Choosing an appropriate career path is perhaps one of the most important decisions of life. A wrong decision may lead to dissatisfaction, frustration, and a lack of interest and enthusiasm towards work. A right decision, on the other hand, can lead to happiness, satisfaction, and a sense of joy and excitement towards work.

Despite the importance of the decision, many a times, due to various reasons, people do not put in too much of a thought, as required, while choosing a career. People tend to choose a career not on the basis of appropriateness and their suitability, but rather in terms of availability and popularity. This, in the long run, does not turn out be very fruitful and its after-effects are felt in more ways than one.

Sidney Simon, the vocational psychologist, reflects this very well in his book, Values Clarifications. In the book he says:
“A person who settles for whatever comes his/her way, rather than pursuing his/her own goals, is probably not living a life based upon his/her own freely chosen values. He/she usually ends up by feeling that life is not very meaningful or satisfying.”

In a way Sidney Simon is trying to say that a career should be chosen according to the goals of one’s life instead of getting into something just for the sake of it. If this does not happen then the person feels restricted and life appears to be meaningless.

To pursue one’s goals one also has to know what those goals actually are. For this the person needs to know his/her abilities and needs to realize his/her true potential; the individual has to know himself/herself. In other words, knowing about one’s goals in life and choosing an appropriate career requires self-realization. Self-realization is the development or fulfillment of one’s own potential or abilities. According to Abraham Maslow, it is the impulse to convert oneself into what one is capable of being.

One of the ways of self-realization is the understanding that there are many intelligences and not just one. An individual who is good in mathematical abilities is considered to be intelligent and an individual who is good in writing and linguistic abilities is also considered to be intelligent. Both are intelligent in their own ways. Saying that the former is more intelligent than the latter, or vice versa, will be incorrect.

Howard Gardner, the educational psychologist, has talked about this extensively in his well-known theory of Multiple Intelligences. Gardner, in his theory, suggests that rather than one there are eight to nine intelligences. These intelligences are:

  • Linguistic Intelligence: The ability to communicate well, orally or in writing.
  • Logical-mathematical Intelligence: The capacity to use numbers effectively, to learn higher mathematics, and to handle complex logical arguments.
  • Spatial Intelligence: The ability to perceive the visual-spatial world accurately and to perform transformations upon those perceptions.
  • Bodily-kinesthetic Intelligence: The ability to use one’s physical body well.
  • Musical Intelligence: The capacity to perceive, discriminate, transform, and express musical forms.
  • Interpersonal Intelligence: The ability to sense other’s feelings and be in tune with others.
  • Intrapersonal Intelligence: It includes self-knowledge, having an accurate picture of oneself, and the ability to understand one’s own body and mind.
  • Naturalistic Intelligence: The ability to understand different species, recognize patterns in nature, and classify natural objects.
  • Existential Intelligence: The capacity to locate oneself with respect to such existential features of the human condition such as the significance of life, and the meaning of death.

Eight of these nine intelligences have been found to be associated with specific brain areas. The linguistic intelligence is associated with the left temporal and frontal lobes. The logical-mathematical intelligence is associated with the left frontal and parietal lobes. Spatial intelligence is associated with posterior regions of the right hemisphere. The bodily-kinesthetic intelligence is associated with the cerebellum, basal ganglia, and motor cortex. Musical intelligence is associated with the right temporal lobe. The interpersonal intelligence is associated with the frontal lobe and temporal lobe. The intrapersonal intelligence is associated with the frontal lobe, parietal lobe, and the limbic system. Finally, the naturalistic intelligence is associated with areas of the left parietal lobe that are important in discriminating living from non-living things. All these intelligences being associated with specific brain areas shows that they actually exist and are of high significance.

Each individual possesses all the intelligences, but show inclinations towards at least two or three of them. Realization that there are more than one intelligences coupled with the identification of a combination of specific intelligences that one is more inclined towards, helps to a great extent in self-realization. Learning that goes in line with these intelligences, strengthens ones abilities, and gives a clearer pictures of one’s goals in life, which sets the individual on a suitable and fulfilling career path.

Howard Gardner describes it very aptly:
“It is of utmost importance that we recognize and nurture all of the varied human intelligences, and all of the combinations of intelligences. We are all so different largely because we all have different combinations of intelligences. If we recognize this, I think we will have at least a better chance of dealing appropriately with the many problems that we face in the world.”

People not only differ in the varied combinations of intelligences, but they also differ in personality. Personality plays a very important role in career decision making and career development. It helps in defining strengths and weaknesses. If the kind of work an individual does relates to the personality of that individual then the person tends to enjoy his/her work and feel fulfilled about it. Greater the match between personality and occupation greater will be life and career satisfaction.

According to the vocational psychologist, John Holland, personality styles reflect individuals’ preference for interests and activities. He suggests six personality types that are associated with different work environments and interests:

  • Realistic: Such people are usually assertive and competitive, and are interested in activities requiring motor coordination, skill, and strength. Realistic people usually prefer to work a problem through by doing something rather than talking about it, or sitting and thinking about it. They like concrete approaches to problem solving, rather than abstract ideas. They also tend to be interested in scientific or mechanical rather than cultural and aesthetic areas.
  • Investigative: Such people like to think and observe rather than act. They prefer to organize and understand information rather than persuade. They tend to prefer individual rather than people oriented activities.
  • Artistic: Such people are usually creative, open, inventive, original, perceptive, sensitive, independent, and emotional. They dislike structure and rules, like tasks involving people or physical skills, and are more likely to express their emotions than others. They like to think, organize, and understand artistic and cultural areas.
  • Social: Such people seem to satisfy their needs in teaching or helping situations. Compared to realistic and investigative people, they are more drawn to seek close relationships and are less apt to want to be really intellectual.
  • Enterprising: Such people are good talkers and use this skill to lead and persuade others. They value reputation, power, money, and status, and usually go after it.
  • Conventional: Such people like rules and regulations, and emphasize self-control. They like structure and order, and dislike unstructured or unclear work or interpersonal situations. They place value over reputation, power, and status.

It is very much possible that one person does not completely fit into just one personality type. Each individual might find himself/herself fit to a combination of personality types. For instance, no one can be purely realistic or purely artistic.

People whose personality type matches best with their occupation experience a high level of career satisfaction. On the other hand, people who enter occupations that are not compatible with their personality type tend to feel dissatisfied with and highly unstable with the work they do. Realizing the appropriate personality, then will enable individuals to know what suits them best, which will further help them to choose a proper career path.

Once an individual understands and identifies the specific combination of intelligences and the appropriate personality type, then it becomes a lot more easier to set goals that do justice to ones true potential. This enables the individual to choose a career path that brings joy and happiness rather than conflict and dissatisfaction.

Abraham Maslow puts it appropriately:
“If you deliberately plan to be less than you are capable of being, then I warn you that you will be deeply unhappy for the rest of your life. You will be evading your own capacities, your own possibilities.”

Self-realization, of course, is not only about the comprehension of several intelligences and appropriate personality type. It, nevertheless, constitutes self-realization majorly.

Thus, self-realization not only helps to understand ones potential and abilities, but it also makes the individual to live up to his/her capacities, which further leads to the development of a highly fulfilling career.

Saif Farooqi

A PhD in Psychology (from the University of Delhi). I have been blogging about psychological issues for more than ten years. I am extremely passionate about teaching psychology. I'm a writer, podcaster, and TEDx speaker. I also conduct workshops and awareness programs in schools and colleges. Currently, I'm also working as an Assistant Professor at the Department of Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, India


Hope Edwards said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TF said...

"... People tend to choose a career not on the basis of appropriateness and their suitability, but rather in terms of availability and popularity..."

This is very true and needs to change. For example, in India everyone wants an MBA degree or wants to be an IAS because it is deemed popular. It really annoys me when I see people wasting years of education in fields like Engineering and then go for an MBA degree just because others do the same.

Saif Farooqi said...

@ Hope Edwards
Yes, you're right. It's never too late. It's all about realizing your true potential ...

Saif Farooqi said...

@ Tipu bhai
yes, this is what happens when people choose a career simply on the basis of popularity and not on the basis of strengths, abilities, and suitability ...

Rug said...

Choosing the right career is one of the most significant decisions in your entire life. You should carefully consider all the details and choose something that makes you happy or at least satisfied.

Abhi said...

Hi Saif ,
Very helpful post. Are there any tools available that helps one to find best career path based on the type of the
individuals’ preference for interests and activities & that intelligence.
Given the combination below , could you please suggest a career path in our , keeping today India's social & economical needs in mind. I will be very thankful to you if you can help in this.
personality types ( combination)=

intelligence type ( combination)=

Linguistic Intelligence
Spatial Intelligence
Naturalistic Intelligence
Existential Intelligence

Thanks in Advance

Saif Farooqi said...

No, there is no specific tool that will tell you a career path based on a combination of personality types and intelligences.

No one can really tell you about a specific career. It is for to discover and understand what you would like to do in your life. As this article suggests, you first need to realize your personality and combination of intelligences. Once you do that, based on your interests and aspirations, you have to yourself look for a career that suits you best. You need to go through the whole process of self-realization and then try to understand the career that you want.

And until and unless you have a lot of financial problems or have a lot of family responsibilities, you should never think of a career based on social and economic needs. Although there are several examples of people who have come from very poor families but still have gone on to accomplish their dreams.

Your career should depend on your interests, potential, and your dreams. It should be based only on what gives you satisfaction (Check this article -

So, first you have to understand yourself (self-realization), see what interests you, and then have the will and desire to achieve that.