I sometimes get questions from people about whether they should be retaking the Birkman? What they’re asking is if their scores change based on current circumstances or situations. I always tell them that one of the best things about the Birkman Method is that it’s a one-time investment. Starting around 17 or 18 years old, your reports should stay pretty accurate for the rest of your life. My website tells people you’ll be able to use it as a lifelong reference tool.
I took the Birkman for the first time at 17 years old. It was right after my first semester of college and I was about to turn 18. I really didn’t know much about “most people” and had only a smidgen of work experience. And yet, as I returned to my reports many times over the last 12 years, it still captured who I was. So I felt pretty confident in telling my clients it doesn’t change. At the same time, I thought it would be really cool to be able to confirm that with real data! Birkman International was nice enough to let me retake my own Birkman questionnaire for free to check.
Retaking the questionnaire was a revelation. I had no memory of doing it the first time, and wow, those questions are tough! I found myself wondering – along with most of my past clients – how on earth they get results from these questions!
So here’s the quick snapshot of what happened:
It might look like everything I just said was a lie. Most of these symbols moved! Yes, they did. And at the same time, they didn’t move much. Let’s dig in:
My Diamond symbol moved the “most” in that it moved from the blue square to the green square. The diamond represents your “usual style” or “strengths” behavior. It’s what you do when you’re at your best and it’s visible to others.
I called Birkman to discuss the results and got a lot of great information. During our 20s, a lot of us are still “settling in” to our usual styles. Of all the things the Birkman maps this one is the most flexible. This makes sense as we all know we have to modify our usual styles regularly in order to work well with people who are very different from us.
As we graduate from college and start our careers our usual style solidifies. So at 17 or 18, your usual style may not be totally nailed down but it probably doesn’t change super significantly. I didn’t switch to being an intense red style. I stayed on the people-oriented right side of the graph and moved slightly into the more extroverted communication half of the grid.
The asterisks represents interests. This shifted a hair down and to the left. My Areas of Interest report that breaks this down into categories (see below), basically just rearranged my top three interests (all still really strong interests). This is great news for those who want to take the Birkman to help them figure out a major and career direction. My midrange interests made some interesting jumps up or down, but my most intense interests stayed the same over a decade. Again, the changes confirm and solidify my interests. There are no radical departures from previous interests.
My circle-within-a-square symbol represents my needs and stress behaviors. This symbol shifted deeper into the blue square – I’m now about as intensely “blue” as you can get as far as what I need from others and from my environment in order to operate in my strengths style. Our needs are typically more hardwired than our usual styles and for me this change mostly tells me that I’ve gained self-awareness since 17 years old. What my gut instincts told me then was pretty accurate and as I had more life experiences and more stress, my needs became more apparent and obvious to me.
Is there value in retaking the Birkman?
There probably is some value in retaking the Birkman for certain people. Sometimes I think we settle into one pattern of thinking about ourselves and we never go back to reassess that. This is a huge mistake, since we are all learning and growing all the time. So, retaking your Birkman might give you a much needed fresh self-perspective that could prompt healthy changes in how you work and relate to others. On the other hand, just reviewing the Birkman you already have is likely to give you some new insights, especially if you haven’t pulled it out in a few years. If it doesn’t feel like it describes you well anymore, take a minute to figure out if it’s the usual style that doesn’t seem accurate or the needs. You might find, like me, that your usual style has developed in a new direction while your needs remain the same.
Bottom line: I think Birkman is right. You can stick with your original report forever and benefit from it in a wide variety of situations. It truly is a lifelong reference tool.