Being Stuck

‘I feel the most fulfilled and perform best when I am helping others in a direct capacity, and am learning in a collaborative work environment.’

I recently told a friend this.  Being able to put such thoughts into concise expression hasn’t always been easy for me.  In fact, in my past, I’ve actually had different ideals, which I’ve gravitated toward.  These ideals had little to do with my aforementioned paraphrase.

I’ve done considerable research on my interests and passions as well as possible career options, which take advantage of the intersection of these areas.  I’ve read numerous books on these subjects, seen documentaries and lectures on the topics, and sought out a variety of mentors and a number of individuals in my own career search and selection.  I’ve even done career assessment through surveys.  I recently took one of these types of career assessments.

The Strong Interest Inventory is based on Holland Codes, and is a common career assessment tool.  I’ve utilized this testing in the past but for some reason my latest assessment provided a new perspective for me, and what I learned was quite revealing.  Not only was the view interesting and relevant to me, but I believe my insights were not unique.  This explains my reasons for writing about this subject.  I believe my thoughts are relevant to many of you as well.

[**] While on a trip to my hometown of Santa Cruz, California, I took time to meet up with David Thiermann to chat about my current career direction.  (I am refocusing from entertainment marketing to mental health.)  In the past, I have worked in a few environments where I perceived people caring more about the work getting done than the conditions under which it was completed.  However, in addition to noticing this, I began to feel a deep disconnect between my own interests and my work.  In bringing this up to David, we began to do some refinement when it came to my own personal ethos.

To give a bit more of a background on the Strong Interest Inventory, I believe it would be helpful to better explain the Holland Codes.  According to Wikipedia, the Holland Codes are as follows:

  • Realistic – Someone who enjoys working with his or her hands, tools, machines, and things.  Someone who is practical, hands-on, mechanically inclined or tool-oriented, and physical.
  • Investigative – Someone who enjoys working with theory and information.  Someone who is analytical, intellectual, scientific or explorative.
  • Artistic – Someone who is non-conforming, original, independent, chaotic and creative.
  • Social – Someone who is supporting, helping, healing/nurturing, and enjoys cooperative environments.
  • Enterprising – Someone who is persuasive and enjoys selling, dominating, promoting, status, and enjoys competitive environments, leadership and leading.
  • Conventional – Someone who is precise, orderly, organized, detail-oriented, clerical, and who has perfect attention to detail.

[**] Of course these self-rating and selecting types of surveys can vary by moment.  At the exact moment I took this test with David, he found me to be feeling most capable and motivated toward the Social, Enterprising and Artistic categories.  The most interesting part about this experience was David’s comment about our society and how it tends to treat Social categories.  David mentioned that in his experience, he’s noticed that society tends to encourage people within the Social category to move toward Enterprising paths.

BAM!  His statement hit me like a ton of bricks.  Not only did I feel this exact stigmatization toward my Social skills and Social career options growing up, but I perpetuated them by believing that I could excise them by working in “Social” settings, parameters and frameworks within the field of marketing.  Upon further reflection, leadership and management were, and are, of incredible interest to me.  As I see it now, my main issue within my experience in entertainment marketing was that in order to achieve leadership roles, I needed two specific things which I did not have at the time: patience and active mentors.

I believe my issues surrounding “patience” are based on the fact that I didn’t enjoy my work.  It gave me little in return for a lot of hours of hard work, commuting and stress.  It paid the bills and developed my skill set, but the work was incredibly dull for me.  What I wasn’t thinking about at the time was that I valued helping others not the work itself; and, in order to make my way up the corporate ladder, I would need to prove myself in an career path which provided little return back to me.  What a revelation!  I only wish I could have made this distinction a bit sooner in my life.

This is not to suggest that by working in more Social environments I will not run into political situations, frustrations, people who are burned out and miserable, and need to exercise patience on a regular basis.  However, when I was able to put my career into a Social framework, for me, the pieces began to better fit together and my current direction made much more sense.  My purpose is helping others, not about persuading, selling and dominating.  I enjoy collaborative environments.  Though I appreciate competitive environments, when it comes at the expense of other individuals it becomes intolerable for me.  Now that I have had this realization, what is left for me to do?  Simple.  Now I need to take the next step.  I need to figure out a way to tap into more S.E.A. tasks and farm out as many of the C.I.R. tasks as possible.  This may seem like a simple concept but in better understanding it, it is truly making a monumental difference.

[**] This post is meant to serve as a reminder to you that no matter much effort and energy you put into your life, you are only going to be able to achieve a level in life that you permit yourself to through such vessels as reflection, dedication, motivation, honesty, openness and risk.  Even when you believe your current path to be absolute in its representation of your own life, life can still surprise you.  I know it recently did for me.  I encourage you to reflect on your own paths and see how you can better tune in to your life whether it is through a career coach, therapist, and friend or loved one.  As in the wise words of my dear friend David: “When people stop going through transitions, they stop growing.”

Nick Holt is entering University of Southern California’s Master of Social Work program this year.  His background is entertainment marketing and his interests are personal growth and development through a lens of positive psychology.  Like him on Facebook.



Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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