#116 Helping Your Teen Pick the Right Major and Career with Deborah Allen Transcript


Lisa Marker Robbins 00:57

In today’s episode, we’re diving deep into the art of guiding teenagers through the maze of College and Career discernment. This journey is increasingly complex. In a world where school resources may not be accessible to all our guests, Deborah Allen brings a wealth of experience and heartfelt insight into supporting teens navigating this critical phase, we explore the pivotal role of self awareness foster through ongoing reflection and conversation. I want you to imagine starting these vital discussions around your family dinner table, using simple questions to unlock your teenagers passions, values and dreams. Deborah will share how also real world experiences like informational interviews, volunteer work and club involvement are not just resume builders to get into college, but essential tools for teams to explore interest and develop skills. While many parts of the college bound journey are certainly linear with definite deadlines. college major and career discernment are far from So Deborah emphasizes the need for time and space for self reflection before making strategic decisions with long term consequences. She also advises how parents can support their teens journey, not by leading the way, but by facilitating connections and encouraging independence. I’m Lisa Mark Robbins, and I want to welcome you to College and Career Clarity it flourish coaching production. Let’s dive right in to a great conversation.

Lisa Marker Robbins 02:43

Deborah, welcome to the show.


Thank you, Lisa, it’s good to be here.

Lisa Marker Robbins 02:48

So I am so excited to have you on because we both have such a heart for supporting big professionals that support teenagers, you’ve you’ve got such a great rich history of working in school settings, having expertise in college and career counseling, being a consultant to different organizations. And we just have both have a passion in this area. And we’re both moms. So just talking through like there are so you’ve been in some settings, educational settings, where I would say it’s not necessarily the traditional, hey, you’re in your neighborhood, high school, public high school, you’ve got resources there, and some are better resource than others. And so sometimes people have to go at this a little bit differently when they’re thinking about college and career. So what are some of those settings? And how have you benefited families in those?

Deborah Allen 03:51

That’s such a good question. And you’re right, there’s no one size, one great way to do things. And people can find themselves in a variety of different kinds of educational settings with various levels of support. So if you are a family that maybe is at a large public school, and the college counselors working with four or 500 people or if you’re at a small private school, and you don’t even have somebody that’s a designated college counselor, what do you do? How do you navigate the process? And to your point, there are resources out there. So my advice to those folks who would find themselves in any of those particular scenarios I described. Number one would be to start with your school, find parents who are going through or have gone through the process, talk to them about their experience, find out the resources that they have used, if they have secured the services of an IEC or if they have a community group where they’ve gathered together or even formed their own. I’ve been a part of organizations where a bunch of moms just got together on a weekly basis to just talk about the process. So I think Latifa just take some initiative and asking some questions, seeing what’s out there and then going from there. I

Lisa Marker Robbins 05:05

love the idea of the mom group, like, let’s just have coffee and talk about this. And honestly, I don’t want any listener who, at the top of this here, oh, non traditional setting, like, there’s something that we’re going to talk about for everybody. Because even if you’re in a well resourced school, there’s a part of this, the family really has to own on this journey to what’s going to happen after graduation. Yes.

Deborah Allen 05:31

And even if you’re at a very well researched school or resource school, the kind of work you’re doing with students to know themselves, that doesn’t always happen. But that is an essential part of this whole process. And it is really up to the families to ask, is this something meaningful? And which hopefully, they will say yes, because that will really direct the how and the why of the process, and lead, I think, to more fruitful outcomes. Absolutely.

Lisa Marker Robbins 06:00

So I, you know, we both as we got introduced by a mutual acquaintance of mine, friend of yours, who leads college and career counseling at a classical school in California, she’s like you to have to meet and I, where are we connected? I just want our listeners to know is we really believe the same things about the process of how to tee this up. And that it begins with self awareness. Like in you know, I’ve got three modules inside my launch Career Clarity course. And the first module is know yourself, know oneself really well. And so while I’ve got this very structured inside the course, and we use the Burkman personality assessment, there are other ways for students to start to know themselves that I think you’ve done a really great job over the years of pointing them in some of those directions. And so when we think about knowing yourself, like, Where do you usually begin?

Deborah Allen 07:00

Well, just, again, the majority of my work has been in classical schools. And that is the sign over the Oracle of Delphi Know thyself like that is really the purpose of education. And one thing that we’re reminded of is that, when I think of education, it is more than just gathering information. It is more about getting to a final destination, which is college or work. But it is really the accumulation of wisdom, the pursuit of goodness, truth and beauty, to learn to love the right things in the right order, and asking deeper questions. So knowing thyself is a deeper question. And we live in a very busy world where our kids are so over programmed and so distracted that I wonder if they even take the time to reflect on that question. And that could be something that just gets integrated into family conversations Sunday night at dinner, it might be Ha, let’s sit around and talk about what what makes you get up in the morning? Like, what what? When you get up in the morning? Why? What is the what is your thing? Or what makes your heart sing? That’s the thing that I’ve heard, or talking about? What are the things that you’re just really curious about? Not necessarily good at? So just having these kind of conversations where Oh, you know, I noticed you really light up, you really shine when you do XYZ, and making this a regular rhythm of the family, where we’re exploring and talking and having conversations at an earlier age. So that when the time comes to compile a college list, there is already a sense of grounding, there’s already a sense of, of having a better understanding of your identity and yourself. And it’s an ongoing thing. But I think that we can start just having conversations earlier and the conversations are not what are you going to major in the conversations or not go to college? It is it is, you know, hmm, I noticed that you really light up when you’re around other people and you seem to get energy from being around other people. You’re an extrovert I bet that means XYZ. So again, just giving integrating deeper questions into the regular rhythms of life, I think is a great place to start and knowing thyself, yet,

Lisa Marker Robbins 09:21

in my newsletter, so when the podcast episodes go out every week, there’s a weekly newsletter that goes out. And we give a conversation cute in there. I mean, and if you make sure they’re not, yes, no questions, right? You’re getting curious and you’re going deeper. I had one recently it was as simple as if you could live anywhere. Where might that be and why. Right. And now, as a college major career coach, my we can have a hidden agenda, parents. My agenda with that question is, there are some careers that you’re not going to be able to do in certain local Asians you cannot I live in Cincinnati, Ohio, you’re not going to be a marine biologist right here. You’re not going to be a petroleum engineer, right here. There are certain career so it was like, Okay, let’s, let’s think about it in terms of where we might want to live even. Right?

Deborah Allen 10:17

Or, or even go to college, you know, am I? Am I going to thrive in a bigger city? Or would that possibly be too distracting for me that might have too much fun, you know, are thinking about big size versus small size. So again, some of the questions that you’re right, Lisa, we, as parents can, can have loaded questions, still really, really helpful, though, and helping students understand who they are, and the places where they will flourish, whether it’s large, small, rural city, all those kinds of things. And it’s also this is also the time where they’re discovering who they are. So it’s helpful to have these questions posed, and it’s helpful, not only to get the input from parents, but teachers, coaches, counselors, you know, so that they are learning to have these kinds of conversations. It might be something like, Hey, teacher, my English teacher, I’m really curious about this. And this is what my family has noticed. And what do you think so helping students understand that part of this discernment process and knowing who they are, is not done in isolation. It’s not, they need to look to the wise elders around them, that can speak truth and can give them some perspective. So helping them cultivate those networks of older, wiser folks, I think is essential to an understanding, knowing thyself. You

Lisa Marker Robbins 11:41

know, you bring up networks, one of the things that we do, and it’s actually in the know yourself pillar, once our students have worked through, like our values exercise, and their Burkman, personality assessment, all that we have them create a LinkedIn page. And sometimes people are like, Oh, they’re in high school? Do they really need it? Well, first of all, I have known some high school internships to require that students actually have a LinkedIn page before they’re even permitted to apply. So there’s that. But I love what you just said about like, you know, the role of a parent can be sticky, right, so we shouldn’t be in the driver’s seat. But if they’re a teenager, we certainly don’t yet want to be on the side of the road, waving goodbye to them. I often use the term of like, if you find yourself in the driver’s seat, a, you’re not allowing your child to be college ready to leave your nest. So moving slowly, like into the passenger seat, moving into the backseat with the idea that eventually you’re going to be out of the car, and they’re going to be driving. But I on this, let’s go back to this idea of network. I always say to parents, like, get your kid on there start Have you build your network with maybe your five people that in your family, right? It’s not bad for a parent, like if a kiddo when they’re exploring careers. And that’s the second pillar that we have no careers. It’s not at all bad for a parent to help a student connect to somebody that they know that they could do a job shadow. I mean, I just showed in our launch live q&a This week, I somebody asked something about LinkedIn. And I just showed like, you can search in there a parent can search by Oh, do I know anybody? I was actually using myself. And we were talking about the job of perhaps somebody who had a high aptitude and interest in chemistry, math. And I noticed on their Berkman, they’re also very creative with a high artistic bent. And I’m like, what if you were for like a flavor company? And I said, you know, there’s two I know, and Cincinnati, and the students doesn’t even live in Cincinnati. But I just went into my LinkedIn. And I said, if my child was maybe interested in that, I went, and I looked for people who I was already connected to who worked for either of those companies. There’s no problem for a parent to give an introduction, right?

Deborah Allen 14:07

It’s great. I actually feel like we need to do that. And I encourage, I encourage students to do informational interviews, but I was recently visiting Johns Hopkins, they refer to it as curiosity conversations. I like the language of that better an informational interview may be sounds too daunting to a teenager. But it might not be too daunting just to pick up the phone call and say, I’m curious about what you do. How did you start doing this? What was your path? Like? What are the things that you like about it? What are the things that you don’t? I also tell students, you will be so surprised at how willing and eager people are to help that we’re willing to talk to students, and it’s such a valuable skill for them and once they learn how to do it, they realize, oh, it’s not so scary, okay? And I can do it again. And it just again gives them Um, some anchoring and some aspect of being concrete in a world that sometimes can still feel very abstract when they’re talking to people who have done this kind of work. It helps their imagination and and it also is a, you know, potential Avenue, as you said, for internships and other things. But I’m excited to think that this is the kind of thing that students should and could be doing. And I also think this is again, going to help them in a world today where students are distracted. And just social skills are difficult to cultivate. Like, this is such an essential skill. And we are living in a world where they’re going to continually have to be learning new skills, and learning relearning, and so the more that they can get used to learning new skills, being uncomfortable, but yet doing the thing, then that’s what they need to do.

Lisa Marker Robbins 15:55

Well, I also something that came to mind as you were sharing about that. And I, I do not know that Johns Hopkins called those What did you say curiosity conversations. Love that term, because it does feel a little more casual. So our students, even in the college bound process, if your students going to be applying certain programs, or applying to certain colleges, they will offer formal interviews, right. And so I think by something, as you’ve used a great example, something as relaxed as, hey, I’m just curious, like, what do you do every day, in that job as an actuarial scientist, you know, or whatever, what we’re practicing in a casual setting, it really builds our kids confidence, like as they get to know themselves a lot better. As they began to network and connect with other adults, we’re building into those really human skills, a lot of people like to call them soft skills, I’ve heard them called human skills, and they’re going to build their confidence by maybe at first is just talking to their parents friend about their job, but how they’re then later going to show up in these more formal settings, they’re going to learn the nerve, I’m not going to say the nervousness won’t be there, but it’s going to be far less if they’ve already navigated interacting with adults and asking these curious questions.

Deborah Allen 17:24

That right, and, and they’re, they’re building against skill. So you’re right, there’s always going to be maybe a measure of nervousness, but then you become more comfortable with that. Yeah, all these are so important, and understanding who you are in the good in the world that you’re meant to do.

Lisa Marker Robbins 17:40

So as any other like activities, or suggestions you have in that idea of knowing careers, beyond the informational, I know what we do in the course, but what have been some of your favorites.

Deborah Allen 17:54

I think just exploring volunteer opportunities, of waste, to look around and see if there’s a problem that you think needs to be solved, and then start solving it. And so that could be you’re going to write about something, you’re going to advocate for something that could be I want to pick up trash in my neighborhood, there’s just a lot of things that students could do just to give themselves experiential learning. So volunteering would be one, joining clubs and organizations, these are all things that are very familiar, I think just just taking some time to not do something because they think it’s gonna look good on a college resume. Yeah, but to do something, as they have a genuine interest. And if it turns out that that’s not something that they like, great, fine, now you know that about yourself, and then you can explore something else. So you’re constantly diverging, converging, growing and moving where it’s as a dynamic phase of life.

Lisa Marker Robbins 18:49

Well, I mean, one of the things that you brought up was, this is not going to necessarily be linear, you’re like, is that it’s, there’s some linear parts to it. And there’s a library as well. And there’s, you know, as I talked about, I talked about through lines as well. And these experiences we have that we’re looking for the through lines. So talk about this idea that it’s a maybe a both, and on this vibrant, and then linear.

Deborah Allen 19:22

So maybe one way to describe it, and I did not come up with this idea. This is, you know, relevant or prevalent in our industry. But I’ve heard, I think it was Rick Clark and the truth about college admissions they talked about, you have this journey is not just an airplane destination that’s going from point A to point B, but a helicopter and a helicopter is a whole different mode of getting there. It’s experiential, it’s learning. And so there’s times when we feel like we have a destination. But if we don’t know why we’re going to that destination, we get a GPS and we get there And then we think well, what was the journey all about? And why am I here? As opposed to the ability to read a map? Doing some map making, thinking about? Where is it I want to go and why and what are the many ways that I could get there. So those are elements of which feels not so direct. And I think oftentimes, people with good intentions want to say this is a formula, if I do a and b, then I’ll get C. And it doesn’t really work that way. But if we can take some time to do some of the more reflective aspects, which at time might feel like a waste of time, but they’re really important, then we can get to the place where a strategy kicks in. So part of the I have three pillars that I think about when I’m working with students, one is the pursuit of wisdom. And so we need to take some time. The second is weaving all the different fabrics of who we are you do this in your Berkman. So we look at values, interests, stability, skills, personal style, and we’re weaving all the many facets of who we are into one tapestry. And we consider our time and our place, and all the strands of who we are. So that takes time that doesn’t feel like this linear thing. However, when you’re a junior, things start to feel a little bit more linear. That’s when strategy comes in. Okay, let’s put together a list. How do we do that? Let’s talk about the deadlines. How do we do that? How do we manage anxiety? So that’s where a part of the process feels to be a little bit more like a checklist. But before we get there, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done. And that work is important. I think oftentimes people jump over that and go right to the list. And then they again, sometimes that’s not the most fruitful way to do things. Well,

Lisa Marker Robbins 21:41

we just had, yeah, it does make sense, because I just recorded earlier. And it’s it’s a podcast episode that’s coming out just before this one, once we we always record these earlier, and then we publish them. So it’s March 1, today, your episode is going to be an April, there’s a late March episode with Marty Levine. And she’s talking about like, how do we make that final decision? You know, you’re in the throes of that with your daughter who’s a senior, how do we make that final decision. And there are good she said, you know, if you built a really good college list, and you did all of the things and by all the things, she means both what you said about like the the web and the helicopter trip and navigating on a map, instead of the GPS with the quickest route, then you’re going to have good options, and you do it. But there’s some people that get to this point. And they don’t have, they didn’t have the best list. And it’s usually not because they didn’t do the app, like the linear part, right? The application, the things on the timeline, they you know, they they did the applications, they wrote the essays, they met the the deadlines, they submitted their grades, they took the AC T, however, it’s as I’m reflecting back on that conversation, it’s more of the piece that you just talked about, that really needs to come first. And that’s more of the helicopter versus the airplane, it is not going to be linear, but you’ve got to put the work in and, you know, I encourage students to on that piece, those three lines are there. And when they start to feel a lot of pressure about oh, I’m making this forever decision. That’s not, it’s not a forever decision, you’re choosing a major to guide you into your first step into the world of work. And I just met this week with a 52 year old man who’s going to make a career change. But when we went back to the jobs that he’s had, there are these through lines. And he’s leaning into skills that he already had. He’s leaning into the parts of himself that he knows really well. And his next step builds, those other pieces were foundational, it’s like, oh, you know, he actually started his first career was a chiropractor. He’s not a chiropractor any longer. But there are some things from taking care of patients from running an office, things that he loved, that were part of that foundation, that if he didn’t have those skills, he wouldn’t have been able to do the next job. And he won’t be able to do the next job. So those through lines that come through, and those things come from the nonlinear piece of this.

Deborah Allen 24:31

Yeah, so that goes back to the weaving. And if you think about weaving it is it pulls a lot of different strands. And it requires imagination and creativity. I think especially with AI in the world that we live or changes so constant, that even the idea of choosing a major think about that. The world is very uncertain. So it’s going to be Why are you going to college what is the point? And what do you hope to learn there? Who do you hope to become there and then Then from there, what what skills, what formation has happened that will then allow you to be the person you’re meant to be in the work world. And in the work world, you might have several occupations, but who you are, is always there and shows up.


So knowing who you are, yeah,

Deborah Allen 25:19

who you are and how you show up, matters, and your occupations may change. And that’s scary and exciting all at the same time. Absolutely.

Lisa Marker Robbins 25:28

Well, thank you for a fantastic conversation. Deborah, we have so much in common, and I know we’re gonna do it again. Great. Thank you, Lisa.

Lisa Marker Robbins 25:43

Thank you to Deborah for great insight on navigating the twists and turns of College and Career discernment. It’s clear that guiding our teenagers through this pivotal phase requires more than just good intentions. It requires strategy, understanding and the right resources. Deborah’s insights into fostering self awareness and facilitating real world experiences have illuminated the path for both parents and teens, striving to make informed decisions about the future. For those looking to dive deeper on how to support your team and choosing the right major college and career. Without the stress of your team painting themselves in a corner, missing crucial deadlines, or making choices filled with regret. I have a resource for you. Our free on demand video offers comprehensive guidance on steering your team towards the future they’re excited about armed with confidence and clarity. You can find this invaluable tool at flourish coaching co.com forward slash course, and I’ll put it in the shownotes in this video, I share my step by step process I use with students and my very own children, to help your family avoid pitfalls and find relief that you are making the right decisions. Thank you for joining us on this episode of College and Career Clarity. If you found value in our discussion, please share this episode with other families navigating the same journey. Following the podcast rating and leaving a review not only supports our work but also helps us reach other families and they can benefit from our guidance. I’m Lisa Mark Robbins reminding you that with the right approach and resources. guiding your teen to a fulfilling future is not just possible. It’s a journey we can embark on together. Let’s continue to explore support and thrive and the moments that truly matter while they’re still in your home.