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
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.
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.
Career and Workplace
- Human Rights Campaign – Source of information on workplace and corporate attitudes and policies surrounding sexual orientation. Includes links to information about employee groups, organizations and companies offering domestic partnership benefits, and legal and discrimination policies. The Human Rights Campaign is also the publisher of the Corporate Equality Index which “provides a simple way to evaluate whether America’s biggest employers are treating their gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees and consumers equitably.”
- Out for Work – A nonprofit dedicated to educating, preparing, and empowering LGBTQ college students and their allies for the workplace. Includes a Career Library of information, and conferences for students and alumni.
- Out for Undergrad – Helps high-achieving LGBTQ undergraduates reach their full potential.
- National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) – Business advocate for LGBTQ owned and friendly businesses, entrepreneurs, professionals, and corporations.
- Center for Gender Sanity – Advice and assistance for all aspects of gender transition in the workplace.
- LGBT Weekly – Online magazine with related resources.
- I AM: Trans People Speak – A project to raise awareness about the diversity that exists within transgender communities.
- Moneygeek.com- Resources for LGBTQ College Students – A comprehensive, user-friendly guide for prospective or current students, their families, and educators that offers insight to the challenges and concerns that are specific to the LGBTQ community.
- Career Proud – Canada’s career community for LGBT talent to develop themselves, stay abreast of career issues that matter and connect with progressive employers.
- Scholarships for LGBTQ Students – This guide aims to reduce the stress of college for LGBTQ students by assisting with one key element: financial aid.
- Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund -The nation’s largest legal organization working for the rights of LGBTQ people. Their “Issues” section contains up-to-date information about laws, current legislation, and court cases related to employment. They have a fantastic grid which details states, counties, and cities with non-discrimination policies.
- Pride at Work – A nonprofit organization that represents LGBTQ union members and their allies.
- Transgender Law Center – A nonprofit organization that takes on transgender legal battles to enhance transgender equality in the United States.
- Transgender Law and Policy Institute – Non-profit organization dedicated to engaging in effective advocacy for transgender people in our society.
- National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce – Nondiscrimination and other information from a national grassroots organization.
- National Center for Transgender Equality – Social justice organization dedicated to advancing the equality of transgender people through advocacy, collaboration and empowerment.
- Sylvia Rivera Law Project – Organization that works against transgender discrimination, violence and harassment to try to improve equality for transgender individuals.
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Report
- LGBT Career Link – Find jobs, learn about employment at diversity-friendly companies and research careers by networking with your LGBTQ and allied colleagues.
- Out Professionals – Job search and networking website including a directory of businesses, women’s network, LGBTQ events and links, and volunteer opportunities.
- LGBTConnect.com – Job postings in variety of categories
LGBT Conferences and Industry/Networking Organizations
- Out Professionals – Leading gay and lesbian professional networking site.
- Federal Globe – LGBTQ organization that represents the interests of federal employees; this site provides legislative resources, press releases and fact sheets.
- Reaching Out MBA Conference – Connecting MBA and graduate student communities to create the next generation of business leaders.
- Out and Equal – Non-profit organization that discusses LGBTQ workplace issues.
- Pride at Work – AFL-CIO group that seeks to integrate LGBTQ concerns into the larger Labor Movement.
- Ford GLOBE – Ford Motor Company’s LGBTQ employee group’s resource page.
- National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals (NOGLSTP) – We advocate equal employment opportunity, professional networking, role modeling, science education, and scientific freedom/responsibility. We practice science, technology, engineering, and mathematics with PRIDE.
- Out in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (oSTEM) is a national society dedicated to educating and fostering leadership for LGBTQA communities in the STEM fields.
- Out for Undergraduate Business Conference – Conference held annually in New York City.
- National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) – A national organization with an activist focus. Contains updated info on laws and court cases. A great resource for those looking for a way to take action.
- It Gets Better Project – Provides support and encouragement to young people around the world, ensuring them that things will get better for those in the LGBTQ community.
- The Center – A comprehensive online resource for those seeking support on any number of potential LGBTQ issues, including crisis intervention and family counseling.
- The Trevor Project – One of the most prominent organizations devoted to preventing suicides for LGBTQ individuals under the age of 24.
- Campus Pride – Advances LBGTQ rights for college students through on-campus student leaders.