Recognized as Talent Egg’s 2020 Career Coach of the Year, Ibiyemi Balogun is a Career Coach who passionately provides career development services with clientele from Technology, Financial Services, Retail, Post-secondary, Nonprofit, Entrepreneurship, and everything in between. With an extensive background in HR, Diversity Recruitment, Career Services, and Business Development, Ibiyemi has over 6 years of experience in Recruitment and 10+ years in coaching. Ibiyemi currently works full time with Ryerson University as a Manager of Corporate Partnerships. 

Tell us about your first job and early-career experiences.

My first “paying” career focused job after graduation was at a recruitment agency. I attended the HRPA (Human Resources Professional Association) conference and went around the entire tradeshow and spoke to every single exhibitor (I was very keen). I ended up at this recruitment agency’s booth. They liked my energy which led to a discovery call, an interview, and a week later a job offer. I was very overjoyed and remember calling home to tell my family the news. I learned a lot from my team and main mentor. Unfortunately, 3 months into the role, I got laid off, because the organization was doing a restructuring where they cut one-third of their corporate team. To say I was devastated, embarrassed and confused would be an understatement because I had just gone from having a great job that I received in the most extraordinary way to NO job. I’ll never forget as I was on my way home after receiving this news and crying, I ran into a former co-worker who had left the company. He offered to meet with me and helped me craft my resume and was very encouraging. Within three weeks of my meeting and conversation with him, I received a job offer — on my birthday at that — to start a new role in Diversity Recruitment at a non-profit organization. If it was not for that former colleague, I’m not sure how things would have worked out. 

You have been working in Career Education and actively advising and advocating for youth employment. How did your career path lead you to move into this role?

In my diversity recruitment role at a non-profit organization, I  was exposed to different demographics of people who faced challenges securing employment. Although my role was focused on securing talent, I took more of a coaching angle with the program participants because I could identify with their stories. At the same time, I also had friends who were recent graduates looking for job opportunities who I helped voluntarily on my own personal time. It was my way of paying it forward the same way my former colleague had done for me. Once they secured good roles, they would inevitably refer their friends and family members to me. Eventually after three years, someone suggested to me to consider charging for my time, which I never considered I could do for a living so it could sustain me. I decided to start charging $20/hour for my time. During this time, my career at the non-profit organization was also feeling solid. I had an amazing boss and sponsor who gave me the tools to have significant impact. I became the external ambassador for our non-profit at university career fairs and settlement agencies while managing a very strong recruitment portfolio. I was also promoted to a talent manager role where I managed the organization’s top clients and responsible for approximately 36% of the business. Eventually, I decided to look for a more corporate career in recruitment and devote a length of time looking. I considered completing my MBA to enhance my options for potential opportunities within the corporate environment. Upon visiting different schools that offer MBA programs, I found the staff at Ryerson University to be very engaged and helpful. They encouraged me to apply to work at the school in career education. After doing my research, I applied. I secured this role after a lengthy application and recruitment process. When I reflect back, each and every person in my life who has helped me along the way has inspired me to dedicate my life to helping others develop their career.

What is the most rewarding part of your work? What is the most challenging?

The most rewarding part of working in career education and development is being able to give people access to information that effectively changes their lives. Breaking down assumptions about the job market and providing avenues for hope is what I get the privilege to do along with coaching. Seeing a student or client who comes into my office usually stressed and unsure about their future  evolve into someone who has some direction — even after a one hour conversation — is truly priceless. The most challenging part of the job is the emotional labour it takes to work someone through their career journey, a journey that is deeply personal. On many occasions, I have had students come in crying, afraid, anxious or even excited and it takes a lot of emotional strength to help them without carrying the full weight of their ever changing emotions. 

In 2020 you were recognized as Talent Egg’s Career Coach of the Year. Tell us about this significant achievement.

This award came as a shock and surprise to me because my senior leadership team nominated me privately for it. It was incredibly humbling to see that the work I was doing was getting noticed enough to warrant a nomination and ultimately a win! I wrote about my experience with imposter syndrome surrounding this award on my blog. Feel free to check it out. 

What suggestions do you have for early-career BIWOC as they navigate their careers during the pandemic? 

I recommend that early-career women and women of colour lean into the things that make them unique by taking an inventory of their skills, abilities and passions. I would also recommend that they look for opportunities to share their own stories in environments like Accelerate Her Future. Forums like this would help them build an impactful network because, global pandemic or not, a network is one of the MOST important factors when getting started in your career. I would also recommend that they start putting themselves out there, to the level they are comfortable. They can start by writing LinkedIn posts or a blog or posting  Instagram pictures with insightful captions or even TikTok videos as a way to start creating a voice for themselves. In terms of subject matter, I would recommend that they focus on talking about their experiences or things they care about. The aim is not to build up an “uber professional” brand but simply to start showcasing themselves the way that works best for them! For example, I recently launched a website for my coaching business Foot In the Door Consulting (or FTID). When creating the website, I made it a point to use images with my hair in all its “afro glory”. I made this choice because I know that as a Black woman, my hair has often been perceived negatively as “untidy”, “unruly” or even “unprofessional” which it is not. Due to my experiences, I chose to portray myself this way because I know the importance of representation for other Black women to see themselves in the professional world as they show up in their everyday lives.    

How can leaders more effectively invest in the potential of early-career BIWOC?

Leaders can create forums for early-career women to get adequate mentorship! As a woman of color you are often the last voice that is heard at the table which can dull even the strongest of voices. Mentorship offers an avenue to learn from others who may or may not look like them to navigate the corporate world. From my experience working with young people in general, they often struggle with finding their voice. Environments that foster learning and mentorship allow them a safe space to use their voice adequately and be heard. Another great investment would be to hire and integrate more women of color into senior leadership roles. As it stands, there are too few women of color in those roles who then take on the responsibility of impacting the next generation while managing their full time jobs, families and careers. Leaders that are able to provide support through hiring would effectively help all women in the organization.  

At AHF we believe in celebrating and amplifying those who have paid it forward in our lives and careers. Who has been one of your greatest mentors, allies or sponsors and why? 

I have had great influential people in my life but to narrow it down two people come to mind. They are my mom and my boss Graham Sogawa who both have been truly instrumental in my career. My mom is a former lawyer turned CEO of her HR practice, a wellness coach, a budding author and of course my biggest cheerleader. Her expertise and compassion is unmatched and I get all my resilience and sense of urgency from her! Graham, on the other hand has been a great sponsor throughout my time at the non-profit organization and again at Ryerson University. I can count on him to offer sound advice and timely feedback including some life lessons and for that I will be forever grateful to him.