest tend to end up being their own bosses, managing his/her employees towards greater performance. Some example careers requiring the Enterprising interest is Marketing, Sales, Law, Education, Management, and Entrepreneurship. If you find yourself comfortable at rallying others towards a common goal, then this is a good place to start your exploration.

Finally, the last interest category is “Conventional.” This type of work revolves around being accurate and organized. The work involved is usually systematic, detailed with little room for deviation. Instantly, careers like Accounting, Actuary, and Administration come to mind. Therefore, if you find yourself more able to function when there are clear rules and instructions, you might want to explore this interest group a bit more.

With the six work categories outlined, what you do now is assess which of the 6 types of work are most appealing to you. If you feel you like working with your hands the most, explore the related occupations in the Realistic category. Or if you feel you have a knack for being organized, be sure to look up the Conventional occupations. If you are not sure, why not take a career interest test? Here’s a free one for you to try out: The results of the test should be taken with caution, and used for exploratory purposes rather than prescriptive. If you would like something more conclusive, visit a university nearby and inquire about career testing. They may have career testing tools that are more complete, however, please be prepared to pay a fee. In our next article, we will look at how to cultivate your interest during your primary and secondary education.


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