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Courtney Claiborne

Finding rewards in helping neighbors reach their goals

Courtney Claiborne

Drexel Human Resources Business & Community Partner

“Every day is as diverse as the people.” So says Courtney Claiborne of workday encounters in her role connecting Drexel community neighbors to opportunities for training, resources, and jobs. Having supported human resources for both Drexel University and its Academy of Natural Sciences—handling responsibilities ranging from employee relations to program management and grievances—she was tapped four years ago to help create and execute a workforce development initiative situated in the Open Lab at the Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships

In this capacity Claiborne connects neighborhood job-seekers to open positions inside Drexel, and she reaches out to partner organizations and small businesses to help fill their job openings, too. She also connects West Philadelphia residents to the employer-customized paid training programs that Drexel hosts in cooperation with West Philadelphia Skills Initiative. Claiborne guides community members in skills acquisition, preparing resumes and conducting mock interviews, ultimately empowering hopeful job candidates with a feeling that they are capable and ready to meet the challenges in their employment processes.

Being able to find variety in the uniqueness of each individual she meets makes this work exciting. A self-professed lover of learning, as she learns more and more about her field, she takes on more responsibilities - experiencing professional growth as a result. Claiborne cites her academic degrees as evidence of the kinds of skills she brings to the job. With an undergraduate concentration in industrial organizational psychology and a Master’s degree in human resources development, she says she finds it endlessly fascinating to study people and how they work together.

But just as importantly it is Claiborne’s less-formal capacities for patience, openness, a non-judgmental mindset, empathy, and kindness that allow her to connect with and impact neighbors who seek her assistance. In addition she points to these key attributes and capacities as being important to her work:

  • Ability to build relationships and make connections 
  • Compassion and empathy 
  • A positive attitude 
  • Interpersonal skills enabling communication with audiences from different walks of life 
  • Ability to see potential in everyone, and to connect the right person to the right job.  
  • Claiborne points to her experience working with a non-profit, community-based organization as another way she impacts people. She volunteers in her husband’s family's faith-based organization, which offers a wide range of outreach programming for young people like summer camp, after-school services, meals, Bible studies, and job-search preparation.  

Her work at Drexel gives her the opportunity to take what she has learned and share it with the community. She finds rewards in helping people become successful, gain confidence and see themselves from a positive perspective and in a new light. “Sometimes people have never seen their skills listed in a resume, and they are surprised and encouraged when they are able to see all the things they can do,” she says. She sits down with residents one-on-one, paying attention to their personal stories and finding satisfaction in helping them discover their own unrealized hidden potential. Although it is rewarding to hear later from those who do get the job, even if she does not receive that feedback she knows she has helped somebody come one step closer to reaching a goal. 

Some of the accomplishments during her tenure include:  
  • Hiring over 40 young West Philadelphians every summer through WorkReady, a citywide summer youth program developed and coordinated by the Philadelphia Youth Network. Drexel is one of Philadelphia’s biggest WorkReady hosts. 
  • Increasing the number of local residents hired into full-time positions with benefits to work at Drexel. 
  • Having temporary hires proceed to permanent status: sometimes a temporary position becomes a unique vantage point for long-term employment, as a worker enhances their skills, strengthens their resume while doing actual work and getting noticed. Claiborne says that when positions within Drexel become available she reaches out to her coworkers in Human Resources to match skilled applicants with the temporary jobs available. Rather than paying fees to a temporary agency, they are able to hire the local applicant outright and pay them a salary outright, at a savings to the institution. 

Right now the major challenge to the work is the demand, with a growing number of residents seeking her services as awareness of her role grows in the neighborhood. But she works diligently to reach as many people as she can within the constraints of time. She recognizes the anchor institution’s responsibility to make strong connections and to be good neighbors. So she takes what she has learned and uses it to benefit others. 

She offers the following advice to counterparts at other institutions considering pursuing a similar type of work:

  • Be open to diversity of age, gender, economic status, and experience in jobseekers  
  • Refrain from passing judgement on a client’s past; rather, be excited to help shape a future  
  • Focus on transferring knowledge gained from personal experience of what employers seek, while giving the inside HR scoop.  Share the tools to succeed, offering insight to those on the other side of the HR equation  

Claiborne says:

“Be patient. Know that you are making an impact. Bring your authentic self to the work, and it will give you a lot in return.”

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