Mentor Monday: Samantha Justice

Current title: HR Business Partner

Company: Nonprofit HR

Educational background: Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Hampton University in Hampton, VA

Tell us more about yourself

I kind of fell into my Human Resources career haphazardly when I graduated college...but what a happy accident! Where I've truly found my passion to practice HR has been in the nonprofit sector. Most of those I've met in this industry truly want to do right by their organizations and the communities they support. I've always had a genuine interest in getting to know people from all walks of life - where they're from, their hobbies, they're favorite food dishes, what crazy names they've decided on for their pets...

What was your first job out of college and how did you land that position?

I worked as an Office Administrator for an architectural firm in Atlanta, GA. After graduating, I grabbed up of all of my savings and moved to the city for a number of reasons:for the many different career opportunities that existed for young grads, for the cheap cost of living and - who am I kidding?! - for a heck of a time in the Entertainment Capital of the South! A recruiting firm that the architects had partnered with to fill the position actually found my resume on I had been in Atlanta about 2 weeks when I got the call to interview for the job. The best part was, given the molasses-slow traffic that Atlanta is often famous for, the firm was only 7 minutes from my apartment, door to door!

What were the most valuable things you learned early in your career that you still use today?

Be intentional with your career moves. Don't take job opportunities, colleagues or growing pains on the job for granted. I faced the toughest moments of my career in those first few years (and those probably won't be the last in my career) because I thought that rewards would come much easier than they actually did. You have to prove yourself if you want those who matter to take you seriously. I quickly realized that lessons can be learned in the most unexpected places and if you're not open to them, you're doing yourself a disservice. Also, always be gracious towards others, both on and off the job.

Tell us a bit about your current position. What do your day-to-day responsibilities look like?

No two days on my job are the same. No two hours are the same, for that matter. The team that I'm a part of provides Human Resources support to small nonprofits in virtual capacities. We're virtual consultants! In lieu of paying to have an HR person regularly onsite, our clients' financial resources are used in other ways to help move their missions forward. As a result, our team drives all HR functions from benefits administration to training and performance management by using just about every type of technology platform known to man. This requires us to be nimble and steadfast with our work because we're dealing with factors that are constantly changing: Employment law, organizational procedures, cultural changes, technology, etc.

What about your current position excites you the most?

The autonomy: The leadership at my firm trusts me to make the right decisions for my clients and my clients trust my expertise in customizing best practices in HR to truly fit their needs. Being allowed that creativity is absolutely freeing.

What's the biggest challenge you've faced in your career? How did you overcome it?

Like many, I've worked with supervisors in my past who weren't very supportive and who also said some very hurtful things to me. After a lot of venting sessions with my parents, closest friends and mentors, I started to move past the personal hurt and focus instead on the lessons to be learned. I've actually picked up some approaches from those supervisors that serve me really well today, such as how not to hoard your work processes in a way that would leave your team in a jam if you happen to be unavailable. On the flip side, I've also learned how NOT to supervise after having worked with those individuals!

Best moment of your career thus far?

Right.Now. I'm pretty content with where I am in my career - not just with where I work, but with the connections I've made with many different colleagues over the span of my career. Those relationships have proven to be way more valuable than any title or paycheck I can earn. Also, can I just say how grateful I am for my 18-minute commute to work?!

How did having a mentor help you in your career? Is there someone specific that you attribute to being a great mentor?

I've had a few different mentors in my career, each of whom I've met organically. I think people tend to be way too strategic about finding or becoming a mentor. There has to be purpose and true intention behind that relationship and it definitely can't be one-sided. Having mentors throughout my career has meant having someone to talk with me through my biggest work challenges, to help reassure me that I'm headed in the right direction and to learn that any power I thought I'd lacked actually already existed within and only needed a bit of faith to be ignited.

What excites you the most about being a mentor?

I think that career challenges, while different in the details, are usually pretty much the same at face value. For every challenge I've experienced, my mom or a mentor of mine has already gone through a very similar situation and can share what lessons they learned and what approaches they took. The differences are just in the outcomes of each person's situation, which is why every mentor in someone's life is going to bring a different perspective. I'm happy to share my experiences if it means providing someone with another perspective.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

In my skin, at peace with where my career path is taking me.

Let's talk about you outside of your 9-5...What are your favorite hobbies?

PhotogrPhotography! In fact, I love this 5 to 9 as much as I love my 9 to 5 - just in a different way. I've loved shooting since I was a kid, but the subject I enjoy shooting remains the same - personalities. I often get paid to shoot individual and family portraits on my own; I also shoot for my church's Photography Ministry, as well as for a few DC-based volunteer groups. I capture it all in my photo blog, Due Justice (on Wordpress).

What would you tell your 24-year-old self?

It ain't all about you!

Favorite quote?

"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28

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