Sexual Orientation and Career Decision Making

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, or Queer (LGBTQ) job seekers can encounter situations different from those experienced by their straight peers. Whether it be deciding when to come out to an employer, what to wear to an interview or how to handle discrimination in the workplace, there are many topics in which some preparation and research can help you feel more comfortable in deciding what is best for you.

Below you will find information and resources may be helpful to you as you make decisions about work or graduate school. In addition, we encourage you to use on-campus resources such as career advisement at Career Services, individual or couples counseling through the Counseling Center, and information and support from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

Why would my job search process be different than my straight peers?

Although job seekers from all backgrounds have similar concerns during the job process, those in the LGBTQ community likely have some additional considerations. For some people being out is an important part of their identity and feel comfortable sharing this information with employers. However, others may consider this aspect of their identity to partly define them and are therefore more private about sharing this part of them with others. No matter which way you choose to handle this decision, there are some things you may want to consider when deciding what to share.

When to Come Out

Deciding when and if to come out to an employer is a very personal choice. Some people feel quite comfortable being open about their sexual orientation and/or gender preference while others prefer to remain private about this topic. We encourage you to do what feels is the best option for you. There are, however, some things you may want to consider when making your decision such as considering the type of field or career you are entering (some are more conservative and traditional than others), the type of employer you are interested in working with or are already employed by (Do they publicly disclose their anti-discrimination policies? Do they highlight their diversity and inclusion initiatives? etc.), the company’s inclusion initiatives as well as their related policies. Conducting research in these areas will assist you in making this important decision.

When to Disclose: Questions for Self-Assessment

Consider using these questions to help you think proactively when deciding of when to withhold or disclose you are LGBTQ.

  • If I choose to (withhold/disclose) this information, I might (feel/experience/be able to) _______________________.
  • If I choose to (withhold/disclose) this information, my (employer/co-workers) might (feel/ experience/be able to) _________________________________.
  • If I choose to (withhold/disclose) this information, my partner might (feel/experience/be able to) ______________.
  • My professional life is (an extension of/completely separate from) my personal life.
  • I am (very/somewhat/not very/not at all) open about my personal life with co-workers.
  • It is (very/somewhat/not very/not at all) important for me to develop interpersonal relationships with my boss or co-workers.
  • It is (very/somewhat/not very/not at all) important for my partner to attend company social events.
  • It is (very/somewhat/not very/not at all) likely that I will share details of my weekend or holiday experiences with co-workers.
  • Rate your perception of overall diversity within this workplace (1 being “not at all diverse” and 5 being “very diverse”).  1 2 3 4 5
  • Rate your perception of the overall climate/culture within this workplace (1 being “very hostile” and 5 being “very welcoming”). 1 2 3 4 5
  • Rate your overall readiness to “come out” in the workplace (1 being “not at all ready” and 10 being “completely ready”).  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Source: Assessing the Readiness to Reveal: Resume Writing Strategies for LGBTQ Students.

Resumes and Interviews

A question we hear often is whether LGBTQ activities should be disclosed on a resume or an interview. For those who feel comfortable being out, sharing information such as involvement in an LGBTQ organization may serve as a great way to screen non-supportive employers. For those who prefer to keep this information private, involvement in an LGBTQ organization could be renamed as “Civil Rights Organization” or “Anti-Discrimination Organization”, for example, followed by the details of your involvement.  You will also want to be prepared to answer related questions on an interview. A great way to practice answering potentially controversial questions is to practice your interview skills with our Career Services Office. Be sure to let your Program Manager know that you’d like to practice answering these types of questions so they can spend time with you on this topic. As a reminder, conversations with our office remain confidential.

Researching Employers

There are many employers who pride themselves in providing a supportive environment for LGBTQ employees; however, not all employers are as supportive. For this reason, you may want to do some basic research during your job search process to help you determine what type of work environment they may offer. Below are some areas to research:

  • Non-discrimination policies: these are often found on the employer’s careers/jobs website and will often include a non-discrimination statements.
  • State regulations regarding discrimination based on sexual orientation/gender: You can use the information provided at Lambda Legal to help you learn more about legal protections for LGBTQ people and their families by state
  • Domestic Partner Benefits: Many employers now offer domestic partner benefits such as health and life insurance, education benefits, etc. These are not only very good benefits to have but also show an employer’s commitment to diversity. You can often find these on the company’s careers/jobs website.