#43 College Major Identification with the Birkman Method Transcript



Sharon Birkman  0:00  

And Burkman never says you should be x or y. It says this is the way to be directed in the right general pattern that could lead to you you on your own as a unique human being are going to find what actually works for you. But if you can incorporate some of these things that are so clear and so strong on your Birkman, you’re gonna get there quicker and you’re more likely to be satisfied long term.


Lisa Marker Robbins  0:30  

The single most important tool I have in advising students is the Birkman personality assessment that I’ve been using since 2010. Forbes cited my work with it as a first step in improving the return on investment for college. But equally important to me, it’s a tool that can move overwhelmed students to clear incompetent about their future, and their parents delight guide their teen on the path to a happy and fulfilling future. I’m Lisa marker Robbins and I want to welcome you to College and Career Clarity, where today I have the distinct privilege of a great conversation with Sharon Birkman, whose father created the Birkman method 71 years ago. Let’s dive right in. After serving as CEO Sharon Birkman is now the chairwoman of the board of Birkman, and is a daughter of company founder and influential industrial organizational psychologist, Dr. Roger Birkman, who created the Birkman method in the 1950s. I have the pleasure of using Birkman in my college major and career coaching with teens and young adults. Sharon has deep expertise in human perception and organizational behavior, using the positive psychology of the Burkman personality assessment. We all need more positive psychology. I think we use it to find our best fit career in my launch Career Clarity course it is my distinct pleasure to welcome Sharon Birkman to the podcast. Welcome, Sharon.


Sharon Birkman  2:14  

Thank you, Lisa. It’s a real privilege to be here to having this opportunity to speak with you today about Birkman.


Lisa Marker Robbins  2:20  

Oh, I agree. You are You don’t know this. I actually all the times that we’ve talked in the last week getting ready for this conversation. I did not share with you that on my I have a podcast vision board dream board. And it originally said someone from Birkman. It didn’t say Sharon Birkman. And then it ended up being Sharon Birkman. So it is an honor to have you on it’s means the world to me. So one of my favorite topics in terms of helping young people find their true passion and purpose and learn why they’re here and just affirm who they are. Yeah, like with all that’s off kilter in the world today, they are our future. And using this positive psychology in equipping them to make more informed and better decisions. Like it’s not just a gift to them. It’s a gift to truly the world.


Sharon Birkman  3:17  

Yes, it is a gift to the world, and hopefully the family. But I can’t think of anything that’s more purposeful and more important for me.


Lisa Marker Robbins  3:27  

Oh, well, I’m glad that I know. I had no idea. We’ve talked about all the different ways that we like to help teens. And I had no idea that we had that in common. So as I think back, I started out as an independent educational consultant, I was helping kids find the right college that they wanted to apply to and write all the essays and get all the things ready to go right. And I knew in 2008 I had a gap in how I was serving, because it was difficult to choose colleges to apply to without knowing what that college major needed to be. And I thought I gotta figure this out. So I’m going to confess I had no idea in 2008 What Birkman was. So I became an assessment junkie in 2008. And I took them all and every time I took one, I’m like something’s missing. This is just not jiving for me. And then somebody said to me, you should take the Birkman method. I’m like, no, what? And I did, and I was delighted about how accurate it was for me and the insights I gain and how different it was in there’s probably nobody better than you to differentiate for the parents and the schools that will listen to this, how bourbons different from other assessments that are out there for teenagers and young adults in the career piece. Because it really is different. I have I have clients who take other ones and then come to me to go through my course and take the Birkman because it’s really that much different so What’s the best way to describe how it’s different?


Sharon Birkman  5:04  

I think one of if not the main reason, my dad’s insights from the late 40s and early 50s were 71 years into the Birkman now are so important for people to be able to see is that he realized that people are complicated. I think we all know that intuitively. But that if you simply look at outward behavior, and start describing that, you’re not wrong, but you stopped short of really understanding what is motivating, and what is really interior needs of that person. And the Burkman can show you that. And it can show you added to that career, possibilities that meld with with your temperament. We’re unique in in the whole assessment industry. And being able to achieve that with one questionnaire, one survey that for most people, takes about half an hour, give or take a few minutes. And that is really quite a phenomenal achievement, because many other assessments that try to get at that have to use multiple questionnaires. And it’s either impractical or it wears the young person out, spending the whole morning trying to fill out.


Lisa Marker Robbins  6:19  

There’s a questionnaire that I won’t even use their name, but I have a lot of people who use it and then are like, that was not right, and then come to me. I went to take it as a 53 year old woman. And they were like, to your point, multiple questionnaires. And I was exhausted by the experience. And I thought how can I can’t do this at 53? How can a teenager do it?


Sharon Birkman  6:43  

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And so I think that is a huge differentiator for Birkman, this ability to, to really shine a light on these important underlying motivators that we call the Birkman needs, there is natural is the roots are to the tree. For most of us, we can tell an oak from a poem or an oak from a pine tree. Why, because we see it, we can see it from the ground up. And that’s what most personality tests as they call them, are going to tell you. And that’s not wrong. Because if you can tell a pine from an oak, that’s good information, right? An introvert from an extrovert or whatever. But Birkman says, that’s fine. And there’s so much more to really having an in depth, important understanding of that individual. From the beginning, my father really was looking at how to make people happier and more effective in the workplace. And it was ended in adults. So the thing coming back from the Second World War, he started being really excited about this new field, positive social psychology, it was just starting to really be implemented in the American workforce. And he realized that it’s not just about understanding ourselves alone. It’s about understanding ourselves in relationship to other people. And for any young person, it’s not only important to find the right career direction, but also find out how to manage self and appreciate others. And Birkman will give you all of that information in just this one half hour assessment, which, again, doesn’t make us stand out in the marketplace.


Lisa Marker Robbins  8:23  

Well, I think in you and I use the term needs because that’s what we call it on the Birkman assessment. But I often say we’re describing for you what you expect from other people and your work environment so that we can find that fit because that’s the unique piece. Other assessments can’t measure those expectations to your point. They’re like the roots of the tree. They’re hidden, we can’t see them. But we’re able to point you in the direction of these run. That’s key,


Sharon Birkman  8:52  

but I expect the roots to be there. If the tree is going to be healthy. That’s


Lisa Marker Robbins  8:55  

right, it won’t stand up. I recently went down to South Florida that was hit by a hurricane. And you look at you know, palm trees don’t have super deep roots in others. Right, they just fall right over when the storms of life come. You need to be grounded in those roots to be able whether it’s in career or personal those things are so important,


Sharon Birkman  9:19  

so important. I know dad was influenced by Maslow, Abraham Maslow, and the hierarchy of needs. And it’s so built into the Birkman the needs, expectations motivators. He likes to call them the motivational needs, because that’s is what is going to keep us healthy when the storms of life come. And few things bring more satisfaction at any age, then being able to be in whether it’s for your avocation for a hobby, or whether it’s your full time profession, being able to do things that bring you joy. Yeah, one way or another in your life. It’s as important as sleep, nutrition exercise. Those those motivational needs really play apart in our total health and wellbeing,


Lisa Marker Robbins  10:02  

it’s interesting you talked about like, we all have these different passions, and we have hobbies. I often in advising the students that I work with, whether they’re through one of the schools that we have our course in or they’re in my individual paid course, I say to them, we all have a lot of passions. And Birkman is going to point you in the way of a lot of those passions, and a lot of them you already know intuitively that you have, but not every passion has to be in your purpose in your career. And I really think that this helps, because it can be overwhelming, right? I hate the advice. And I don’t like the word hate, but I do hate the advice, find your passion, because I think it puts us pressure on anyone young adult or adult to find that one perfect thing. And you and I know from the work that we do that is going to happen. exist. No, right?


Sharon Birkman  10:58  

No. And I’m glad you brought that point up, Lisa. Because so often what we we measure 10 Rog universal areas of interest. And we know that went by measuring that we have some really important clues about what’s going to be fulfilling. It doesn’t have to be your day job. I happened to be married for 36 years, to a gentleman who’s got a brilliant career and has had a brilliant career as an opera singer. He’s traveled all over the world. He’s got a beautiful resonant baritone voice. And he said one day, I love music. But sometimes I think it would have been more fun if it had just been a hobby, because I could pick and choose what I wanted to sing. When you’re doing it for a living. Sometimes it can be stressful a little bit. But if what we tell executives who have strong musical interest, and it’s not part of their regular day, job, five, do it for fun on the weekends, it’ll make you so happy. It’ll bring you so much joy and fulfillment like going out and playing tennis, or gardening or things that anything that brings you joy on the weekend in your personal time is equally as important,


Lisa Marker Robbins  12:06  

I think to when I think about people who to your point, you know, good for him that he’s been able to make a career and raise a family along with you working in music, many performers can’t do that. So it’s very rare, like he’s in a top few percent there. And so Bravo, completely. But there are ways to maybe work within the industry of music. And I and I what I’ve seen Birkman do is take maybe some passions that individuals have, and then they go, Oh, but I could fulfill this more. I don’t know business or marketing role within an organization that I’m passionate about.


Sharon Birkman  12:52  

Sure, that’s such a good point. We have people that have strong musical interests, but they don’t sing, they don’t play an instrument. What they love also is technology. So they end up being audio engineers, but get to still be in the industry they love. And it does include music, sometimes they’re good at numbers, and they get to be an accountant for a company that does something that they’re also passionate about with other interests. So it’s a broad world out there of career opportunities. And if you look at your Birkman report, this starting report, we call the signature report, in fact, has if you look at your top three or four percentiles of interests, those are going to be excellent cues about a healthy direction for you to head, whether it’s again, something that you do on the side that makes you happy, or whether it’s included, hopefully, in your day job.


Lisa Marker Robbins  13:44  

You mentioned so we have when we have an individual take the Birkman that I have all of my clients take we have different types of reports, right? So I’ve created custom reports, there’s five of them that are inside the course that they are unique to us are not ones that you guys just have like, Oh, here’s the turnkey report that achieve what we’re trying to do with college major career coaching, and then eventually finding that right college. One thing that is key because this is such an overwhelming future planning is so overwhelming to these teens, right? They think like, well, everything’s a possibility. But I know I’m gonna have to pick that one first step. I always say you’re not picking your forever step, you’re picking your first step that aligns with you into the world of work, and then it’s going to take you on a journey, but it will be aligned to you. The report that I think helps the students that I’m working with become less overwhelmed because parents often say to me, like my kids not motivated. And I’m like, Oh, your kid, that motivation is not the problem. They’re overwhelmed. And so when we can simplify this for them, and again, that’s positive psychology, right? Let’s take it from a negative to a positive, that job list that we Give that says, Okay, you look a lot like it’s really measuring them against what adults who are working, you’ll put it better than I will go ahead. Yeah,


Sharon Birkman  15:13  

what it’s doing is taking all of their answers to the questions on our questionnaire. So we each question is called an item. So we take all of the items, that from their view of themselves, their answers about their expectations of others, and the world around them. And what they’re interested in doing, which is ranking different jobs, from least favorite to most favorite, or most favorite to least favorite with a drag and drop. But these are tasks as well, you swirl all of that into the mix, and say, the way you responded to our questions was very similar to people in those particular jobs that had tenure in those jobs. And so the expectation is also that expressed some satisfaction with being tenure in those jobs. And we looked at hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of research answers to that, and said, Your responses are so similar. This appears that it would be a good fit, ie, you look like that big job family could be a useful choice for you whether it’s a college major, or thinking about jobs, when you leave school


Lisa Marker Robbins  16:19  

began with the career in mind, a student is going to go to school, kindergarten through senior year, for 616 1000 hours. And every time I say that a kid goes gap, you see it on their face, like I’m failing every one of those 16,000 hours. And then I tell them, but the average adult works 95,000 hours in their adult working life. So let’s begin with the career to find what you’re going to love. And then we can figure out the major because some careers, you know, if you want to be a teacher, you have to get a teaching degree. But if you want to go into public relations, there’s a lot of college majors that would lead there. So what I love about that job list report, going back to it’s really a list of saying, Hey, here’s the starting point four, and then I take them through how to discover but it’s like you thought everything in the world would be a good thing to check out. You don’t have to, we’re gonna funnel it down and go, you look a lot like the people who’ve been working in these fields for quite a while. And they self report that they love their job. And so let’s start there, it’s no longer as overwhelming.


Sharon Birkman  17:27  

I remember years ago reading the phrase, the tyranny of absolute choice, then it goes back to your important point, it truly can be so overwhelming to that young person and to their family. And you know, the famous Jim example with Smuckers, where they, they were trying to sample jam at a grocery store, and they put out 16 Count of 16 Wonderful jars of jam. And the people thought it was very impressive, but they didn’t buy any they got overwhelmed. So finding that Let’s retry that with with three. And it was much more effective because it no longer overwhelmed the shopper. That’s fantastic. Yes, this was a famous marketing study years ago. But it applies to what you just said. And Birkman never says you should be x or y, it says this is the way to be directed in the right general pattern that could lead to you you on your own as a unique human being are going to find what actually works for you. But if you can incorporate some of these things that are so clear and so strong on your Birkman, you’re gonna get there quicker, and you’re more likely to be satisfied long term. We find it even within a company, people start a job and they get career passed, or they they want to be trained and migrating through different levels of the company. But even employers later on have to be careful that they don’t promote them into the wrong place. So you get the Birkman just like we would look at it for college major or for college exit as you’re looking at a job. It’s always important to go back what stands out about you what do you love best of all, doesn’t mean you hate the others. It just means these are much more attractive and therefore going to bring you more fulfillment and longterm be happier for you.


Lisa Marker Robbins  19:21  

Well, it when we talk to parents, you’re a mom and a grandmother with a new random number five just arrived with a couple of weeks ago. Fantastic. And I’m a mom and a stepmom we’ve got five kids that are all adults who are we even when they’re out of the nest, they still keep us busy for sure. But if you ask any parent whether you’re at your stage of parenting, which is includes grandparenting my sage they’re out of the nest and doing well or that have a high school parent, a parent of high schoolers. We all just want our kids to be happy Be like, that’s the universal in these conversations. And so what we’re trying to do is we use data, we’re not just throwing darts aimlessly at something, we’ve got data that can help us make informed decisions to have a greater chance of. And there’s a lot of factors in life, other things can happen that can derail things, and people have struggles and whatnot. But if we look at personality, and we find that alignment to get your kids into happiness, that’s just what parents


Sharon Birkman  20:32  

want. It is. And to your point about reliable data. This is critical. There’s tons of assessments out there more, more coming online every day. But research is not quick, if it’s done properly. And so what they’re seeing on the Birkman has now, it was revalidated, and upgraded to today’s norms in 2012. And it’s still tracking beautifully. But Dr. Patrick Watlington, here at Birkman is also continuing to update that. And it’s tested regularly to make sure it’s still tracking properly. But we do monitor that. And when we can say we are standing on a very firm foundation of seven decades plus, and almost as many decades of career information. And it’s constantly monitored and upgraded to fit the norms of today, we’re working now on getting some of the more contemporary job titles, because even college majors have had changed names over over the years. And now what they do baby not so different, but the names do change with the time. What that gives the parents and the student is a sense of confidence. This is the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. This is firmly monitored, and constantly checked to make sure that it’s still tracking.


Lisa Marker Robbins  21:50  

Okay, you’re testing and retest, which ultimately shows that the tool is reliable and valid. And I mean, those are our internal terms reliability and validity. But really, that’s what a family needs to make sure that they’re having. I’d love to hear that the team is continuing as a practitioner, I’ve taken over 3600 students through the tool now job out of that, well, thank you. I mean, I just I love it. It’s such a difference maker. I see things changing too. Like, for instance, New York University, NYU, just announced that they’re starting. It’s an emphasis in one of their master’s programs on podcasting, as we sit here recording a podcast, but the world’s changing you and I know that we can go back and look at that curriculum and look at aspects of that career. And those were representative elsewhere. It just has a different name.


Sharon Birkman  22:51  

Exactly. Exactly. You know, as I look back over the entire history of Birkman, what has changed is, as it always does some of the outward cosmetic just as we change our attire, or our design of our houses. But and technology has been the big one, the way it’s delivered, has exponentially exploded with the help of technology from manually in the early 50s to IBM mainframe in the 60s. And now of course, everything’s stored in the cloud. We do keep all of our data. So if someone’s taken it before we can pull it back up, maybe five years later, they’ve taken it and they want to look at it again. Well, we can we can locate it for them.


Lisa Marker Robbins  23:33  

Here’s what it makes me think of and I people ask and now you get the question to like, are we going to have to retake the Burkman in the future? Will it still be reliable? If I take it at 17 years old? Can I still use this information into adulthood? And I’m like, it’s an incredibly stable occasionally I do have somebody talk me into retaking it, and nine times out of 10. I’m like, Well, that was not necessary. But the kids can come back to it


Sharon Birkman  24:02  

provided the first time it was taken. It was taken seriously. Yes. And the young person answered is as truthfully and authentically as they possibly could, it will stand the test of time. And we know that people do mature and they change Outwardly they have life experience later on. But what we’re measuring in the Birkman tends to be so consistent, as long as it’s been taken again with the right attitude from the get go. And even when there are changes, they typically are in what are psychologists would say within a small percentile small parameter, it is statistically not that relevant. So for example, if one one of the interests or one of the personality traits is on the higher or lower side, both of which are good, they both have positive things to say. But a high doesn’t suddenly become a low or low doesn’t become a high any more than that. My entry is going to suddenly turn into an oak, it’s just Nyan happen is not going to happen. So that would be the only caveat. We are very reliable, assuming that that person took it sincerely.


Lisa Marker Robbins  25:11  

And I’m going to add, there’s a school right now that I’m working with. We’ve been working together for about six years with my program. And occasionally there like there was a teenager last week who did not take it seriously. And the system identified, you know, I get that as a consultant we get back yeah, it Okay, get back and say we’re gonna take a look closer look at this, because the computer figured out like something’s not right. And then you actually have a human look at it and go, Oh, it is a valid assessment, or no, it’s not valid, and then you guys don’t release it to me. And then I have to have the individual retake it if they want to take it, and do so with intention and seriousness, yes,


Sharon Birkman  25:52  

because they’re only hurting themselves if they game it, right. But that’s a very important point. And it’s important part of what we do, the algorithm says, if they’re just kind of playing with it, it’ll show up that way. Okay.


Lisa Marker Robbins  26:05  

I always say to kids, if your parents help you with that college essay, the college is gonna know, you guys are gonna know. So you were sharing with the story. And you said it was just yesterday with one of the teen groups that you are doing some where we both have that passion some work with about a young man who didn’t listen to his Birkman at first. And then


Sharon Birkman  26:28  

yesterday afternoon, one of my friends and an Episcopal Church was saying that she said, I wish my son had listened to his workmen in the first place. He took it about five years ago, and look very much like an engineer, but had family members somewhere in the clan, who said, No, I think I think it being an accountant would be a good thing for you to do because everyone needs accountants. And it’ll be it’ll be a lifetime of security. So he was influenced by this advice, when against his Birkman study of accounting, worked for two and a half to three years at Ernst and Young. So he’s obviously a bright young man. Yeah, was totally not happy. In fact, he was miserable there. So they pulled his Birkman back up, looked at it again. And sure enough, he looked like an engineer on the Birkman. He then redirected his whole career path, and is now very happily working at AWS. Amazon.


Lisa Marker Robbins  27:27  

Yeah, I’ve had over the years, a few students that that also happens, it’s like, they get overwhelmed by too many, I would say too many cooks in the kitchen. Right? And so all this advice, and I just say, just come back to the data, listen to yourself. And that will set you up for success. It


Sharon Birkman  27:48  

totally, because the relatives are very well intentioned, and they’re not wrong. Yes, it is secure to be an accountant. If your Birkman looks like you have high numerical and high detail and high administrative, and that’s something that really looks like you, then you’ll you’ll thrive in that place. But if it doesn’t, it’s just you’re you’re looking at a lifetime of frustration, truly well.


Lisa Marker Robbins  28:11  

And bravo to him that he knew he didn’t just stay in that job. He was willing to go back at some more education to get on the right path, because who wants to be miserable their whole lives,


Sharon Birkman  28:23  

right. And it turned out his his mom had been Birkman certified a number of years ago. So he said, Well, let’s pull up your Birkman again. And sure enough, there it was. She just said I wish he’d listened to the Birkman the first time, it would have saved him some years of frustration.


Lisa Marker Robbins  28:38  

Wow. We all have kids, kids that I work with, and kids that are my my own that you’re like, some of them learn things the hard way. And some of them take the easier path. But they came to


Sharon Birkman  28:49  

the good news is nothing you learned is ever wasted. Even if it’s learning a life lesson that was the wrong door to knock on to your point, you learn something from it. As long as you


Lisa Marker Robbins  28:59  

learn from it. It’s not a failure, right? It’s interesting. There’s a lot of math in both engineering and accounting. And so I’ve seen over the years, people go like, Oh, this kid’s really good at math. You and I know, from a statistical analysis of people who are happy in their jobs, loving math, and having an aptitude for math is not necessarily a happy engineer or an accountant make. There are other factors far, far far removed from math that are going to predict who’s going to enjoy that work.


Sharon Birkman  29:33  

That’s right, you want to look at the bigger picture, and you can get that from our data. So I’m really proud. I love to see people like you guiding these young people in a direction that makes so much sense for them.


Lisa Marker Robbins  29:48  

Well, thank you Sharon, and thank you it has been an honor to have you on the podcast. You are a dream guest of mine. Thanks for carving out the time. What it’s


Sharon Birkman  29:59  

mutual Lisa Like I tell our consultants all the time, our Birkman professionals. When we cannot do Birkman, without people like you doing such excellent work out in the field, what we do is we hold the process the data, we provide the raw data in terms in the reporting to understand that, but it’s people like you that make the magic happen with the actual people in the families and the young people. And that’s why this is such a privilege for me to talk to you. And just say, please keep on doing what you’re doing, because it’s so matters in the world.


Lisa Marker Robbins  30:36  

Thank you, Sharon. Wow, what a privilege to have Sharon on the podcast. I’m sure you now have a better understanding of why I use the Birkman with all my students in my launch Career Clarity course where I guide students to finding college major and career alignment. Your college bound challenge this week, is to discover if the time is now to start this work, so you don’t need to rush later. Or if you’re already lagging behind and better get hustling. I’ve created a quiz for you to take and the link is in the show notes. It literally will take you less than five minutes to complete. And you’ll be able to know what you need to be doing now. Because many colleges admit students by major or possible future major influences whether the student gets in, it’s important to take the quiz now, the last thing you want is for your student to have limited options because they didn’t take the time to make informed choices. Head on over to the show notes to get the link and take the quiz. If today’s episode was helpful to you, please share with a friend who needs us to sharing following the podcast rating and reviewing helps us resource more students to launch into a successful future. Thank you for listening to the College and Career Clarity podcast where I help your family moved from overwhelmed and confused to motivated clear and confident about your teens future