Matching Personality to Entrepreneurial Choice: Part I

dreamstime_1634368Through my work with emerging entrepreneurs, I often begin with a career assessment tool, The Self Directed Search®. Although not intended to be an entrepreneurial exploration tool, I think The SDS tool is ideal for it.   Because artistry and creativity are driven by unique talent(s) built in unique arts education silos, every artist’s situation is its own exception to the rule. I have found John Holland’s SDS self-assessment tool to really help students identify if their artistic and entrepreneurial choices matched their core personality or if these important aspects of a happy and creatively fulfilling life are at odds.

Self-assessment tools like these also serve as a path to increased self-awareness– an important entrepreneurial personality characteristic. Self-assessment involves taking an inventory of your likes, dislikes, personal characteristics, values, wants, and needs. It is the first part of the career-planning process and an efficient way to check out your self-awareness. Before you can decide what you want to be and do, you first have to discover who you are. Additionally, as you change, grow, and develop, you are well served to periodically re-assess who you have become in relation to your career choices and goals.

Knowing who you are and how you work best is a significant step toward choosing the right kind of work. Entrepreneurial work is not only about choosing what your artistic passion will produce but also what your daily routines in life are capable of supporting creatively and financially. The Self Directed Search® can help provide some clues to what those daily routines need to be.

To be successful, whatever business you develop has to fill your days with the conditions and activities that you need. This means that a core part of developing your business is knowing what these things are; they have everything to do with you and your ability to sustain whatever business you pursue.

As human beings we are not wired as a single personality type but instead are likely a blend of six personality types. John Holland, psychologist and professor emeritus at Johns Hopkins University, devoted his professional life to researching issues related to career choice and as a result developed these personality types as well as the SDS tool.

SDS Personality tool

The types closest to each other on the hexagon have the most characteristics in common. Those types that are farthest apart, i.e., opposites on the hexagon, have the least in common.

You can take The Self Directed Search® online for a nominal fee of about $10.00 USD. It will take about 15 minutes and provide you with an eight to 16 page report and an occupational finder guide.

When you complete the SDS, the highest SDS Summary Scores (your dominant personality traits) will be revealed as your three-letter summary code. Your summary code is a brief way of reflecting a combination of your interests.

The first letter of your code shows the type you most closely resemble; the second letter shows the type you next most closely resemble, and so on. The types not in your three-letter code are the types you least closely resemble. It is possible to have more then one letter tied for any or all of the three positions. For example, when I have taken the SDS, RIASE were all stacked on the first position as being equal and only C was in second position.

Think of your interests as a RIASEC pie, with the size each of the six slices determined by your SDS scores. The larger the slice, the greater your interest in that area. Score differences of less than 8 points can be considered as similar. Sometimes summary codes have tied scores, which means they are about equally interesting to you.

Jobs, occupations, fields of study, and leisure activities can also be grouped into RIASEC areas. It is helpful to think of these as environments that are more comfortable, friendly, and beneficial for some types than for others. For example, if you are a Social type, you will probably like an environment where people work in groups. Choosing an environment that matches your type is likely to be the most satisfied and successful.

The SDS Interpretive Report, included when you take the SDS, matches your code with lists of 1,309 occupations, 750 fields of study, and more than 700 leisure activities. While this information is not necessarily aligned with artistic creative careers, look up the fields of study resemble your code and record those that you are the most attracted to. We will use this information for an exercise in part II of this post.

I encourage you to take the test now. It can be found at

  • Anna

    Hi! In my opinion, this is one of the most effective tests to date. Just out of curiousity, are there any others that compare?

  • Hi Anna, There are- Here is a link to a list for you to look through. I have worked with Myers- Briggs as well but for entrepreneurial development work SDS works best– I agree!

Creative Commons License
Resource Center for Arts Entrepreneurs by Entrepreneur The Arts is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at