The most critical career decision: how to pick your dream companies?

by balki on July 20, 2015 Comments Off on The most critical career decision: how to pick your dream companies?

As we started marketing our DreamPath tool, we very quickly arrived at the teaser/punchline.  You see when we first talked to some of our potential clients who were interested in our concept, they would do the pitch for us as soon as we uttered the word “DreamPath”!  Whenever a college career counselor (our first target segment) asked a class full of students what their dream companies were, an overwhelming majority of them tend to say “Intel or Nike“.  Remember we are based out of Oregon and those are the two largest employers in the state.  As you can tell clearly there is huge disconnect between dreams and reality here.  The students are so enamored by the brand brainwashing these large companies do that they don’t research other companies who could offer them a better, fulfilling career.  Subsequently only a small minority of these students get into their dream companies and the rest of them struggle to make a mark in their career for a while.
This story of course leads to the problem we are trying to solve with DreamPath.  Our mission at DreamPath is to present students, and career-seekers at all levels with a much wider, compelling spectrum of opportunities in terms of matching employers.  Our technology uses millions of data points and advanced algorithms to match each job seeker with their ideal employers.  However, I will be the first to admit the underlying technology is far from being a perfect solution for every individual career-seeker.  We are constantly tweaking the software to make this matching algorithms better every single day.  In the meanwhile, whether you use our tool or not, here is a proven method to pick your dream companies:

Dream company process
For step #1, here are some great sources to compile your “broad list” of companies:

  • Companies where your friends, ex-colleagues and family members work
  • Professional associations and trade events in your field of employment or the industries you like
  • Use the DreamPath App to discover matching companies that you may have not come across anywhere else
  • Make a note of any companies that are in the news in your local region or industries you are following. E.g. companies that get venture funded, companies or people that had breakthrough innovations etc.

Using these sources start compiling a list.  Attempt to build up this database rapidly without being too judgmental.  For most industries and roles, you should arrive at a list of 50-100 companies within a few weeks.  Now DreamPath does this very well for you assuming you know really well who you are, your strengths and other personal attributes.

Next in step #2, start looking at these companies’ open jobs every day and measure what we call the “job density” which is the number of total open jobs compared to the size of the company.  This is a real good indicator whether they will have some job for you in the near future.  Other research you can do is the number of people already employed there who have roles similar to what you are aspiring for.  For example, if you want to be a project manager, look at how many project managers already work at that company (LinkedIn is an invaluable tool to do such focused research).  Of course you want both the “job density” and the the number of people in your target role to be higher to improve your own odds.   With this second step, you should able to eliminate 30 to 40% of the companies.  Again, DreamPath makes it really easy to perform this second step by doing all the related background calculations and bubbling up the most likely employers to the top of the list.

Now to step #3 and the hardest, time-consuming part in the methodology.  Start digging into each of the company’s background and information like their product lines, technologies, competition, industry outlook, clients, value statements, etc.  You can find most of this on the company website, some more advanced info is available @ hoovers.com, yahoo.com, and glassdoor.com  Ruthlessly eliminate any companies that dont resonate with your own values.
At the end of this exercise you should have an approximate list of 15 companies which should be your target to obsess over the following 4-6 months.  Many motivated career-seekers have successfully gotten into their most cherished companies… in many cases when the respective dream companies were not even hiring!
Good luck and godspeed in the pursuit of your dream company.  We are here to help you achieve your most important life goals and would be happy to spend 30 minutes to help you do so.  You can grab time on my personal calendar here:http://balki.youcanbook.me

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balkiThe most critical career decision: how to pick your dream companies?

I wish. I like. I wonder

by balki on June 29, 2015 Comments Off on I wish. I like. I wonder

At my last job leading a team of technical folks, I had great flexibility to try new ways to motivate the team.  Looking back, the team was way too patient with my various experiments in the name of “agile”.  I am surprised now that there wasn’t a riot to overthrow me as the team manager.

One of the successful experiments was a unique weekly meeting that lasted 15 minutes.   While talking to a friend at a Bay Area startup he mentioned an unconventional meeting their CEO and executive team did every Monday morning.  The meeting was called “I Wish. I Wonder. I Like”.  And the meeting had only one rule: Every sentence had to start with one of those 3 phrases: I wish, I like or I wonder!

As soon as I heard that, I realized it would be a perfect way for leaders to get feedback.  I second-guessed myself thinking that would only work with small startup companies where communication and honest feedback is not an issue.  However, I knew my team and boss too well to not tinker with it.  So, I decided to “experiment” on the team.

Around the same time we were also contemplating the idea of going from 4 daily stand-up sessions a week to 3 since we introduced some automation around the daily updates.  So I used the opportunity to run the experiment on the team one fine Friday morning.  To be fair, I did lay out a few ground rules so that no one would be offended in case there was personal commentary.  Here’s the original set of guidelines I laid out (most of those stood the test of time… at least while I was there):

  1. Being respectful, especially of other individuals, is a top priority.  So don’t even think about using this as a forum to dole out pent-up complaints about a specific individual: E.g. “Balki is a bad leader” is direct, disrespectful and most importantly doesn’t start with one of the 3 phrases.  A better way of phrasing that would be “I wish Balki spent more time with the XYZ team and tried to sympathize with our side of the story as well” is much more respectable and actionable.
  2. Make the statements as focused as possible. See #1 above.  Other examples: “I wish the economy was better”, “I wish that we didn’t have clients” etc. are too broad to make an impact within this team and don’t help much with morale either.
  3. Don’t take it personal. Finally, if someone blurts out something that seems targeted at you, please don’t get defensive.  I will do my best to facilitate and control such commentary but be the bigger person and deal with such comments in a 1×1 situation or through me.

And here’s the blurb that I used to introduce new folks to the concept quickly:

Anything that’s been bothering you or slowing you down can be an “I Wish…” statement:   E.g. I wish I can find a colleague to go running with,  or I wish someone can help me with this jQuery question

Anything you enjoy and want to keep can be a “I Like… ” statement: E.g. I like the new team room downstairs  or  I like that our company is sponsoring the Weight Watchers program for all associates

Any lingering questions you have at any scale, your department-level, your benefits, at the division level, company-level or even at the industry level can be a “I Wonder… “ statement:  E.g. I wonder if we will meet our revenue and profit targets for this quarter/year or  I wonder if the work space changes downstairs will be replicated in other floors.

Based on that bare-bones concept and some simple rules, we had a great first session.  After reading back what people shared in that session, I immediately decided to compile them and send it to rest of the department.  Within a few weeks, we hit a rhythm with these sessions and I personally stopped facilitating the sessions!  Our deputized Scrum-Master for the week also ran these sessions and sent out the compiled list of items the same day.

In the process we realized a good percentage of questions were best answered by our HR team so we also started including our department’s HR team on the distribution list.  They graciously addressed many of the lingering concerns over time.

By the time I left that company, my good friend Dustin actually took this concept and blew it up to a much bigger level that involved several departments.  He got rave reviews and the attention of executive management for the way he leveraged this “I wish. I like. I wonder” concept.

Here’s the original article by Akshay Kothari talking about how they implemented this concept at Pulse (now part of LinkedIn).

So leaders in my network: Do you think you can implement this concept within your own group?  If so, what modifications would you make?  Please share your ideas and thoughts in the comments below.

NOTE: This post was originally published on LinkedIn on June 3rd, 2015.  Here is the link to the original LinkedIn article.

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balkiI wish. I like. I wonder

5 things you must absolutely learn about your dream employer

by balki on May 6, 2015 Comments Off on 5 things you must absolutely learn about your dream employer

If you are a job-seeker or active on social media and follow career threads, you must have seen this site already.  In summary, Nina Mufleh, a social media consultant fell in love with Airbnb so much that she created a special site to showcase why she should get a job there.  In other words, she “did” some of her future job even before she applied for one at Airbnb.  Now, that’s a job candidate no one will ignore!

I was so obsessed with her creative approach, that I included her story in our workshop & meetup slide-decks.  When people see this slide, they are both inspired and intimidated.  Inspired obvious, right?  But why are they intimidated?  They start finding reasons for why such public showcasing doesn’t apply to their field/role/company.  What I think is that they don’t know where to start in order to build an impressive, personalized site like this.  Maybe they are right that this is huge undertaking.  But what I tell them is that they could do something with much less effort that 90% of the job-seekers don’t do today:  “Research the company you want to work for”.

Without further ado, here’s the list of top 5 things you must know about your future employer(s)…  long before you apply or interview for a job there:

dream company attributes

  • Primary products and services: You’d be surprised how many of the worker-bees don’t know the products that are the bread-and-butter of their own employer. They know what their division or department does in a best case scenario.  Knowing the breadth of products that a company offers at the corporate-level definitely leads to interesting interview conversations.
  • Types of jobs they hire for: An obvious one but for not so obvious reasons.  We recommend you track the new jobs closely over a period of time (approximately 3 months) to really learn the overarching themes in terms of technologies, disciplines etc.  Again, you are looking for trends and subtle hints in their job descriptions rather than looking to apply in a knee-jerk fashion.
  • Competition: Every company in this world has competition. Knowing your dream company’s competition will not only help you have confident conversations about the marketplace but can also lead to other target employers in the same space that you didn’t think of before.
  • Clients: Especially important for marketing, sales or any business folks to understand the clients and segments a company serves. There is one other powerful reason you want to learn about and clients which you can learn by attending one of our webinars.
  • Value Proposition: I recommend that you watch this very inspiring TED talk by Simon Sinek called “Start with why”. Essentially, we are asking you to dig up the “why” of your dream company.  Again in our experience, a vast majority of the working population don’t know why their company exists or what the inherent value proposition is.  If as a job-seeker you are able to research and articulate this value proposition, you will be light years ahead of your competition, guaranteed!

Now, is that enough material to create a powerful document with the public information about your dream company and combine that with your own analysis?  The result won’t be too far away from what Nina did for Airbnb.

Good luck with your journey towards your dream job and if there is anything we can do to help, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

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balki5 things you must absolutely learn about your dream employer

Why the h&%k should I work for a small company again?

by balki on April 29, 2015 Comments Off on Why the h&%k should I work for a small company again?


A question that young professionals and experienced career seekers ask me repeatedly:

“Should I join a small company or a large one?”

Other versions of the same question are:

  • What is the risk of joining a small company?
  • Why would anyone ever want to join a large corporation?
  • Tell me how you decided to join that XYZ startup?

The frequency of this question has increased exponentially since we started doing our monthly meetups, college workshops and our webinars.

As with every common question in my life, I decided to write my answer in the form of a blog post 🙂


Here’s how you can use the above infographic:

  1. Review all the 12 attributes in the infographic and determine which ones are important/relevant to you
  2. Read the related description for small and large companies
  3. Every time you lean towards a small company, add a point to that column in the table (a simple mental table will suffice) and vice versa
  4. You add up the points for each column: Small Company or Large Company and voila, your destination should be clear!

For each of the attributes, we’ve also recommended what direction a student or professional should go based on our research & experience working with hundreds of career seekers and experts.

And here is all of this information captured in a boring, raw table format.

NOTE: This post was originally published on LinkedIn on March 24th 2015.  Here is the link to the original post.

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balkiWhy the h&%k should I work for a small company again?

How excited are you about my company?

by balki on April 10, 2015 Comments Off on How excited are you about my company?


When I met Kara Johnson (name changed for privacy*) at a job fair, I was immediately impressed with her confidence and social skills.  She ran an independent investment advice office for Edward Jones and was looking to hire salespeople/advisers.

She was upfront about the need to do a lot of sales even though the job title was “investment adviser”.  She invited me in for a dinner and company introduction at a fancy restaurant if I was interested.  Now, don’t jump to conclusions yet… this did not feel like a bait-and-switch at all.

However, when I reached out and got on the phone (mostly to score my free fancy dinner), she didn’t cave in right away.  I was super-impressed at how she spent very little time (about 15 minutes) on the phone.  First, explaining quickly what was expected of the role (mostly sales, during the first 6-9 months).  Then she asked me to do research on the company itself and call her back if I was still interested:

  • What did Edwards Jones do?
  • How was it originally founded?
  • What were their values?
  • What was a typical role of an investment office?
  • Who was their competition etc..

It would have taken me 1-2 hours to prepare with all those answers and a fair bit of back-of-the-head thinking before I would be prepared to face her again.  Long story short, I self-selected out of that role (and a shot at a free dinner) because of the time involved.

But my biggest takeaway is:

If you are a career-seeker, you should definitely research the company quite thoroughly before meeting anyone at that company formally or informally.  I am proud that Edward Jones has figured that out from the employer side but you will not get that lucky from most of your prospective employers.

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balkiHow excited are you about my company?