Blog : Real Issues

4 Strategies to Get Help Advance Your Career In Corporate America as a Black Woman

The Erica Rawls Team is “Keeping it Real” with Kristin Harper, Founder & CEO of Driven to Success LLC

On our Facebook Live show, Keeping It Real: Real Estate and Real Issues, we cover a variety of topics desired by our social media audience.

Since our Facebook audience is largely composed of Black women, for our latest live video, we felt we should provide an in depth conversation to discuss what it’s like working as an Black woman in corporate America.

We sat down, virtually of course, with Kristin Harper, entrepreneur, Founder and CEO of Driven to Succeed LLC to learn valuable strategies that all women, but black women in particular, can apply to help them as they navigate their future corporate or entrepreneurial business careers.

Kristin previously held positions as Marketing Director for the Hershey Company on the Hershey’s KISSES Brand, and as a global vice president of marketing for Cardinal Health.

Black Women in the Workplace – Do the Same Rules Apply?

As a black woman are we held to the same standards as our counterparts in the workplace?”

“No, not as much grace is extended toward us,” according to Kristin.

Some people may say it’s personal or there’s a vendetta/conspiracy to keep black women down. However, it’s important to note that this isn’t necessarily done on purpose or due to negativity, Kristin explained.

Part of it is human nature: when people are similar to you, you gravitate toward them, extend more grace, and think more positively and optimistic about them, she said.

As such, over the years of working in three different Fortune 500 companies and working her way up and through various departments, Kristin has learned several lessons along the way about how to make the most of your work experience to help you move up and achieve your goals.

Read below for Kristin’s top tips for how to advance your career in corporate America, or watch our show.

1. Build Relationships Based on Who You Are as a Person and Not Your Identity

“You are more human than you are anything else,” Kristin said.

We asked Kristin if she could teach a younger version of herself how to prepare for the challenges she had to overcome along the way in her career journey, what would she change.

Kristin shared a story with us instead.

Kristin worked for a company for nearly eight years and was preparing to leave for another position. Before she left, she had a going away party where she received a card from her peers. Instead of reading comments about the contributions she’s made in her position over the years, the majority of the comments she received focused on her changing hair styles.

As black women, we change our hair often as it can be seen as an artistic expression to us; we cut it, wear it curly or straight, short or long, and even bald.

I know I change my hair every season, and I appreciate when others notice as it’s a way to start a conversation.

However, as Kristin shared with us, the comments she received didn’t sit well with her. After eight years, her peers recalled her different hairstyles instead of her contributions, achievements, or anything related to her job performance over the years, she said.

After leaving that position and moving to a new city, Kristin told us she started wearing more conservative hairstyles because she didn’t want the subject of the conversation to be about her hair.

“It was a personal choice. I didn’t want to spend energy talking about [my] hair,” Kristin said.

She didn’t switch up her hairstyles because she was ashamed to be black or talk about her hair. Kristin explained she simply didn’t want it to be the subject of the hallway conversation.

After attending a life-changing self development workshop, she realized, “I am more human than I am Black, woman, or any label or identity you can attach to me.”

We’ve learned from Kristin’s example that it’s okay to make choices about your physical appearance or how you carry yourself so you put the emphasis on who you are and not on solely how you identify yourself when it comes to a professional working environment.

2. Expand Your Network Beyond African Americans

Diversity is key, even within the black community there is a lot of diversity, we are not a monolithic people, Kristin explained.

When you’re involved with black-based organizations, you are in a safe zone, like family, but they can’t be the only people you associate with, especially if your gal is to advance your career.

The world is more than the 15% black population in the United States — and the world is bigger than the United States.

3. At Every Level You Have To Learn Something New

Over the years as Kristin moved up across various marketing departments at the companies she worked with, she discovered that to move up she had to continue to do and learn more.

When you’re an individual contributor, it’s all about being responsible, but as you climb that corporate ladder it’s all about what leadership role you’re in and the broader organization, Kristin explained.

“When you become a leader of people — and yes, there’s a difference between leader and manager — it’s less about what you deliver individually and more about whether you have the right talent on the team. If not, are you getting the right people and helping those who need to shift make that move with dignity? Do you have a clear strategy, a compelling vision? Are you delivering results? Do you have methods to show accountability?” she said.

These are all examples of things Kristin learned at each level.

4. Be Clear About What You Want — “You Are the Architect for Your Career”

You can’t expect your manager, or anyone, to advocate for you if you’re not clear about what it is you’re great at, based on feedback and your own personal assessment, and where you want to go.

“Set your vision and make it clear with your manager who has to be your number one advocate,” Kristin said.

Many people often think of their manager as their enemy. If people get stuck on having an adversarial relationship with their managers, they’ll never get the results they desire, Kristin explained.

“How Do You Approach Asking About Wages Without Coming Off Angry or Ungrateful?”

For people who don’t feel like they’re being compensated what they’re worth, or who feel they deserve a raise in compensation based on their contributions, many have difficulty figuring out how to properly ask for a wage increase.

According to Kristin, it’s a balance of expressing gratitude. It’s not going in there and saying, “This is what I deserve and you better increase it or I’m out!”

You have to know how the system is designed. Oftentimes, there are salary ranges for your position based on levels: median (middle), mean (average), and a high and low range. Knowing these ranges can help you better determine where you currently fall and provide comparison ranges.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook provides statistics on job salaries, projections and much more. You can also talk with job recruiters in your field to get a feel of the current landscape and inquire about salaries based on skill set, industry knowledge, etc.

Asking for a wage increase is beneficial for two reasons:

  1. If you want to go to another organization, in order for the organization to attract you they have to come with a better package than what you currently have.
  2. If you stay with your current organization, you’ll maybe earn 2%-3% more each year, which means loyalty doesn’t always pay.

If you find through research that your salary is not at the end of the scale you think you should be, you can bring the data to your manager to help make your case.

If you apply to other places and receive an offer, you can leverage that in your negotiations.

Be cautious when leveraging another offer to try to gain your wage increase as it may not go in your favor — you should be prepared and willing to walk away!

How to Contact Kristin Harper & Find Her New Book on Career Advice

Book C

In July 2020, Kristin Harper will be releasing her new book “The Heart of a Leader: 52 Emotional Intelligence Insights to Advance Your Career.”

The book is 52 short, powerful and easily digestible bites of advice based on Kristin’s over 30 years of leadership experience.

She covers topics including leadership, personal branding, leading and influencing others, organizational politics and insights she learned early that helped her climb the corporate ladder.

To preorder her book visit,, or to inquire about keynote speaking or executive coaching, contact her at

COVID-19’s Impact on Central PA Real Estate

Keeping It Real About Coronavirus and Its Impact on Central PA’s Real Estate Market

On our latest Keeping it Real With Erica Rawls Team Facebook Live episode, the Erica Rawls Team discussed how we’re practicing social distancing while sharing our predictions about how we think the Coronavirus will impact the Central PA real estate market over the next few months.

We don’t know what the future holds, but at some point we’re going to get back to business, so we want to ensure you’re aware of the changing dynamics of the real estate market at this time.

Micheal Pion, owner of Next Home Capital Realty, joined myself and Sheena Lansannah, to explain what we have been doing to make this new reality a smooth transition for our company, clients and overall Central PA community.

How is the Erica Rawls Team Dealing With Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 reached Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Wolf has implemented a “Stay at Home” mandate and ordered all non-life sustaining businesses to close, which includes real estate companies and services.

We have been following Gov. Wolf’s mandate to practice social distancing and maintain at least six (6) feet away from others, but this, of course, has directly impacted our business operations and ability to interact with clients.

Under Gov. Wolf’s mandate, anyone with a real estate license is not allowed to meet face-to-face with any person. We are unable to meet one-on-one with clients, show houses, attend settlements, or have our physical office open for business.

“We are shut down. We cannot do anything with regards to showing housing — anything real estate services. We’re following those rules, we’re doing what the governor has asked us to do because the health of our community is more important than selling a house. That comes first in anything,” Michael said — and Sheena and I agree.

Our team, which operates independently under our parent company Next Home Capital Realty, follows guidelines set by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors (PAR) — and the latter is following Gov. Wolf’s mandate.

An Unconventional Way of Doing Business—Virtual Consultations

“One of the things I love about the company [Next Home] is when you walk through the doors in Camp Hill everything is open, everybody’s talking and everybody’s saying, you know, ‘Hey what’s going on there?’ and ‘How can I help?’ At the end of the day, I miss that,” Michael said.

As realtors, we respect the safety and concerns of the people we work with and our families.

We are currently servicing our clients in unconventional ways by holding meetings via Zoom, an online video conferencing software, and coordinating virtual home tours with potential buyers and sellers.

We are also speaking with individuals virtually to answer any questions or concerns they have — whether or not they’re currently in the process of buying or selling a home.

This, unfortunately, is our new normal as federal social distancing guidelines have been extended until April 30, and we don’t truly know how long those guidelines will be in place.

We know you have questions and we understand how important it is to connect with our clients and share what we have going on in our lives.

Right now, all of our experiences are a little different, but we’re all going through this together.

Because of this, we believe it’s important to provide guidance on the information we’re seeing about the real estate market to best help our clients who may be feeling unsure in these unprecedented times.

How Will Coronavirus (COVID-19) Impact Buying or Selling a Home in Central PA?

As the day-to-day situation around the COVID-19 outbreak continues to evolve, one thing we noticed is an increasing number of concerns from clients who are selling a home or who have a home that is under contract to close within the next 30 days.

We’re not economic experts, and while we believe we are going to feel an impact, we don’t expect it to be as bad as the 2007-08 housing crisis given the differences in circumstances.

The housing market supply in Central PA won’t change dramatically while we’re taking this pause and staying quarantined at home because we’re all in the same boat operating under the same conditions.

When our day-to-day lives return to normal, the housing market will need to give it a few months until it falls back into a sense of normalcy. However, if we had to take an educated guess, we believe, and hope, the market is going to remain solid once this is over.

Unlike the recession of 2007-08 where the real estate market was a cause of what was happening, the real estate market is currently caught in the crossfire of the Coronavirus pandemic.

We’re only on hold because we are unable to practice not due to an issue within the industry.

“It kinda just came in like a tsunami and hit us and no one was prepared for what it was going to be like,” Sheena said describing our current reality.

What Should Potential Buyers and Sellers Do Right Now Amid the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic?

We’ve spoken to a few clients and heard their concerns about the ongoing pandemic. Some questions we’ve received are:

  • “Should I pull out of my contract?”
  • “Is the value of the house I’m purchasing going to change?”
  • “Will it become a buyer’s market again?”
  • “Will I be able to close on time?”
  • “What happens if the seller doesn’t find suitable housing?”
  • “I have to move to start my new job; can I buy a house sight unseen?”

We don’t have a crystal ball, but if we could tell the future we expect we’re going to have some growing pains.

If you have a job that’s not going to be affected by this, such as a government, teacher, or medical position or one that is deemed an “essential service,” you will most likely be fine.

We’ll have to bridge the gap for the economy and all the people that are out of work and small businesses, who will be affected the most — and that includes small real estate companies like ours.

If and when things get back to normal, the housing market will too. Right now, we don’t see a lot of people rushing to sell their homes amidst the outbreak. We may see demand go down some given the sudden changes in finances for some families due to COVID-19 related layoffs.

If demand goes down, it will benefit those looking to buy a home because they will have less competition for offers.

Are There Any Potential Benefits to the Housing Market?

With essential workers such as government and healthcare/medical employees, we may find that people might need to relocate for a new job.

This can be tricky if someone needs to move to Pennsylvania, or to another state, depending on the restrictions in place to slow the spread of the outbreak.

Another potential benefit is the sheer time spent indoors because of the social distancing guidelines.

People who live near a city like New York, which has been heavily impacted, may consider relocating after the outbreak subdues to get away in case a similar event should occur again.

For those who are quarantined in a house – with or without children or other housemates – they may find their space is too small after spending three to four weeks, or more, in their home.

Some people may even desire to search for a house with more rooms or a backyard so they have more freedom if they’re stuck in this situation again.

If you’re going to be quarantined or stuck somewhere, you want it to be a place that’s comfortable and you enjoy.

What Should I Do If I Rent, Own a Home or Am Selling My Home?

If you can afford to pay your mortgage, we recommend paying it or putting down whatever you can.

We don’t want to lead people by fear because we know each person’s circumstances are different. We all face different factors, and have varying employment statuses.

If you’re unsure based on the information you see going around in new headlines and social media, we recommend going to reliable sources like the CDC and

The federal government has announced a mortgage relief program for anyone that is having financial difficulties with their mortgage within their stimulus package.

For FHA, HUD or any other government related properties , we strongly recommend calling your lender or customer service representative to see which programs they have that can help you.

If you have a conventional loan, you should go to your lender, regardless whether or not you lost your job. You don’t know what is going to happen, and you may be able to pause for 60-90 days, or make interest-only payments on your mortgage.

Before you can’t pay your rent or mortgage, call somebody. Don’t feel bad because we’re all being affected.

For instance, if you just signed on a 30-year loan on a new home last month, some lenders may approve of putting the amount you owe/can’t afford to pay right now on the backend of the loan.

If you’re renting, you also should speak up if you can’t afford to pay your rent.

Landlords cannot evict you during a pandemic.

On the other side of the equation, a landlord’s property may be his or her only source of income, and there is also rent due for that property.

Hypothetically speaking, let’s say there’s a landlord who owns four (4) units and three (3) of his tenants tell him they can’t afford their rent payment.

If we were the landlord, we would call our bank to explain that our tenants can’t pay us, so we can’t pay them.

“Banks aren’t in the business to own properties,” Michael said, which means they may be more willing to work with you toward a solution. We have seen some emails from banks that have said they want to work with people, he explained.

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What Should I Do If I Have Questions? Contact the Erica Rawls Team!

Here at the Erica Rawls Team, we want you to contact us with your questions. Our number one goal is to provide you guidance during this time – regardless if your currently looking to buy or sell your home.

If you need help in any way, we are here. We’re all in this together.

We’re all feeling the effects of it — whether you’re employed or unemployed. We’re all feeling the effects of it. We’re really sensitive to that.

  • You can email us at
  • Send us a direct message on Facebook or Instagram
  • Give us a call at (717) 500-2116

If we don’t have the answers for you directly, we have enough resources and people who can get you the right information.

Contact us today so we can help or to schedule your virtual consultation!