Walker’s Legacy Profiles recognize unique women of color in business who embody the legacy of Madam C.J. Walker, the first female self-made millionaire. In this installment, meet Chandria Harris, MS, CEO of HireCulture.
At the age of 6, Chandria Harris was earning money at her elderly neighbor’s house, showing off her reading skills and learning about local government and politics in the meantime. These biweekly visits made an impact on Chandria and sparked an interest in teaching. Although she didn’t go into the traditional teacher education path, Chandria is very much a teacher and has an important message for young professionals who are looking to climb the career ladder. In this interview, Chandria shares with us what inspired the inception of her business HireCulture, in which she helps companies create internship programs that will attract and retain young talent.
“I am in the business to teach young women how to fish so that they can eat well and lavishly for a lifetime.”
Tell us a little bit about your background and your career journey thus far.
I started college thinking I would be a high school teacher because I absolutely love teaching, coaching, training, and serving. I was teacher-bound then life happened and I couldn’t complete my teacher education degree because I needed to student teach for a whole semester, and the way my funds [were] set up… there was no way I could work for free and survive. After speaking with my advisor, I realized I was one semester shy of completing my social science degree and I would graduate on track.
The universe has a way of connecting you to your destiny. I know this because my entire college transcript was filled with counseling, psychology, student development and organizational behavior courses. I realized I could still coach, train and teach in a counseling role and I was very happy. It was the best decision because I enjoy quick impacts, and counseling would be a nice career opportunity for me to accomplish that. I enjoy helping several people at one time, but quickly getting onto the next person through a counseling setting was the best fit for me. I then went to study counseling/psychology because I wanted to counsel people and, again, help them live their best life. As you see, my mission never changed, but my way of fulfilling that mission did.
In college, I worked as a university ambassador, preschool teacher and a principal’s secretary– very dynamic roles in which I was already becoming exposed to the field of career development. As I mentioned, the universe has a way of connecting you to your destiny. Upon completing my graduate degree, I worked in Human Resources, serving as a Program Director/ Human Resources Coordinator. As the person in charge of separations and onboarding, I grew extremely tired of seeing my people and professionals my age get terminated because of simple things like not taking off properly, calling into work and tardiness. I decided I wanted to go into higher education and work in career development to teach them what to do! Here I am now, still fulfilling my mission, counseling and helping people live their best life.
As a Career Development Specialist, I work myself out of a job each day by solving client issues and they are off on their merry way. As my clients/students went off into the workforce, they would call and tell me how things were going. And things were going okay, but it could be better!
Of course, I want to make things better and this is how HireCulture got started. I wanted to help companies recruit and retain young professionals– especially minorities– and the best way for them to do that is to create programs for their leadership and development. This is how I got where I am. When I solve one problem, I move onto the next problem.
With your business, HireCulture, you help companies build or restore their internship programs. Tell us more! How did you find such a specific niche?
You know the stigma of internship programs–from fixing the printer to making copies– some companies are struggling with finding “real-world work” for students to participate in while on assignments. As baby boomers begin to retire and the influx need of young talent continues to grow, companies must identify ways to reach students quick and, of course, they are utilizing the internship and experiential learning route to find great talent.
I talk with a lot of students and young professionals, specifically minorities, on a daily basis and their biggest issue with internships is the program’s substance or the lack thereof. With a background in career development and human resources and is a member of the millennial [generation], I found my greatest asset is to assist companies with creating robust programs that will attract and retain professionals. I have been a Career Advisor for about 4 years now and after working on the placement side for some time, I have heard the stories, seen them first hand and decided I would work aggressively to alleviate the issue– which is how I discovered my niche.
What impact has experiential learning made in your own life?
I worked full time my entire college career and therefore I really didn’t have time to explore. To be truly honest with you, I really didn’t get it. I once heard you turn your misery into your ministry and that is what I did. Although I am grateful for the work I did do while in school, such as working as a principal secretary and a preschool childcare teacher, I didn’t have the full opportunity to explore the world of work; which is why I am so very passionate about it now. The beauty behind all of this is I studied Social Science and Psychology and although I didn’t directly relate my jobs with experiential learning, the universe has a way of making all things work together for good.
Are there any women of color who personally paved the way for you to get where you are? If so, who are they and how did you come in contact with them?
My mom’s motto has always been, “You can make it if you try,” and I have committed my life to trying my best to make it while using the resources that were provided to me.
At the age of 6, my elderly neighbor Norma Norwood invited me into her home to read the newspaper twice a week. She told me if I would read the entire newspaper to her I would earn a dollar. I am so thankful for Mrs. Norwood because not only did she teach me to read the newspaper but she taught me about local politics and government. Every time I read a newspaper I think of her.
I must give credit to my Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Sisters, Charlate Teague, Alma Turner, Bertina Reed, Zimiko Turner, Genette Robinson. All have touched my life and pushed my career forward in some way. From learning professional development to landing positions, they have impacted my life and I am forever grateful for my sorority.
What’s the driving force that inspires you to uplift others?
As I work my way out of the slums of lower socioeconomic issues, I am empowered to build others while I climb out. I really want all young women to find fulfilling work that will move them to be their best self and I want them to have equal opportunities and resources. I am in the business to teach young women how to fish so that they can eat well and lavishly for a lifetime.
What are 3 tips you can give young professional women who are trying to build stable careers but may get tired of their jobs several months in?
- Stay there. Most people do not like their first job but it is the stepping stone for other opportunities. 12-24 months is an ideal time-frame to build impact for future opportunities.
- Review dream job descriptions and identify skills, projects and tasks you need to solve to prepare for positions in the future.
- Lose yourself in service and actually learn the ins and outs of the position. Identify what you enjoy doing the most (at that particular company) and strengthen skills for future opportunities with increased responsibilities.
How important is the role of social media in a candidate’s application, from an HR perspective?
A candidate’s application is the ultimate permission for recruiters to seek and learn more about the brand, image and track record of an applicant. Social Media is a great tool for HR professionals and job-seekers to utilize to connect. I highly encourage job seekers to share advice, blog, connect and display their genuine interest and knowledge of their industry online.
In your opinion what is the biggest hurdle that young women of color have to overcome as they pursue their careers?
Although our performance may be superb and may exceed standards, as young women of color, our biggest hurdle is being overlooked for positions of leadership and advancement because of our lack of years of experience in the workplace. Senior leaders oftentimes directly correlate years of experience with expertise all while minimizing quick impacts and performance.
Where can the audience reach you to learn more?
I can be reached by email at Chandria@hirecultures.com.
LinkedIn: Chandria Harris