“Know Thyself”: The Key to Finding Your Life’s Work

This is the first in a series of articles that will help people and their organizations achieve better career fit. We believe that successful enterprises in the 21st Century will be defined by the strength of alignment between company mission and the true passions of their talent.

Socrates was one smart philosopher. As best we know, he never conceived of planning his or anyone else’s career in Ancient Greece, but he most definitely gave us the key to what you must do to find the work that aligns you best with your personality type, most passionate skills, values and interests. The most powerful way of being in the world of work is to design your career from the inside out. Technologies and the hot jobs they spawn come and go but your value proposition in the world of work must be based on who you really are at your core, if you are going to take control of your career and work life.

The foundation for evaluating yourself starts with your hardwiring. It’s like the operating system on a computer. Some of us are Windows, some Mac OS or Linux, etc but we all emerge from infancy with some characteristics that might be modified or developed but which will never fundamentally change. We call this “personality type” and it answers four key questions about each of us: What is my preference in directing my energy, outward towards the world and others or inward? What kind of information do I most value and pay attention to, the world of concrete and tangible realities or the world of ideas and concepts and abstractions? How do I decide on the information I take in i.e. using my impersonal logical analysis or my personal values and feelings? Finally, How do I act on or execute the decisions I make i.e. by working systematically and planfully toward closure or by working spontaneously and adjusting quickly to changing circumstances and new information? Yes, we all do all of these at one time or another, but which are our natural preferences?

If you remember your combination theory from junior high school, with the four factors above and two possibilities for each factor, the number of combinations or personality types in every culture in the world is 4 squared or 16. The percentages vary for each type across cultures but even the smallest type in the USA has 6 million people while the largest type is a “tribe” of about 45 million.

If you know your type, then you will know some of the most important facts about yourself and your most natural talents and weaknesses, a surefire insurance policy for career success if you learn how to use this information. While we develop greater flexibility and broader skills over the course of a productive lifetime, the essence of who we are never changes. Circumstances might call upon us to use certain skills at certain times or even acquire new ones but the fundamental truth of our most cherished skills and values can be found in our type. So, what type are you and how is that affecting your career choice and job performance?

Having worked with over 1700 individual clients, conducted hundreds of executive assessments and worked with thousands more in corporate and university settings, the powerful truth is that if you know your type you will be able to figure out what fields and jobs and skills and competencies are likely to be your best. You will no longer have to be the prisoner of your work experiences but you can now personally brand yourself using a wider lens on your own talent and potential. If you are a Commander or ENTJ (extroverted, intuitive, thinking and judging), you are most likely going to find your greatest strengths and successes in the organizational world as a visionary leader. If you are a Healer or INFP (introverted, intuitive, feeling and perceiving), you will gravitate to creative or therapeutic work that allows you to make the world a better place. The type thumbnails below give you a brief description of each of the 16 types. Which one best fits you? Which career and jobs best fit you? If you want a more thorough assessment and analysis, visit us at www.careerdna.net.

“Teachers” are the natural born educators and communicators with an easy ability to help people learn about the world they live in. They encourage others to explore their talents and are totally committed to the development of potential in others. They dream up fascinating learning experiences for their students or employees, firing their imagination and both enthusiastically and dramatically influencing them to pursue their dreams, talents and potential. They make highly people-oriented managers and executives.


Champions are the enthusiastic heralds who announce to the world the result of their constant explorations. They love to turn other people on to what they discover whether it be a restaurant, new movie or book or artist, cause, service or whatever. They are tireless in explaining the benefits or features of people, places, media, things and concepts. Highly individualistic and entrepreneurial, they enjoy starting all kinds of projects but are not always interested in the follow-through. They enjoy developing potential wherever they find it.


Commanders are the natural leaders of groups and instinctive in their leadership abilities. They visualize where an organization or project is going and then marshal resources and people in preparation for launching major enterprises or campaigns. Supremely pragmatic and ingenious in pursuit of their goals, they strategize every step of the way on the road to execution and success.


Inventors have an innovative and creative spirit which they apply towards solving system-wide problems and other large and complex challenges. They are always thinking of new methods to do things, exploring new enterprises as well as new ideas and concepts. They are instinctively entrepreneurial and carry that attitude forward even in large organizations. Intensely curious, they probe for new possibilities and alternatives, especially when working on solving complex problems.

Providers naturally take it upon themselves to see to the general well-being, protection and nurturance of others. They provide goods, services, comforts and staples that ensure the overall comfort of all who come into their orbit. Warm, sociable, responsible and sentimental, they know all the doings of everyone in their circle i.e. birthdays, anniversaries, latest gossip, health status of others, etc. They provide the social glue that keeps families, teams, groups and organizations together.


Performers are outgoing people who will put on a show for any and everybody. Their high energy and theatricality make them exciting and entertaining to be around. They are playful and colorful and are often the life of the party. Their pursuit of pleasure, variety and fun makes them enjoyable companions as they radiate energy and joy and cheerfulness wherever they go.

Supervisors are the pillars of any community they work or live in. They are the dependable and trustworthy people who uphold the institutions of civilized life. With an innate respect for authority, they dutifully fulfill their responsibilities and expect the same of others. They are the masters of order, scheduling, deadlines, duties and obligations fulfilled. Supervisors provide the foundation for organizational life and thrive in its structure and order and emphasis on getting things done.


Promoters are highly engaging. They put forward an enterprise or venture or project or event and then win people’s confidence to get them on board. They are smooth operators and handle people as if playing an instrument, instinctively knowing when and how hard to push their buttons. They are playful high rollers..charming, daring, optimistic and always seeking exciting and new experiences where they can push the limits. They are hunters, not so much for what people need, but for what people treasure.


Counselors dedicate themselves to guiding people on a journey of self-discovery, the foundation for developing their potential and realizing their talents. The most psychic of all the types and highly imaginative, Counselors are excellent listeners and exceptionally intuitive making advising and consulting two functions they are generally superb at. They easily generate ideas which leads them to find creative solutions wherever they apply their interest and energy and can be visual as well as verbal in their creativity.


Healers are some of the least understood people as they are a small minority of the American population at a tiny 2%. Their calm public face masks an intense moral and ethical underpinning which causes them to feel passionately about people, groups and causes. They quietly exercise moral influence wherever they are without having to say a word. People often behave better around them without even realizing they are doing so. Because of their intense belief system, they are often willing and able to make occasional but great sacrifices for what they believe in.


Masterminds are the kings and queens of contingency planning, having an acute ability to see several moves down the road how situations are likely to develop. Their special skill in planning operations and their nimbleness during the implementation makes them formidable leaders who are often quite entrepreneurial. They are constantly generating ingenious ideas, far more than their colleagues can keep up with. They have razor sharp minds and usually have outstanding intellectual gifts.


Architects design and build all kinds of technological and theoretical systems. These extend beyond the obvious skyscrapers and bridges to strategies, ideologies, theories, programs, methodologies and systems. Obsessed with solving complex problems, Architects are relentless in analyzing systems, intent on finding inefficiencies and design flaws in products, services and organizations. To them, the world exists primarily to be analyzed, understood and explained. They are eager to grasp the underlying structures of the Universe in order to describe accurately and comprehensively, how the world works.


Protectors are primarily interested in the safety, protection and security of those nearest and dearest to them. Warmhearted, quietly sympathetic, sincere and loyal, they are the devoted keepers of hearth and home and classroom and workplace, working diligently in the background to ensure that traditions, stability, property and reputation are guaranteed. They believe in the fundamentals that make for civilized society i.e. good manners, honesty, integrity and fairness.


Composers create beauty in whatever media they choose to work in including music, food, clay, lighting, interior décor, miniatures, etc. Not very verbal, they can spend hours engrossed in an artistic project, egged on by their impulses and their sense of aesthetic perfection. Once seized by the act of artistic creation, they are excited, spontaneous and totally absorbed.


Inspectors are noted for their dutiful and responsible attitude towards standards, schedules, procedures, rules and regulations. They are the trusted auditors and examiners of society, ensuring that all is right. They dutifully report all irregularities, transgressions, violations and slip-ups to the appropriate authorities. They are understated, dependable, sensible, old-fashioned and modest and work quietly behind the scenes to ensure the welfare of us all.


Crafters love physical action, especially if it involves tools, instruments or equipment of any kind. They don’t work so much as play with their tools and gadgets and always seem to have plenty of “toys” around to be working on or experimenting with. They are people of action and few words and so enjoy the fearless pursuit of exciting activities which may involve danger and high risk.

Author's Bio: 

Brian A. Schwartz, PhD
Founder and President, CareerDNA, LLC

Dr. Schwartz is a psychologist and a leading expert in the field of Career Management with a practice that extends 32 years and includes over 1700 career planning clients, over 500 executive assessments and several thousand additional assessments and coaching assignments in corporate and university settings. He founded CareerDNA, LLC in May, 2004 with his partners, Rod Parker of New Canaan, CT and Dr. Frank Bordonaro of Wilton, CT.

He has originated a unique approach to career planning based on his observation that one's most enjoyed work is an adult metaphor for one's most enjoyed child's play. His process not only has helped clients define a detailed ideal work profile (SkillsDNA) but also helps clients identify the internal barriers to their own success and helps them in overcoming those barriers. He is the creative force in the ongoing development of a state-of-the-art manager decision support tool which makes best fit matches between job candidates and job opportunities and corporate cultures, TalentDNA (www.careerdna.biz) as well as a flagship online career assessment and planning program for individuals, CareerDNA (www.careerdna.net).

Dr. Schwartz is also an expert in Organization Development and Executive Coaching. He has assisted corporations seeking to change their organizational culture to a more participative and open environment. He has designed performance management systems, succession-planning processes, train-the-trainer programs as well as programs in executive and management development. He has been especially effective in coaching executives and managers in improving their performance. Clients have included Interscope, Creditex, Continental Can-USA, American Express. Reichhold Chemicals, Coopers & Lybrand, UST, Philip Morris, The Kaempfer Company and its joint venture with The British Airport Authority, BAA-McArthur/Glen Europe, and has worked with its successor, McArthurGlen Europe, PLC, Trumpf USA, Pitney Bowes, DrakeBeamMorin, and The Directorship Search Group.

Dr. Schwartz' early career was as a staff psychologist and Lecturer at Queens College of the City University of New York for eight years. He then founded the Career Planning Center at the National Institute for the Psychotherapies in 1976 and headed that until establishing his organization development and career management practice in Greenwich, CT in 1981.

Dr. Schwartz is a member of the American Psychological Association, the National Career Development Association and the International Association of Vocational and Educational Guidance and the Association of Career Professionals. He is also a member of the Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychologists, the International Association of Career Professionals, the Society for Human Resources Management, the National Speakers Association. He is a licensed psychologist in Connecticut and holds a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from Queens College and a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from New York University.