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[00:00:00] Dr. Sharp: Hey, y’all. This is Dr. Jeremy Sharp and this is The Testing Psychologist podcast. Welcome back, everybody.

Today’s guest, Dr. Bryan Dik, has a lengthy resume in the field of Vocational Psychology. He is currently a professor of Psychology at Colorado State University. He’s also the Co-founder and Chief Science Officer of jobZology, a commercial company that he co-founded along with an industrial organizational psychologist that is aimed at bringing vocational assessment to the mainstream and helping match employees and employers together in a meaningful way.

Bryan studies meaning and purpose in the workplace, calling and vocation and career development, and the intersection of faith and work. He’s published widely on these topics and he’s a frequent speaker at conferences on college campuses and for different organizations.

[00:01:00] He served on the editorial board for seven research journals and has collaborated on no less than 4 books, all of which will be listed in the show notes. He’s an American Psychological Association fellow, and he got a 2017 John Holland Award for Outstanding Achievement in Career or Personality Research.

Bryan is a really good guy. He was one of my favorite professors in graduate school. I just feel fortunate to be able to circle back and connect with him here for a podcast interview.

We talk about a lot of things in vocational assessment. We talk about the ins and outs of vocational assessment and the process that he employs at the university. For a vocational assessment model, we get into calling, meaning, doing work that feels important to you and matches your interests and your values. We also talk a bit [00:02:00] about what it’s like to jump into the corporate world and take his skills in psychology and assessment to another level.

So, this is a good interview, y’all. Definitely stick around and check out this conversation.

Before we jump to the conversation, I want to follow up on an announcement from two weeks ago. By the time this podcast is live, we should be good to go with the Testing Psychologist podcast being approved and available for CEU credits. I have partnered with At Health to offer many of the current and past episodes for continuing education credit.

So go check it out ahealth.com; you can search for Testing Psychologist, you can search for Jeremy Sharp, you can look within the different categories that you’d like to learn about, but those [00:03:00] podcasts are available. I cannot express how excited I am to be able to make that announcement. So go check it out. If you do sign up for and take some of the courses, you can use the code TTP10 and get a discount on your total order. So check it out: athealth.com, use code TTP10, and get some continuing ED credits for a podcast you’re already listening to.

All right. Without further ado, here is my interview with Dr. Bryan Dik.

Hello and welcome back to The Testing Psychologist podcast. I’m Dr. Jeremy Sharp.

Welcome back, y’all. I have a great guest with me today. [00:04:00] Several months ago, we had a run of Colorado State University alumni: professors, students, and so forth, and we are back with another Colorado State individual. 

Dr. Bryan Dik is a professor at Colorado State University in the counseling psychology program. He is also, like you heard, the Chief Science Officer of jobZology, a company that he co-founded that we will talk a lot about. Bryan was definitely a high point in my graduate education and I am so thankful to have him back on the podcast here today to reconnect. So Bryan, welcome. 

Dr. Bryan: Thanks so much. It’s a joy to be here with you, Jeremy.

Dr. Sharp: I really appreciate the time and I’m already excited because we are doing this recording live which is very rare. Usually, we do the podcast over Zoom, but here we are in the same room. We’ve figured out our [00:05:00] recording setup, and I think we are ready to roll.

Dr. Bryan: It’s more fun this way. 

Dr. Sharp: Absolutely. Well, let’s start. Can you talk a little bit about your journey to where you are now: where you went to grad school, what you’ve been doing for the past several years?

Dr. Bryan: Sure. Well, I went to graduate school at the University of Minnesota in their Counseling Psychology program in the Department of Psychology. That’s a program that has a long history in research and developing practical tools related to vocational psychology, career assessment, and counseling. And so that was part of what influenced my interests and training. I leveraged that to get the position at Colorado State when they were looking for someone who could provide some training around career assessment and vocational psychology theory and research. I’ve been on the faculty at Colorado State since 2005. 

Dr. Sharp: Sure. We were reminiscing about how time flies. It[00:06:00] seems like yesterday. I remember when you were going through that round of interviews and what that was like.

Dr. Bryan: I’d just probably started to push through the worst of the imposter syndrome, so there’s only the lingering effects of it.

Dr. Sharp: So only 15 years of imposter syndrome.

Dr. Bryan: Yeah.

Dr. Sharp: That sounds about right. I would agree with that. Even being in practice for so long now, I have a lot of that coming up.

Dr. Bryan: It’s very common. 

Dr. Sharp: So there you are professor now, and you’ve of course gone through the process. You’re tenured. You’re a full professor now at CSU in the counseling psychology program.

Dr. Bryan: That’s right.

Dr. Sharp: Which is great. And then at what point did the jobZology thing come about?

Dr. Bryan: I’ll give you a little bit of the backstory on that. When I started at CSU, part of what I was charged to do, and this is still part of what I do there, is develop some [00:07:00] training opportunities for our students that would allow them to facilitate some career assessment and counseling for adults in the community who are struggling in their career.

And so, we actually have a clinic there now, the Career Counseling and assessment clinic, where clients will go through this structured five-session program in which they complete a thorough assessment of their interests and values and personality and workplace culture preferences and abilities, and then work with a counselor to try to make sense of what makes them unique and figure out how that translates into career paths that would fit them well.

And so that was always something that I enjoyed a great deal. Still is. I started to carry out a program of research on meaningful work and calling and all of that stuff, but one of the things that you grapple with a lot if you care about purposeful work and [00:08:00] calling it’s these questions of how can this be bigger than what it is? And when you’re facilitating assessment as a clinician, it’s a really powerful experience and you go into great depth, but usually with one individual at a time.

And so, I always been brainstorming; how can we democratize this process and make it widely available, including the people who lack resources and don’t have the privilege of coming in and having one-on-one sessions with folks?

Right around that time, a colleague of mine, an industrial organization psychologist named Kurt Krieger, had this idea, wouldn’t it be cool if we had a big database of information about job seekers that employers could tap so that they could find people that would fit them well, not just based on their level of education, but based on psychological fit: their interests and their values and that kind of thing.

[00:09:00] So we started brainstorming what that might look like. We applied for a grant from the US Department of Education and were fortunate to be awarded that. That allowed us to develop a prototype of an online career assessment system, and then we piloted it in the community college system in Colorado. Actually, your colleague, Molly McLaren was heavily involved in that project. And then that went pretty well.

Two years into that, the university began talking with us about the possibility of commercializing this prototype that we had developed. There’s an arm of the university, most universities have this, that looks at what faculty are doing research around and looking for opportunities to set up companies to take that and make it commercially viable and much more widespread.

Usually, [00:10:00] that’s engineers with solar panels or chemists with a new kind of drug. So this was a little bit different than what they had ordinarily done. But they connected us, Kurt and I to a couple of entrepreneurs locally. We had a series of meetings. We decided this is something that we want to explore doing. So we formed a company, that was back in 2012, branded as jobZology and created a software, basically an online career assessment system that we now call PathwayU.

We’re now 7 years into it and we have something like 60 universities that we work with, along with about 15 employers, and are looking at some pretty exciting partnerships that we’re excited about. So, that’s the progression.

Dr. Sharp: What a journey. [00:11:00] Thinking back, did you ever envision being a commercial business person in addition to the academic and clinical side?

Dr. Bryan: Yes and no. I can’t think of a time when I thought eventually I want to start my own company, but I’ve always been someone who really appreciates variety; who feels hemmed in when work becomes monotonous and repetitive. I’m just dispositionally wired to think about impact. How can we have a broader impact?

And so the idea of taking something and then creating a product that a broader array of people could access, I knew that that would require an actual business model in order to make that happen. And I had very little, by very little, I mean zero experience with putting [00:12:00] that together. So a big part of it was building relationships with people who had that expertise. But it’s been a really rewarding and valuable part of how I spend my time now. 

Dr. Sharp: Sure. How do you split your time these days? It’s not lost on me that you were going through the tenure process at the same time you were building this company. Now, where does it all shake?

Dr. Bryan: Well, there are some compromises that I made along the way. Part of it early on actually helped me achieve the tenure demand. For example, getting the research grant. That was very important to meeting the demands that the university places on pre-tenured faculty. 

The compromise came in the form of my clinical practice. At the time, I was accruing hours toward licensure even while I was a pre-tenured faculty person. [00:13:00] When we started talking about forming a company, investing in software, what would that look like, how would you design the interface, the feedback, and all of that stuff, obviously that takes an enormous amount of effort, and so I hit the pause button on accruing hours toward licensure and my window of time closed and I could reopen it again, I think, but I don’t have the time to do it, but I believe in what I’m doing right now.

So, there’s part of me that’s a little bit sad about giving that up, but there’s also, I think, a bigger part of me that’s excited about what we’ve got going.

Dr. Sharp:  I assume you’re teaching, researching, and advising.

Dr. Bryan: Yeah. All of that. I’ve taken on two administrative roles. I direct our online degree program at CSU, and part of that has allowed me to take some of my in-class teaching and turn it [00:14:00] into online courses. And that actually has been important to me in part because it increases access to other students at other places that can’t access the in-person, but it also frees me up. It gives me a lot of flexibility. So the online teaching requires effort, but I can do it at night, I can do it on my own time, and that allows me to travel and do things like that as well.

Dr. Bryan: That’s great.

Dr. Sharp: So with all of these different competing demands, the flexibility element becomes really important. 

Dr. Sharp: Sure. How else do you fit everything in and stay sane?

Dr. Bryan: Right.

Dr. Sharp: Let me go way back. I’m always very curious for folks that interview how you get where you are, especially for you, there’s a meta aspect to this.

Dr. Bryan: Oh, totally. 

Dr. Sharp: Study, calling, and meaning in the workplace. How did you land in this area [00:15:00] in particular?

Dr. Bryan: Well, there’s some irony involved. I think a lot of people, it’s probably a shocking number of people go into psychology in part because they’re motivated to figure out something they’ve been struggling with, which is why it’s always surprising when people assume that psychologists don’t have problems

Dr. Sharp: Oh gosh, yeah.

Dr. Bryan: They should expect that they would’ve more problems, but anyway…

Dr. Sharp: So many problems.

Dr. Bryan: I was an undergraduate who just could not make up my mind about what I wanted to do. It wasn’t that I wasn’t interested in anything. It was that I was interested in lots of things. And the thought of choosing one path, if that meant not choosing other paths that were really appealing to me was almost paralyzing.

So there I was probably right before my junior year. I don’t know if I got letters from the registrar saying, we’re not going to let you register for classes until you declare a major, but it was [00:16:00] at that point when I was just really wanting to keep options open and it was hard to declare a major.

I defaulted into psychology because I enjoyed it along with other things I enjoyed, but I had enough credits that it was probably the path of least resistance but then what to do next. I actually went to a career counselor. The first time I did that, I remember explaining my challenge and…

I should back up a little bit. I’m a person of faith, and part of the process for me was praying for a sense of direction. I don’t know if I expected a Moses in the desert kind of experience, but I didn’t get that. But when I’m talking to this career counselor, I’m explaining my grappling with this, and she looked at me and she says, I remember this very clearly, she said, “You just don’t want to make a decision. You [00:17:00] want someone to tell you what you should do.”

I remember just feeling so furious and not coming back for a second session. And the reason was she had totally nailed it. That’s exactly what I wanted. But I resisted that. I lacked the insight to really get that I needed to take some responsibility and be an adult. I went back a little bit later and talked to another counselor and he helped me understand that there probably are different pathways you can follow and still do things that are interesting and valuable and purposeful to you. Psychology was one of several that seemed appealing.

And so I looked at my options within psychology. Counseling psychology seemed like the one where graduates could do the broadest array of things: teach, they could do research, they could go into private practice, they could consult for organizations. I was a pretty good student, so I decided [00:18:00] I’d just shoot for grad school in that area because doing so would effectively the delay the decision of what I would have to do when I grew up.

Dr. Sharp: Of course.

Dr. Bryan: I was 20 years old at this point. I had taken a lot of AP credits, so I finished undergrad in three years. I was just very naive. And so by some miracle, I landed at Minnesota. I got there and I didn’t even fully appreciate the extent to which career assessment and vocational psych would be part of my training. I was paired with an advisor who had led two revisions of the Strong Interest Inventory. So, it was just a lot of that. I didn’t hate it but it wasn’t exactly what I thought I was getting into either.

So two years in, I took the summer off. I got married that summer. I moved away from Minneapolis. I lived with my parents for that summer well, until I got married and then [00:19:00] I worked for a landscaper. I just needed a break from it all. And I remember thinking to myself, how can I make this thing that I’m doing something that really resonates with what matters most to me? So this is vocational psychology, career assessment, and meanwhile, I’m doing all this reading on calling and vocation and it’s mostly theological philosophical stuff.

Eventually, I thought maybe I should pay attention to what psychologists have had to say about this. I did a lit search. There were maybe 8 studies that had ever been done in all of history on this topic, and they weren’t that great. And that’s when I started to think, well, maybe part of how I can leverage my training in a way that really resonates with what matters to me is to focus on research on purposeful work and calling and meaning-making and the career development process. And that’s probably the point where I finally felt a little bit of clarity.

Dr. Sharp: Go you. [00:20:00] It’s funny. I mean, as you tell the story, I would have to imagine that many others had a similar process, right? I’m thinking about my own process through grad school journey, and I always say that I don’t know that I actually figured out that I was in the right place until probably four years into grad school when I finally realized, oh yeah, I think I do want to be a psychologist, so that’s good that I’m here, but up until then it was… 

I almost had the opposite where I feel like I picked very early what I wanted to do and didn’t… it was like a horse with blinders on. I didn’t really notice outside influences or really investigate or do much internal searching to really know if that was it or not. I just went down that path, and finally, like I said, woke [00:21:00] up in grad school and was like, oh yeah, I guess this is what I want to do. And that’s fortunate.

Dr. Bryan: Well, one of the things I think you realize is that you have some latitude within a particular path. You can expand it or shape it in different ways that fit who you are and what you’re interested in.

You look at the path your career has taken, and there’s this really strong entrepreneurial element to it. You’ve tried some really interesting and innovative things and it’s all related to the practice that you do, but it’s required, you are having developed whole new skill sets that were not really much of what your training included. Maybe we brought in a speaker or two to talk about how you set up a practice, but all of that you learned on your own. From the outside, I would say it looks like you’re thriving in what you’re doing. 

Dr. Sharp: I’m glad it looks like that. No, it’s been great. [00:22:00] I appreciate the kind words. It has been an interesting experience in that no one in our program really spoke to this dimension or even for you, the entrepreneurial part of being a psychologist. 

Dr. Bryan: That’s right.

Dr. Sharp: That’s a big part of doing this podcast and some of the other things that I do to say, yeah, there are different ways to do this. It’s not just sitting one-on-one with someone seven hours a day. There’s many other ways to do it. 

Dr. Bryan: That’s right.

Dr. Sharp: So you ended up really focusing on calling. Am I using the right, that’s sort of your meaning.

Dr. Bryan: Yeah. We developed a scale to measure it. We have a book called Make Your Job a Calling. And that’s a topic I’m proud to point out that’s exploded in terms [00:23:00] of research. I mentioned my first lit review, there were eight studies, there’s now somewhere around 600.

Dr. Sharp: Oh my gosh.

Dr. Bryan: And it’s international. Last year was the first international conference on calling Research in Amsterdam. We picked the right time to start looking into this topic. 

Dr. Sharp: Right. What is it people say? It’s like you were there before it was cool. You listened to the band before they were cool.

Dr. Bryan: Yes, that’s right. 

Dr. Sharp: That’s great.

Dr. Bryan: Then we’ve since sold out. That’s the other thing you’d say.

Dr. Sharp: You’re selling out.

Dr. Bryan: Right.

Dr. Sharp: So can you define that for me? Even within the field of vocational assessment, what is calling?

Dr. Bryan: We could spend a whole podcast on that very question because it’s a matter of debate. There’s some traction around the way we’ve defined it in our work. We talk about it as an approach to work. I think a calling is broader than only work. A lot of times we talk about a calling as [00:24:00] something that’s relevant within a particular life role. So you can be called as a parent or as a spouse or as a community leader or whatever, but because we have a vocational psychology lens, we talk about it in the work role.

It’s an approach to work that’s described according to three different dimensions. The first one is a transcendent summons. It’s the idea that something beyond the self is compelling you to approach work in this way? The word calling, I think implies a caller. In the United States, a lot of people ascribe the caller to using their religious framework as God, but it could also be a family legacy or a social need or something. So a transcendent summons.

The second dimension is purposeful work. The idea here is, the way you spend your time working is not segmented or compartmentalized away from what matters most to you. So there’s an alignment of [00:25:00] purpose at work with your purpose in life. So transcendent summons, purposeful work.

And then the third is a pro-social orientation. So that’s the idea that a calling traditionally has been about what you can contribute to the world around you. How can you use your gifts to have a meaningful impact in the world? There are others who say it’s really about a passion and it’s about fulfillment and personal happiness. To me, that changes the way the word’s been used in history a little bit.

There’s a paradox. The more you invest in contributing to the world around you, the happier you become, but the focus is on contribution not on what makes me the happiest. So it’s those three things: transcendent summons, purposeful work, and a pro-social orientation.

Dr. Sharp: Yeah. I hear a lot of debate around the word passion and whether it’s even something that’s important or does everyone have it. [00:26:00] If you do, how do you find it? Do you have thoughts on all of that?

Dr. Bryan: Well, sure. I think a passion is very powerful. There’s an affective component to passion. You can think of it as a really intense interest. And certainly, within the field of career development, interest is a really important construct. And usually, it’s the first thing we assess when people are trying to make decisions. It’s like, what are you interested in? What engages you? And so, it’s probably a term that’s taken on a life of its own and may mean different things to different people, but I do think it’s very powerful and important. 

Dr. Sharp: Yeah. Do you ever run into folks who don’t have a passion or a calling, so to speak? I think about that a lot, maybe it’s contextually driven. It seems like there’s a lot out there around find your passion, do what you love, and I think [00:27:00] of some folks who are probably like, I don’t know what that is or if I have one.

Dr. Bryan: Sure. Well, I think a lot of the people I interact with it, it’s because either they’re dissatisfied with what they’re doing and they want more out of life or they like the idea of a passion, but maybe are struggling to identify what it is.

I suppose there probably are people who would say, I don’t have a passion for anything. Maybe someone who’s experiencing depression and sees the world through a dark cloud, but most of us, I think part of being human is there are things out there that get us engaged, excited, enthusiastic. I don’t know if it’s universal but I think you could make an argument that it’s a human universal to want to engage something that’s [00:28:00] interesting or that you’re excited about.

Dr. Sharp: That’s fair. I think about some of our clients and probably listeners too who may do some assessment, and I’m just defaulting to the kids who seem to only care about playing video games or social media; young adults- there are certainly young adults, 20 to 30 who fall in that range too, who seem content to just hang out.

Dr. Bryan: Well, they might describe video games as their passion.

Dr. Sharp: Maybe, so. That’s true.

Dr. Bryan: Well, those kinds of things, when that’s the case, we try to look at themes. So what need does that satisfy for you? Are there parallel experiences in the world that can allow you to tap into that same theme, but that help you get out of the basement from time to time?

[00:29:00] Dr. Sharp: Sure. I like that. It tends to be a fairly practical podcast in some regards, and so, I am curious about the assessment process and how that fits into these ideas that you’re talking about. You certainly mentioned the university clinic. Maybe that’s a good place to start. With vocational assessment, what kind of a model could we be looking at for digging into some of these things for people?

Dr. Bryan: Well there are a few differences between what you might consider traditional psychological assessment for diagnostic purposes and career assessment. A traditional model for diagnostic purposes would maybe have a client take a battery of tests or assessments and then you’d do some observations or something like that, and then you gather all that information and prepare a report and you meet with that person and there’s the big [00:30:00] reveal.

Dr. Sharp: True. That’s a good way to put it.

Dr. Bryan: That includes a treatment plan and all of that stuff.

With career assessment, the assessment is the intervention. Think of it like an Interest Inventory as an example here. You give someone an Interest Inventory, they respond to the items, and ask them to think about how they feel about different types of activities and types of work or types of people and then it generates a profile.

And the intervention is like, that’s not a diagnostic profile. It’s something for them to engage and you’re facilitating their process of engagement with this information about who they are. And so you have an interpretation session where you sit down with an individual and you say, well, let’s take a look at what your scores reveal about what kinds of things you’re interested in. And as you march through it, you ask them to comment on how that fits with their experience. 

The more connections they can make between what they see [00:31:00] as on the paper in a bar graph for their assessment results and their actual lived experience, then the more confident they become in their ability to really understand themselves and to identify those things that are really exciting and engaging to them and the things that just either they’re averse to or neutral about.

The idea obviously is a person-environment fit type approach where the more you know about yourself, and then the more you learn about different opportunities that are out there in the world of work, you can start to ask the question, what kinds of matches would be ideal for me? What do I need to learn in order to evaluate that? And then what steps do I need to take in order to forge a career path that allows me to be the kind of person that I am, like a fish swimming with the current instead of against it? So that’s the broadest sense a good model to [00:32:00] use.

Dr. Sharp: Yeah. It sounds like there’s some overlap with the philosophy of therapeutic assessment or collaborative assessment. I don’t know if you’re familiar with all of that modality, but it’s collaborative. It’s not so much the medical model, like, here’s your diagnosis.

Dr. Bryan: Right. There have been some attempts to come up with a DSM for career-related problems, but usually, the focus is just on understanding the self better. The main attributes that we would assess would be interests, values, personality, and abilities. And then, what do we know about different pathways?

In the clinic, our students, our trainees, or our clinicians write a report but the report comes at the end. So it’s not something you do upfront and then it’s part of the reveal to the client, but it’s something that simply [00:33:00] summarizes this process that they went through. It actually doesn’t provide anything new beyond what they’ve just experienced in these 5 sessions, but it brings it all together into one document as a nice summary, and then there are some next steps that are part of it. 

Dr. Sharp: Got you. So if someone out there wanted to, they’re thinking, maybe they had vocational training in grad school, maybe someone like myself, basic knowledge and they’re saying, hey, I might want to integrate some of this in my practice. What kind of a model do you have set up with the clinic now- the minutia of it, so like, what happens the first meeting and what measures do you like to use and where does it go from there? 

Dr. Bryan: Sure. I’ll give you two answers to this because it’s a little bit relevant to what we’ve developed within jobZology as [00:34:00] well.

But within the clinic, if you want the nuts and bolts of it, I’d say session one, the way we have it structured there, session one is intake and orientation. So you ask all kinds of questions about your goals for this process and work history and messages you got about work and career and the dream job question and that kind of thing. And then you spend a little bit of time helping people understand what the process is going to look like and what they can expect as outcomes.

And so part of that is, every once in a while you get people who just are desperate for a job and are wanting a headhunt kind of experience. We don’t do that. We help people who need a sense of direction gain some clarity and a sense of direction within their careers. 

Dr. Sharp: Is there, sorry to interrupt. Is there a structured interview that you use or is it a proprietary thing you came up with?

Dr. Bryan: Well, when I train our students to do this, then I load them up with some sample [00:35:00] questions and they’re under a series of categories. It’s way more questions than they would ever ask in a single intake. Obviously, you build in flexibility but there are standard things that you would ask about.

I just mentioned a few of them, but they’d be goals for this process. Why are you coming in now? What is the precipitating event? What made this the last straw that you decide, okay, I need to hit the pause button and take a step back and look at where I’m heading? But then it’s things like, what kinds of things have you enjoyed in your career? Or when you were in school, what subjects were really exciting, and which ones did you hate? What matters to you in life? What is really valuable? What’s important to you? And in work experiences: What have been the best ones, what have been the worst ones, and what’s been the difference between those? These kinds of things. How do other people experience you? That taps into personality a little bit. What kinds [00:36:00] of skills do you feel like you have that are really unique or that might set you apart?

So it’s these standard kinds of things that really parallel what you’ll formally assess through the instruments that we use. The dream job question I mentioned, that’s always a nice one because, you say, if money was no object and you could snap your fingers and you’d be doing your dream job, what would it look like? Very few people end up being able to do what their dream job is but you can learn a lot about the types of things that would be satisfying to people based on that dream job question.

Dr. Sharp: Yeah. So true.

Dr. Bryan: I can give examples of that, but anyway, that’s the first session.

The second session is really just an administration of the Abilities Profiler. It’s a multi-battery ability assessment similar to the WAIS. It takes about 2.5 hours to [00:37:00] administer in person. You could actually administer it to a small group of people at the same time. And then we schedule four interpretation sessions after that.

Dr. Sharp: Interesting. Okay. So dumb question, but what makes up that Abilities Profiler, and is that widely available? Can people purchase it?

Dr. Bryan: Yeah. There are several ability tests that measure. Most models of human ability have a hierarchical approach, so you’d have IQ at the top or G, and then at the bottom, you’d have these really specific skills. And then in the middle is this domain of between 9 and 12 abilities. There are things like arithmetic reasoning, verbal reasoning, spatial perception, and things like that.

And the idea is that if you score high on one of these, and all those are related to general intelligence, but they’re more specific, but if you score high on one of these [00:38:00] domains like spatial perception, for example, then if given training and experience, you develop the specific skills related to that pretty easily and quickly.

Dr. Sharp: That makes sense.

Dr. Bryan: Yeah. The Abilities Profiler was developed by the US Department of Labor, and it’s one of the assessments that you can obtain through the O*NET, the Occupational Information Network. It’s actually free. Obviously, it takes a long time to administer, but the materials themselves are free, although they do have some, what’s the plural of apparatus?

Dr. Sharp: We’ll go with Apparati.

Dr. Bryan: They do have some apparati that you would have to purchase: Pegboard and rivets and washers and things to assess motor ability. 

Dr. Sharp: That’s interesting. Is that the only administered assessment that you do?

Dr. Bryan: We used to do more paper and [00:39:00] pencil, but now all the other ones are available online. The Strong Interest Inventory, for example, used to be paper and pencil. I think maybe you can still take it that way, but most people administer it online. We use the California Psychological Inventory to measure personality, which is also online. And then we use the jobZology’s PathwayU Assessment system as part of that as well, and that one is completely online with the strong and the CPI. The client takes those and then you have to print up their profile and then they come in and you have a conversation about it. With the PathwayU assessment, the results show up immediately after they take the assessment and they can begin engaging with it immediately.

We have conducted some research that shows that there are better outcomes when there’s a counselor-facilitated conversation about their results, but it’s designed to be [00:40:00] self-directed.

Partly why we use that software is we’ve built into it a career match tool. So it takes results. So your pattern of interest and values, we take your unique pattern and then map that onto what we know about the interests and values of happily employed people and about a thousand different occupations. And then we give people match results. These are the careers that we predict are a good fit for you. These are the ones that are not as good of a fit. These are the ones that are a weak fit.

It’s not intended to be prescriptive but it helps people make informed choices. We tell them with those results too, look for themes. What do you notice in the career paths that are rated as really strong fits? 

Dr. Sharp: Yeah. So that’s exactly right. I can almost guarantee that people [00:41:00] are out there listening and saying, how do I get my hands on that tool? That sounds cool. Is it available to the general public or are y’all just contracting with bigger agencies or what?

Dr. Bryan: Yeah, actually we just released a version for the consumer market.

Dr. Sharp: Oh wow.

Dr. Bryan:  We do have some partnerships with clinicians, certainly with colleges and universities who use it at scale, and then with clinicians who use it at volume. So that reduces the cost per administration. Clinicians would pay an annual fee and then they can charge whatever they’d want to the clients that they use. But for the onesies and twosies, there’s a site that an individual could go to, or if you have a 22-year-old living in your basement and you think they’d benefit from this, you can send them to the site, they can pay a fee and it’s for a lifetime membership.

We see it as a system that someone can benefit from going [00:42:00] back to over time. You can retake the assessments at different points in time if you like. The things we measure are highly stable, so we don’t ordinarily expect there’d be much of a change, but if you felt like you were in a bad mood when you took them once and that might influence your scores, then you can take it again.

Dr. Sharp: That’s fantastic. So just jumping back to the assessment process then, what happens over the course of those, you said four interpretation sessions?

Dr. Bryan: We usually take one construct at a time. So the first session would focus on interests. Partly we focus on interest because even though people want to narrow down their options, I think it helps to start by taking a step back and broadening them because everyone has foreclosed on the range of options that they would consider acceptable.

How do you learn about the world of work? You learn about it from your own social network, from your parents, your [00:43:00] parents’ friends, your friends’ parents, what you see on tv, that kind of thing. So there may be career paths out there that you’re not even aware of, that you’ve never considered. Interest assessment allows you to look really broadly at the full domain of options. And so start with that interest assessment, encourage a person to take a step back and look broadly.

And then, we assign homework. In between sessions, we encourage people to spend time both reflecting on what their scores reveal about them, but also investigating what that might mean in terms of different career paths that might fit them well. There are various online databases with that kind of information including the ones we built into the PathwayU software, but another good way to do that is with occupational interviews. So that usually comes down the road a little bit.

[00:44:00] So that first session we usually ask people, come with a list. Next time we meet, come with a list of the occupations that seem appealing to you. Don’t worry about if you’ve got the training you need or what it pays or how accessible it is. Don’t worry about any of that yet. Just come with a list of things that are appealing. And usually, when people spend time doing that, they notice some real themes that emerge, like, wow, a lot of these have to do with teaching or mentoring or a lot of these have to do with business-related tasks, selling or whatever.

And also something that happens is often people find themselves gravitating toward one or two career paths they just can’t get out of their head; they get really excited about and they become really curious and that’s, I think telling when that happens.

Dr. Sharp: Absolutely.

Dr. Bryan: Then the next session we focus on personality, and we say, okay, interest is about what you enjoy. Personality is about your general tendencies, how people experience [00:45:00] you, and how you tend to think, act, and feel. That’s where you talk about things like, do you see yourself in a leadership role? The CPI can really help identify people who need to be in a role where they’re managing other people or people who prefer to follow a leader they trust or people who need to be out front and really vocal, or people who can lead by example. So those kinds of dynamics.

It also allows you to tap into things like, do you need a highly structured environment in order to feel like you know what you’re doing or would you find that to be inhibiting and do you need a lot of freedom and autonomy?

All of these are individual differences that emerge in these assessments. That’s the second of those interpretation sessions. Then we give them another batch of homework to do in between, usually around the deeper exploration of some of these options that are starting to emerge as exciting [00:46:00] fits for them.

In that third session, we can usually fit in both abilities, needs, and values. Abilities are interesting because most people don’t assess them- most clinicians don’t probably because of the time and expense. They use self-assessment. But what we know from research is that abilities that are self-assessed versus measured are positively correlated, but only weakly. Most people don’t do a great job of estimating what they’re good at.

Dr. Sharp: I can see that.

Dr. Bryan: And so a lot of times what we do then is we’ll do a self-assessment before we show them their measured abilities and then we’ll look at the gaps. And some of the most powerful experiences I’ve had with clients have been in doing that exercise where their estimated abilities are significantly below where their actual measured abilities are.

I’ve seen [00:47:00] tears flow when people realize that there’s a whole world out there that they didn’t think they could ever access because they didn’t think they had the chops. When we’ve got this objective measure saying that relative to other people, you are a very capable person and you’ve just been selling yourself short all this time.

Dr. Sharp: I could see that being so powerful for me. 

Dr. Bryan: It’s not quite as fun when the opposite pattern is. People badly overestimate. 

Dr. Sharp: How often does it go one way or the other? More often?

Dr. Bryan: Honestly, I would say, I don’t know that there’s research evidence to support this, but anecdotally there’s often a gendered difference; women being more likely to underestimate their ability, and men being more likely to overestimate it. You don’t cast that aside. You have a conversation around that, about how people experience you. Have you gotten feedback that you’re very confident, self-assured? [00:48:00] This kind of thing can actually be useful. It’s just not quite as fun for the clinician.

The other thing you might notice sometimes is people get the pattern of their abilities correct. The spikes. You identify where their strengths and where their weaknesses are. And some people are really good at that, and it’s really cool. And then you just point out the level of insight that they have, that they know themselves that well, that their estimates follow their actual measure abilities so closely.

Dr. Sharp: What a cool process?

Dr. Bryan: Yeah, for sure. And then that last session is a catch-up if you fall behind on anything. But it’s more of an integration and planning session. Now you’ve been doing integration each of the sessions. They’re cumulative. So when you interpret the personality, for example, you refer back to the interest when you notice there are themes, but you do that in a really deliberate way in that last session [00:49:00] and come up with some summary statements or even better help the client come up with summary statements. And then start to look ahead and say, okay, what’s this going to mean for you going forward?

Dr. Sharp: I like that. As you’re talking, I think about a question I get asked a lot, which is do we have a good way to measure creativity or artistic ability, so things that for us fall outside the typical battery like a neuroscience assessment? Is there anything out there? Is that included in this abilities profiler or are there other ways to look at that?

Dr. Bryan: That’s not directly included. That’s a good question. A lot of research on creativity involves external raters as you might imagine. So, what kind of factors might influence a person’s self-assessment of creativity? This might be one where especially the self-assessment might not map up [00:50:00] to what other people would assess. So that’s probably a challenge.

I don’t know of any off the top of my head. There are some measures of creative reasoning and things like that that might fit the bill, but that’s something that I would probably do some exploration of before I’d say no, there’s nothing really out there. 

Dr. Sharp: Just curious. It sounds like a really cool process. I want to go through this process myself, to be honest, just to see what happens.

Dr. Bryan: Well, I will say, when we designed PathwayU, we tried to capture the main elements of it and then package it within the software. There are some questions in there to guide some reflection when you get your results. And we have a counselor portal too that loads some questions for the clinician to ask the client from their way of seeing it. So, I don’t know that I can send you through the clinic [00:51:00] but I can give you access to the PathwayU, you can try that out and see what you think. 

Dr. Sharp: Oh, thanks. We can talk about that. It is really interesting to me. I could see this. There’s that business mindset just spinning, like, how could we integrate this somehow? This would be a really cool thing for some folks in our practice.

Dr. Bryan: Absolutely. It is something that I think is underutilized, and it’s confusing for clients because a lot of people who say they offer services like this don’t actually use any assessment. They advertise themselves as coaches and as you know, there are some coaches out there who are awesome, but it’s not a regulated title, or at least not at the state level in most states. And so, you never really know exactly what you’re getting unless you know what questions to ask.

And so I think, it’s confusing to people.[00:52:00] But for psychologists who have a really strong background in assessment, I think it’s a really important and valuable set of skills to be able to offer the community when you can provide this kind of service for folks and do it in a way that is evidence-based.

Dr. Sharp: Absolutely. I’ve talked on the podcast before about how I’m a training snob, I suppose, by which I mean, I try to be pretty careful about not practicing outside my scope of expertise. So, can you speak at all to that piece? I would imagine people are listening and saying, hey, that sounds cool. Maybe I want to do that. What knowledge, training do people need, assuming that we’ve got a lot of PhD listeners definitely going through grad school? 

Dr. Bryan: Well, there is a national Career Development Association that publishes some guidelines for training for different kind of levels of credentialing for career counseling, [00:53:00] but there is the part of me that wants to democratize this process.

Training is obviously very important, but I think if you are a psychologist with a background in assessment and can gain some basic knowledge in career development theory- person-environment fit versus developmental versus social, cognitive, and some of these basic things, then if you have the right type of assessments that are very user-friendly or that are designed to be self-directed and that load you up with some support in order to facilitate a conversation around them, then I think you can facilitate a really meaningful interaction with clients without going through four graduate level courses in career development. That would be ideal.

But I think if the alternative is, [00:54:00] someone not getting any help around it, then I think there are ways to be resourceful, to be able to facilitate a process that is ethically grounded so you’re not doing things that are really stretching what you’re comfortable with or what your expertise is, but that allows you to ask the right kinds of questions to help guide people in a process of reflection about where their career is headed.

Dr. Sharp: That’s great to hear. I really think a lot about the integration with the kind of evals that I think a lot of us are doing, and this is a random curve ball question, so do with it what you will, but do you know of research out there that ties more neuropsychology constructs to career choice performance? Here’s where this has come from.[00:55:00] I think a lot of us will look at someone’s WAIS profile, maybe their academic skills, maybe their other neuropsychology performance issues, and say, oh, you could be good at blank or how about you think about doing this for your career? Is there any research to support that kind of stuff?

Dr. Bryan: Yeah, sure there is. But you’re talking about two different objectives, right? You’re talking about performance and abilities versus choice. So EK Strong Jr for whom the Strong Interest Inventory is named, wrote a book in 1943 called Vocational Interests of Men and Women. And in there he uses the boat analogy. It’s really about how interests and abilities are related.

And he said it’s like a boat where with [00:56:00] with a rudder and a motor. I realized that outboard motors, those things are integrated, but set that aside, he said interests function like the rudder, so they determine the direction that the boat goes; and abilities focus like the motor, they determine how fast and how far the boat goes.

And so you think about those kinds of performance-related issues, it’s probably not unhelpful for people to hear what kinds of things they’d be good at. But I would say, before they pay attention to what they’re good at, take a step back and help them figure out what are they interested in because all of these different abilities are related to G. A lot of times people who are good at some things are also good at a lot of other things. And in order for someone to be really successful, they need to be motivated. And so interest helps set that motivation level.

The ideal is to combine interest and [00:57:00] values where you find some things that you’re really interested in, and then look within that and say, within this thing, what are my abilities going to help me excel in? So when someone is engaged in something that really captures their interest and they’re really good at it, that’s when they’re really going to be successful. 

Dr. Sharp: Yeah, that totally makes sense, and I just realized what a can of worms we could open with that, because now I’m spinning on how do you generate motivation and what drives that, and all sorts of questions.

Dr. Bryan: Definitely. Well, people are complex.

Dr. Sharp: It turns out.

Dr. Bryan: Yeah.

Dr. Sharp: That’s great. This stuff is fascinating to me. And the interplay between the types of evals I tend to do for this because there’s a lot of overlap, especially with high school students, especially with young adults. We get a lot of those questions.

Dr. Bryan: Well, that’s [00:58:00] interesting that you say that because it is a question that comes up a lot- what’s the relationship between career counseling and “personal counseling?” I always make air quotes when I say personal counseling because to keep those as separate things implies that either career stuff isn’t personal. They are distinct but there’s lots of overlap.

I always tell my students who ask that should career counseling come after treatment for depression or before or coincide with. There are no blanket answers to these questions. It’s really a case-by-case basis. There are clients who are struggling with depression or anxiety for whom they really should not be making big decisions about their life until some of those symptoms abate. But there are others whose depression is rooted in hopelessness about the future. And in that [00:59:00] sense, instilling some hope about pathways that they could pursue that would be really exciting to them can help address the issues that underlie their depressive symptoms. So, it is a very interesting piece to the puzzle to have in there. 

Dr. Sharp: Well, yeah, I think if nothing else that’s emerged from our talk of how important this kind of stuff is. I’d be remiss not to ask a little bit about this whole transition into the corporate world and this commercial venture because I think, again, a lot of folks listening are always curious about how do we use our skills outside the classroom or outside the clinical office. That’s a very open-ended question. I’m just curious how that’s been for you to be a co-founder of a n actual comapny and enter that world.

[01:00:00] Dr. Bryan: Well, I would say there’s a real steep learning curve for sure. I’m very fortunate that I have not been forced to go it alone. From the outset, we had 2 business partners who had a long history in working within companies, starting them up, doing hiring and the legal stuff, and all the things that you don’t even really think about that’s in taxes, bookkeeping, and all that stuff. They knew how to access those kinds of resources.

So even though it was a steep learning curve, I could lean on the expertise of people who already knew that well and I didn’t have to go through all of the pain and agony of figuring that out myself. But holy moly, I’ve learned a lot about life in the real world, especially as an academic. It’s just a whole different way of approaching things. The pace is much different. The consequences of missing a deadline are much different.[01:01:00]These kinds of things that I would say it’s been very, very challenging at times, but also richly rewarding.

And just in terms of learning how to take this abstract idea and this thing that you know has value and figure out how to wrap a business plan around it that will help it be successful enough to get out there and create benefit in the world. 

Dr. Sharp: Right. Yeah, that might be a place to dig in a little bit because a lot of us I think have ideas and maybe don’t even think to try to make the leap to something on a bigger scale. I mean, how did you know, if you can remember that it might be viable or that it’s even worth pursuing? [01:02:00] How did that occur to you? 

Dr. Bryan: Well, I was pretty naive at first about how easy or difficult it would be in order to figure some of those things out. To us, it seemed inherently full of value and it’s just a matter of opening up a way to pay to access it and it would start generating revenue and then we’d reinvest in it and all that stuff.

What we’ve learned especially with the way we went into it, I remember Kurt Kreger, the I/O psychologist had all these ideas for how employers could benefit from this, but as a counseling psychologist, I’m thinking in terms of how can individuals benefit from this. It’s two sides of one coin but that made it a little bit complicated in terms of figuring out how should we market this? Do we market to both? We’re the small company, we don’t have a lot of resources, we can’t really market it to both [01:03:00] sides. And then, with a full head of steam, we had to be choosy.

I think the biggest thing is asking questions, testing your assumptions. I didn’t do that enough early on. I’ve since learned that that’s essential. So just because you think something is really valuable or some kind of feature or offering is going to really make a big difference, if you’re not hearing that from clients that you’re selling this to, then it probably isn’t all that valuable.

And things that you wouldn’t even think of as really mattering a lot, but that people keep asking for, like when we work with universities, it’s become very clear that we need to figure out a way and we’ve done this, but we need to figure out a way to integrate our software into a different set of software that they were already using called Handshake. And so now we do that and now it [01:04:00] removes a barrier to sell the value that we offer to these people that can use it.

It seemed like you can use this without doing that, but it really felt important to them to be able to integrate. And so now we can do that, but that’s not something that I would have necessarily anticipated. I probably should have but you don’t know what you don’t know until you just get in there and test it out. And then if you’re able to pivot and be nimble and figure out where the blue ocean is, so to speak, then you can tweak your… so you come up with a business plan at the outset, but then it needs to be something that you can adjust and tweak as you get information that tests some of the assumptions you built into it.

Dr. Sharp: And did you have mentors or a business coach outside of your business partners?

Dr. Bryan: Yeah, we [01:05:00] have had several. I would say they’ve varied in terms of how helpful they are from absolute gold mine of value to a total waste of time, or worse, someone who sets us going in the wrong direction. So that kind of mentoring is so important, but you really have to ask the right kinds of questions in order to choose the right kind of person.

In particular, I would say, try to find people who have some experience within the domain that your business is focused on. Just because someone is successful within a business in the tech industry or within software, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they know anything about selling to educational institutions, for example. 

Dr. Sharp: Got you. How did you find particularly the [01:06:00] good ones?

Dr. Bryan: Well, it’s somewhat by accident and it’s networking, right? This is what we’re trying to build. Do you know anyone who knows anything about this and then people want to be helpful. So, if they can’t help you but they know someone who might, then they’ll refer. So it’s being able to talk about your idea, the elevator pitch, all of that stuff, and then just building your network.

We were fortunate early on. We live in this community, Fort Collins and Fort Collins is, for a community of its size, I think has done a pretty good job at investing in start-up companies and providing resources to help companies get off the ground. So, we were at an incubator early on with other start-up companies and they provided some at least initial access to supports that could help us with legal questions or with marketing questions or whatever the case may be. And it provides an [01:07:00] opportunity for those folks to provide some free support early on. And then if you want to do something deeper with them, then you start paying for it or work out a plan.  

Dr. Sharp: Of course. That’s fascinating. I think, like I said, it’s just a different world to think about scaling at that level and jumping into that kind of venture. So, I appreciate your willingness to talk through some of that. I know we could go on for hours about that, but this is enough of an entree. I think just to say that it is possible.

Dr. Bryan: Absolutely. 

Dr. Sharp: And it sounds like a big part of it for y’all was just having that connection at the university to have some initial support, finding funding, and just taking a commercial I suppose. 

Dr. Bryan: And I would say that was very very important early on, but we’ve long since moved past. In order to be successful, you just realize no [01:08:00] one’s going to give you everything you need. You’re going to have to just have the resourcefulness to figure it out as you go. And so, if you’ve got a learning orientation, if you’ve got a gritty determination, and if you’re a generally resourceful person, I think a lot of that stuff will pay off as you learn what you need to do as you go.

Dr. Sharp: Yeah. Well, maybe we could close just by… I’m curious if there have been any books, any resources really, or anything out there that others might access that have helped you along this journey and been valuable to you in any form or fashion.

Dr. Bryan: Sure.

Dr. Sharp: Could that be a broader question?

Dr. Bryan: No, it’s not really that broad of a question. I’m just thinking my go-to has been more local human [01:09:00] resources rather than books per se, but along the way,  the Platform Revolution is a book that there’s a platform element to what we set out to build. And so we’re trying to kind of figure out how can we work within that space. We’re a software company. There’s some resources that try to tell the story of blockchain. And I don’t quite have my head wrapped around that yet, but that’s going to be something that’s increasingly important to us. So that’s specific to the kind of product that we’ve developed. But good to great. Some of these kinds of classics have some general themes that I think you can draw wisdom from. 

Dr. Sharp: Anything, I think, maybe personally for you in terms of, you mentioned grit, working hard, being [01:10:00] flexible, anything that speaks to those traits?

Dr. Bryan: As far as learning?

Dr. Sharp: Yeah. Resources. Or is that just who you are?

Dr. Bryan: No, well I suppose, the learning orientation is part of who I am. And so, part of that means I’m not afraid to admit when I don’t know enough about something, but it also means I’m eager to follow resources or look for things that will help me learn it.

It also means I have the humility to be able to say, this isn’t going to happen if it’s on me. I need to find some people who are at a different pay grade who can jump in and make this kind of thing happen. But grit, maybe it’s more than conscientiousness. I do think that just like…

I had a conversation earlier today about what makes graduate students successful. It’s not how smart you are. You need to have the minimum level of that, but [01:11:00] it’s really just a kind of boldness and a willingness to tolerate uncertainty, to jump into something and say, yes, I’ll do it and then figure it out. As you go along, you can get yourself in trouble by doing that, but if you don’t do that a little, then it’s going to be hard to accomplish a lot. And so jumping in and just that gritty determination is essential. 

Dr. Sharp: Great. Well, let’s see. I really appreciate all the time and thoughts that you’ve shared with us.

Dr. Bryan: It was fun. Thank you.

Dr. Sharp: Oh, good. That’s great to reconnect and dig into some of these things.

Dr. Bryan: Absolutely. 

Dr. Sharp: If people are curious, if they want to learn more or just get in touch with you, is there a good way to contact you? Are you open to that?

Dr. Bryan: Sure. You just send me an email. I guess the easiest one would be [00:12:00] bryan@jobzology.com.

Dr. Sharp: Okay. We’ll put that in the show notes.

Dr. Bryan: That’s great. 

Dr. Sharp: Great. That sounds good. Well, Bryan, thanks again. I really appreciate it.

Dr. Bryan: Thank you, Jeremy. You’re a great interviewer. 

Dr. Sharp: Go on. All right. Take care.

Dr. Bryan: You too.

Dr. Sharp: All right, y’all. Thank you again for listening to my conversation with Dr. Bryan Dik. Like I said, Bryan knows a lot about vocational assessment and I just appreciate the way that he articulates all the different nuances of vocational assessment and the focus on calling. And I like the way that he turned it around when I was asking about skills and abilities and how that translates to career, and really looking at it more through a lens of, well, what’s a good fit and what are you interested in and what matches your values. Let’s start there.

So hopefully, you took a lot away from that interview. Like I [00:13:00] said at the beginning, if you are interested in getting CEU credits for listening to this podcast, go to athealth.com, use the code TTP10, and you can search for The Testing Psychologist, you can search for Jeremy Sharp. You should be able to find all of my podcasts that are available for CEU credit that way. So check it out.

Let’s see. Lots of good interviews coming up, y’all. If you haven’t subscribed yet, I would encourage you to do so. It’s pretty easy. Just hit the subscribe button on iTunes or wherever you might be listening.

Okay, y’all take care and I will catch you next time. Bye, bye.

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