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Saturday Small Business Spotlight: Sokanu Helps People Find Their Career

Feb. 9, 2013
Small Business
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NerdWallet interviewed Spencer Thompson of Sokanu, an innovative social platform that matches people to their perfect career using technology similar to that of a dating site.  Read on for his thoughts on entrepreneurship and how he came up with his idea!

If you’re interested in changing careers, check out our analysis of the best cities for job seekers.

NerdWallet (NW)” What does Sokanu do?  What problems are you trying to solve through your business?

Spencer Thompson (ST): “Sokanu is a career-focused social platform that helps people to find and pursue their passion in life. When members sign up, they begin by answering a series of questions about their interests, values, and skills. As they do so, they can see the top careers they are compatible with rotating in front of them with each question. This is the career discovery element of our site: we help members understand more about themselves, and provide information about a wide variety of career options available to them. From there, members can fill out their profiles and tell their career stories. This is an opportunity to share the story of how you got to where you are, and to read the unique experiences of other members on the site.

Many of the other sites available right now are job-focused: they aim to take people from step A to step B without looking at the broader picture. Sokanu is focused on a long-term approach to career planning: we help people discover who they are, what they want to do, and how they can get there.”

NW: What is your mission?  What inspired you to create Sokanu?

ST: “Sokanu’s mission is simple: to help every person on the planet find the career that they are meant to be in. 

Sokanu was inspired by the fact that most people on this planet have to work, at some point in their lives. The work we do is a choice, however, and one that we are not optimized to make. Along with whom to date, what to eat and what to believe in, I believe that what career you go into is one of the most important decisions you will ever make in your life. Most people guess what career is best for them, not fully understanding who they are and how they relate to careers on a fundamental character level. After seeing my classmates struggle to choose a career or pathway that was right for them, the idea for Sokanu came about.”

NW: Tell me a bit about yourself and how you ended up with this idea.

ST: “I grew up in a little town in Southern Ontario, Canada and attended a pretty normal high school. Around the time that everyone was applying for post-secondary education, I began to wonder why most people were selecting the same degree at the same university. It turns out that most people make decisions based on the bias and perspective of other people, not necessarily what is best for them. I found this to be fascinating and starting asking myself why people continue to “guess” when it comes to really important decisions such as who to date, what to eat or what career to go into.

Due to the talk about careers & education, I started to look more into how well people were optimizing careers for themselves. It turns out, most people are not in the right careers, and as a result, are not happy. The idea that we could do this better, online, led to the birth of the idea for Sokanu.”

NW: How do you think Sokanu will change the way people search for careers?

ST: “Much of what we know about careers is limited to what we are told by the main influencers in our life: family, friends, schools, and the media. The career options we learn from a young age are limited by the information and biases of these sources, and are often narrowed down to a few “standard” career paths: become a teacher, a doctor, or a lawyer. These are examples of highly promoted careers, though they are only three options of thousands available.

Sokanu starts with a fundamental aspect of career-planning: it helps you to learn more about yourself, so that you can learn what it is you are meant to be doing. We understand that each person is unique, and so is uniquely suited for different career paths. Once members have completed the questions, they can review their Matches page, which lists almost 400 careers in order of compatibility. We add to our career database regularly as we receive input from our members.”

NW: What makes Sokanu different from other career aptitude tests?

ST: “Sokanu uses an algorithm similar to that of a dating site, and matches you to the careers you are most compatible with based on your interests, values, and skills. We call it the “career genome project”: the site treats careers like people and breaks them down in to 52 “genes”, or character traits. You can see a detailed breakdown of your compatibility with each career based on each trait. Because of this breakdown, we believe that Sokanu is the most accurate career-matching test available today.”