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Interview with Adeyemi Mchunguzi '09, Founder & CEO of ASMT Solutions

Interview with Adeyemi Mchunguzi '09, Founder & CEO of ASMT Solutions - Talent Acquisition Consultant, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Strategist, Career Coach

On June 17, Packer hosted a virtual event called “Conversation on Careers” with alumni across five Brooklyn Independent Schools. This event replaced our annual networking night, and served as a chance to offer our alumni some professional development help in these virtually distant times. I was so glad to have a Packer alumnus, Adeyemi Mchunguzi ‘09, participate on the panel, and that he took a minute to join me again over Zoom for an interview. We are also grateful to have Adeyemi helping to coach divisional leaders, department heads, and others responsible for hiring searches in establishing culturally responsive hiring practices so we can build a more diverse and equitable workforce.

David: Thanks so much for your time both on the panel and today. I just wanted to take a few moments to have you share some of the advice that you gave during our panel, and allow you to elaborate a bit more. Just to start out, how would you describe your background as a professional in the career development space?

Thanks for having me, David. I'm a human capital strategist committed to breaking down barriers of equity and access for underrepresented communities. I collaborate with leadership teams to build strategies, manage programs, and help them effectively hire, retain, and develop underrepresented talent.

I started my career supporting operations, finance, and all things talent related for a civil defense law firm before transitioning to a staffing & recruiting agency where I managed talent pipelines and client accounts across industries including IT/engineering, finance, and biotech. As I learned more about how "people decisions" impact business and how much bias exists at every turn in the hiring process, I knew it was time for me to make a shift. I joined a DC-based nonprofit at the forefront of professional development and job access for Black, Latinx, and Native American communities. My team and I created a new offering to enhance the pathways between our Fortune 500 clients and 7,000+ professionals of color.

As I began thinking about the next stage in my career, I knew I wanted to launch my own business and expand my impact. I founded ASMT Solutions to empower the underserved with resources that accelerate their careers while supporting organizations navigate complex issues surrounding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

David: When you spoke on the panel, what were you hoping to tell people about starting the job process? 

First off, I wanted folks to recognize that job searching is daunting and it can feel like a full time job on its own, so you have to be thoughtful about how to budget your time and energy. Before you begin submitting applications, it's helpful to identify and research industries and companies that stand out to you. Even if there’s an industry that seems outside of your expertise, there may still be opportunities available for you. For example, if you’re interested in the healthcare industry, there are opportunities there beyond medical professionals. Or if you’ve always wanted to get into tech, you don’t need to be an engineer to land a job in the field. So, take some time, do your research, and plan out your next steps. That research is an investment; while you’re narrowing down your search (less is often more), you're also preparing for future interviews down the road by deepening your knowledge in specific sectors.

David: What if you find a company that really piques your interest, and you don’t see a position that works for you. What would you recommend? 

Adeyemi: One option is to connect with recruiters at that company. They may have “Recruiter” or “Talent Acquisition” in their title. You can reach out to them through email or LinkedIn with a short and sweet message.“Hi David, I have been following Packer’s initiatives for several months and I’m interested in learning more about the workplace culture because I’m exploring new opportunities. Would you have 15 minutes to jump on a call to chat this week?”

Another route is to contact someone who is in a role similar to one you’d want to be in. It could be a near peer (at the same seniority level as you) or someone else on the team. They would be able to share insight on how the department/team operates, future hiring goals, emerging products or services the company is working on, etc. Sometimes, you’ll get a transparent look into an organization through that connection and an internal advocate for if/when you do apply, all of which makes you a more competitive candidate.

David: There is such a benefit in our networks. I know that I have looked back at people who I worked with five, ten years ago, and find myself surprised at people’s career paths. I also have found old coworkers working at companies I admire. 

I see the same thing, David. I’m sure some of the attorneys I used to work with would be surprised at where I am today! LinkedIn is a powerful tool and does so much of the work for us to keep in touch. I think it’s natural to forget all the people we’ve been in contact with over the years -coworkers, vendors, educators, neighbors, friends from summer programs. It’s a good idea to take a fresh look at your network every so often.

David: We’ve covered how to prepare for your job search, find the companies you want to work at, but what would you recommend next?

Think about the key pieces of your professional brand - your resume and LinkedIn profile. When it comes to your resume (which can be a dreaded document to keep up with!), I recommend having a master resume, with all the information you’re proud of about your past experiences. Take a laundry list approach to get as much info in there as you can. From there, you can customize each resume for specific applications or in preparation for certain networking conversations. If you’re exploring a role in operations at a tech firm, there may be one or two past projects that are relevant to include in your resume. Those may be less relevant to a nonprofit or community based position you’re applying for. There may be a committee or a special project that didn’t seem relevant years ago but carries a lot of weight today.

I encourage candidates to do a skills and project audit. This means giving yourself 10-15 minutes (or more if you’re on a roll!) to reflect on all the things you’ve done in a particular role to explore how these skills align with the roles you are applying for. This should be informed by the industry research you’ve been doing as well. As you move into the application process, keywords in your resume are very important. As you learn the lingo within a field or company, use that information to customize your resume and that will help put you at the top of the application pool.

David: You have outlined extensive preparatory work, before you find a position or apply to them. Can you speak to why this is so important?

Adeyemi: About 75% of job applications get rejected out of the gate by applicant tracking systems. The database is usually evaluating your fit before a human reviews your application. It may feel good to click that submit button, yet since so many applications are automatically rejected you should focus your time carefully.

The research, networking, and professional branding work gives you more clarity about what opportunities you’re going after. Once you apply and get past that first screening level, that’s when you will  pivot to preparing to communicate your story in interviews and answering questions about why you’re interested in the company/role, while also explaining specific experiences that demonstrate your fit. So then you go back to your skills & project audit to keep your answers sharp.

I encourage my coaching clients to take a structured approach to the search so that you’re always building on top of something. You may do research, you may interview for a company, and then ultimately learn that you’re not interested in them. That’s okay, because you just learned something that will allow you to tailor approach and reduce the time you spend in the next go around.

David: Any extra tips at this point to set yourself apart from other candidates? 

Adeyemi: Make sure that you read the job description thoroughly, and line it up with your resume. Look at the documents side by side, and be honest with yourself about where the strengths and gaps are. Then make a decision about what can be customized and still remain authentic. Take a minute to figure out how you can improve. You may learn that there are ways for you to have new learning opportunities or certifications. Candidates often skip this quick side by side comparison, but I think it tells you a lot and I highly recommend it.

David: I have used my cover letter as a way of connecting my experience to the job description. What advice do you have for cover letters?

Adeyemi: Cover letters have been a discussion topic in the industry for a while. People go back and forth about how obsolete or critical they are. As long as your cover letter is unique, and doesn’t feel like a standard template that you copy and paste for every role, then it has value. Your cover letter gives you room to tell the story that your resume introduces. If the cover letter is optional, and you want to stand out, then take the time to explain why you’d be a good fit - and add some personality to it!

David: What happens when you have submitted a few applications, but are not getting any responses?

Adeyemi: Don’t get discouraged. It’s not you, it’s the system. I talk to people all the time who run into this issue. At this point, it’s time to switch up your tactics. Get in touch with a live person who can help you figure out where your application is in the process. You may also have to play the waiting game. It’s a marathon, although we all wish it was a quick sprint.

David: Is there something from your fellow panelists that really spoke to you?

Adeyemi: It was great to hear Peter Laughter [Founder & CEO of Spartoi Group] talk about drafting cold networking outreach messages asking for an Informational Interviews and the fact that many jobs get filled via referrals without ever being posted. I also appreciated how Bari Lemberger [Senior Manager of Social Impact at LinkedIn] spoke about the power of LinkedIn and your digital branding. There are great data points about how simply having a headshot and listing out your skills can greatly increase your chances of gaining visibility by employers.

David: During COVID, as people are navigating the job market, and more interviews are being done virtually and from home, is there anything you want to say about this new reality?

Adeyemi: Organizations of all shapes and sizes had been moving in this direction already, so now is the time to get accustomed to virtual recruiting. As you’re preparing for video interviews, treat them the same in terms of professionalism and preparedness as if you’re in the office. At least the day before, make sure your computer is set up with the right video conferencing tool, test your lighting, sound and overall setup.

In terms of the job market, with COVID-19 specifically, there have been catastrophic hits to employment numbers. With that said, there are specific industries hiring more than ever before. You may not have been considering healthcare as an option, for example, yet that industry has continued to see job growth. You can also explore short-term contract or consulting opportunities that will help you build your skills and make some money while you continue looking for a long-term position.

David: You spoke to how your work and your company ASMT focuses on diversity and equity. Can you speak to the importance of that work, especially to any of our alumni who may be in a position to hire as well?

Underrepresented groups (particularly, women and Black & Brown folks) have been systemically held back in the American workforce. Underpaid, undervalued, under resourced. While we've seen plenty of progress, it's still a drop in the bucket to having an equal and just society. With employment as the primary driver of economic mobility, this work is always timely and urgent for me.

For those with hiring power, your individual actions can move the needle. Never forget that. Mitigating bias in your process can transform the lives of your next hire, which can change the lives of their family and the larger community they support. If you're still unsure about how this translates to business outcomes, the data show that diverse teams outperform non-diverse teams by 36%. You don’t have to sacrifice success for the sake of diversity.

Lastly, I'll add that we are all responsible for seeking out information about Diversity & Equity. It's a learning process for all of us. You don't need to be the expert or be perfect in every decision you make, but there's no excuse for ignorance at this point. Search for strategic partners who can collaborate with you to overcome the hiring challenges you face.

David: What about those job seekers who are looking to transition? Especially as you said with impact of COVID, where it may be necessary to switch fields?  

Adeyemi: If you’re thinking about a career transition, reflect on what responsibilities energize you and what type of work is draining to you. Make sure that you line those up with your next move. Dig deep and figure out what’s transferable about your past experience. As you’re networking, start targeting others who have made a similar transition. Also, virtual networking events and conferences are a great way to make fresh connections and learn new information if you’re feeling stuck at any point in your transition.

David: Any recommendations for tools or resources for a job search?

Adeyemi: Definitely LinkedIn, for networking and identifying open positions.. Check out LinkedIn groups as well to find like minded professionals in your field. Once you’re ready to apply, a few job boards I recommend include: Indeed, AngelList, Flex Jobs, and Jopwell. The Muse is a platform that has includes company background, employee testimonials, information about the culture, as well as openings. Jobscan is a tool that analyzes your resume compared to a job description and give you a report on how you line up.

David: I also want to mention that we have a few opportunities to connect with alumni, from Packer's Facebook Group to our LinkedIn Group. What do you think of these tools?

Alumni groups are a great community to have a “safe” conversation because there’s already a shared experience and a genuine desire to support one another. We all have something to offer each other, and when you’re willing to help, it comes back to you in a major way.

David: As we conclude our chat, what would be your last bit of advice for our alumni looking for jobs?

The linear career path certainly exists; however, most of us (myself included) take some twists and turns along the way. Unexpected things will always come up, but keep in mind you are the only person in control of your career. Plan your time. Budget your energy. Do your research. Talk to your network. Be intentional about supporting underrepresented communities. Most importantly, take care of yourself throughout it all. 

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