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My Life with a Theory

John L. Holland's Autobiography and Theory of Careers

Author/Editor: Jack R. Rayman & Gary D. Gottfredson

Year: 2020

Editors: Jack R. Rayman & Gary D. Gottfredson

Holland’s theory of vocational personalities and work environments has had massive influence on the practice of career counseling, the classification of occupations, and the conduct of career development. Our principal intent in this book is to make public Holland’s autobiography entitled, “My Life with a Theory.” We have also included book chapters and journal articles that we believe will enhance reader understanding of both the theory and the scientist. The material assembled in this volume is also intended to serve as a resource for teaching graduate students about Holland’s theory, the scientist, and the tools and methods he developed. The book provides in one place original statements of the theory by Holland, articles about the nature of the scientific and professional contributions widely used by counseling professionals today, and evaluations (admittedly with a positive bias) of those contributions. Indeed, we expect that the main audiences for this book will be counselor educators, counseling psychology faculty, career practitioners and graduate students in counseling and psychology.

Looking for the ebook?

Read more in Career Convergence:

Our Lives with a Theory: Reflections on John Holland’s New Autobiography- by Carley Peace and Deb Osborn

Book Review: My Life with A Theory  by Brian M. Montalvo

Watch the Holland webinar for free now



Editors’ Introduction
Organization of the Book
A Note on Editorial Approach

SECTION 1: Holland’s Theory In His Own Words

  • Chapter 1.1. Introduction To The Theory
  • A Summary of the Theory
  • Background Concepts and Origins
  • Loose Ends
  • Summary
  • References
  • Chapter 1.2: Two Parallel Typologies
  • What Is the Classification? Two Parallel Typologies
  • Person-Environment Interactions
  • Using Listings of Holland Codes
  • Using Indexes of Holland Codes
  • Some Interpretations and Cautions
  • Some Frequently Asked Questions
  • References

SECTION 2: My Life with a Theory: An Autobiography by John L. Holland

  • Editors’ Introduction to the Autobiography
  • Preface
  • Contents of the Autobiography
  • Chapter 2.1: A Theory of Careers: Origins and Outcomes
  • College Education (1938–1942)
  • Military Career (1942–1946)
  • Graduate School (1946–1952)
  • Western Reserve University (1950–1953)
  • VA Hospital at Perry Point (1953–1956)
  • National Merit Scholarship Corporation (1957–1963)
  • American College Testing Program (1963–1969)
  • Johns Hopkins (1969–1980)
  • Theoretical Work
  • Retirement Years (1980–2008)
  • Loose Ends and Omissions
  • Chapter 2.2: Becoming a Researcher
  • Getting Started
  • Finding Funding or Opportunity
  • Learning to Write
  • Training and Developing for Research
  • Finding Your Niche and Style
  • Developing Helpful Habits and Competencies
  • Chapter 2.3: Editorial Encounters
  • Journal Publishing
  • Book and Test Publishing
  • Afterthoughts
  • Chapter 2.4: Living With the Highs and the Lows
  • Getting the Most Out of Your Talents
  • Coping with Negative Events
  • Chapter 2.5: My Research Perspective
  • Research Training
  • Work Experience
  • Controversy
  • The Current Scene
  • Chapter 2.6: Afterthoughts and Omissions

SECTION 3: Exhibits

  • Exhibit 3.1: John Holland’s Vita
  • Exhibit 3.2: References Not Included in Author’s Vita
  • Exhibit 3.3: Correspondence
  • Letter to President of the State University of Iowa, 1963
  • Letter to the Editor or the College and University Journal, 1965
  • Letter to W. C. Wolf
  • Letter to John D. Black, 1970
  • Letter from John D. Black Proposing to Publish the Self-Directed Search, 1970
  • Form Letter from Imaginary Assistant Replying to Correspondence during Holland’s Absence, ca. 1975–1977
  • Letter to Albert C. Sims of the College Entrance Examination Board, 1971
  • Letter to David P. Campbell, 1972
  • Letter to Ralph F. Berdie, 1973
  • Letter from Lenore W. Harmon Inviting a Submission for a Special Issue, 1973
  • Letter to Lenore W. Harmon Transmitting Farcical Manuscript, 1973
  • Enclosure with Letter to Harmon—A Report of a Fictitious Study
  • Letter from A. R. Pennypacker of Consulting Psychologists Press to John L. Holland Regarding Travel Expense Reimbursement, 1973
  • Letter from Holland to Pennypacker in Protest of Being Nickeled-and-Dimed, 1973
  • Letter from Holland to the President of the University of Minnesota
  • Letter from David P. Campbell to Holland
  • Letter from David P. Campbell, 1977
  • Letter from Holland to L. G. Hodell, 1979
  • Undated Form Letter Turning Down a Request
  • Letter to Thomas Magoon on the Occasion of Magoon’s Retirement, 1981
  • Letter to Frank B. Womer Agreeing to Do Workshops, 1981
  • Letter to Robert D. Brown, 1982
  • Exhibit 3.4: Notes, Papers, Talks
  • Exhibit 4A. The Meaning of “Interests”
  • Exhibit 4B: The Vocational Preference Inventory
  • Exhibit 4C: A Theory-Ridden, Computerless, Impersonal Vocational Guidance System
  • Exhibit 4D: Final Report of the Careers and Curricula Program
  • Exhibit 4E: Vocational Guidance for Everyone
  • Exhibit 4F: Reducing Sexual Inequality
  • Exhibit 4G: Some Recent Discoveries in Career Research and Development
  • Exhibit 4H: My Life with the SDS
  • Exhibit 4I: Separate But Unequal is Better
  • Exhibit 4J: Some Recollections of Jack Darley
  • Exhibit 4K: My Life with a Theory
  • Exhibit 4L: New and Old Perspectives
  • Exhibit 3.5: Gender and Theoretical Controversy
  • Exhibit 5A: The Influence of Vocational Interest Inventories: Some Implications for Psychological Testing
  • Exhibit 5B: Toward Beneficial Resolution of the Interest Inventory Controversy
  • Exhibit 5C: Letter to Melvin Novick, 1992

SECTION 4: Perspectives on Holland’s Contributions to Research and Practice

  • Editors’ Introduction to Section 4
  • Chapter 4.1: John L. Holland’s Contributions to Vocational Psychology:
  • A Review and Evaluation
  • The Contributions
  • Common Themes and Working Styles
  • The Unexplored Agenda
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Chapter 4.2. The Meaning and Measurement of Environments in Holland’s Theory
  • Holland’s Environmental Formulations
  • Assessment of Holland Environmental Models
  • Assessing the Construct Validity of Holland’s Occupational Types
  • Relationship to Other Approaches in Assessing Environments
  • Conclusions about Holland’s Contributions
  • References
  • Chapter 4.3: Holland’s Theory and Career Intervention:
  • The Power of the Hexagon
  • Utility of Holland’s Theory
  • Career Interventions Spawned by the Holland Theory
  • Why Do Holland Theory-Based Interventions Work?
  • Final Thoughts
  • References

SECTION 5: Personal Recollections and Tributes.

  • Chapter 5.1: A Tribute to John L. Holland: Psychologist, Theoretician, Scholar, Researcher, Counselor and Friend
  • Chapter 5.2: Reminiscences of John L Holland
  • Chapter 5.3: John L. Holland (1919–2008)
  • Chapter 5.4: Australian Obituary, John L. Holland 1919–2008

SECTION 6: Resources for Instruction: Photographs, Videos, PowerPoint Presentation

SECTION 7: Appendices

  • Appendix 7.1: Glossary of Holland Theoretical Terms
  • Appendix 7.2. Names Mentioned in Holland’s Autobiography
  • Appendix 7.3: Abbreviations or Acronyms Used
  • Appendix 7.4: Index


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