AbstractEvent history surveys provide a means to analyse large numbers of complete individual occupational trajectories. A variety of statistical methods have been developed to measure the time spent in a give state as a function of individual characteristics. Until the 1990s, exploratory data analysis to describe the full complexity of trajectories was rarely mentioned in the literature. Qualitative harmonic analysis and optimal matching are two exploratory methods that can be used to build typologies of complex individual trajectories that take account of both the sequence and the duration of events. They are used here to classify the working careers of male respondents of the Biographies et entourage survey (INED, 2001), with the aim of comparing the respective advantages of each technique.