Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer students preparing for their first professional job search may encounter career planning challenges related to sexual orientation and/ or gender identity/ expression. While student life at the university is traditionally a supportive environment, with LGBTQ+ resources, student organizations, and non-discrimination policies, the workplace can be different. Though many companies are committed to diversity, there are still companies that may not be as open and supportive. ECS provides LGBTQ+ Ohio State engineering students with support during their job search as well as during their internships, co-ops, and postgraduate employment. This is a highly individualized process, keep in mind there are no “right” or “wrong” ways as it is about what works best for you.
How out do you want to be?
Coming out is a personal decision. It is your decision about how important this is to you, and in what circumstances it is important. For many people, gender and sexual orientation are an integral part of their identity. Others may see their sexuality and gender as only a small part of what defines them as a person. Consider the following statements and job search approaches:
“Being out is who I am.”
“Sexual orientation and gender identity is only a part of what defines me as a person; I share this information selectively.”
“My sexual orientation and gender identity is private."
Target LGBTQ+ friendly companies.
Explore LGBTQ+ companies, but keep your options open.
Choose an environment where you can maintain your privacy.
Resume writing & interviewing
Should you include LGBTQ+ activities on your resume? Regardless of the organization, the skills you develop will likely interest employers. Remember that you likely won’t know the people reading your resume or making the decisions on who to interview. Consider your audience, as well as your identity statement and job search approach from above, then consider the following resume writing strategies:
List your LGBTQ+ organizations and demonstrate the skills you have developed as a result.
Focus on accomplishments and skills through participation in the organization, as opposed to the cause itself.
Omit any reference to LGBTQ+ organizations.
If you are applying to a job where LGBTQ+ experiences are an advantage, be sure to highlight the organization in addition to the skills gained. Being explicit about the nature of the organization can help you filter out non-supportive employers.
Highlight transferable skills and downplay the nature of the organization by using acronyms (example: “oSTEM” rather than “Out in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics”) or generalizing terminology (example: “Pro-Diversity Organization”). This approach allows flexibility and leaves the option to disclose details during an interview or once working for the company.
Maintain your privacy by focusing on other experiences if being out in the workplace is not a priority for you.
Depending on the strategies you have used to present your LGBTQ+-related activities on your resume, you may have already given the interviewer clues to your sexual orientation and/ or gender identity. If this is the case, then you should be prepared to talk about your experiences and how they relate to the job for which you are interviewing. If you have downplayed the organization and focused on skills developed instead, plan out how you will talk about this organization to maintain your desired level of privacy. If you have excluded LGBTQ+-related experiences from your resume, then you might not even mention them during the interview. As with any interview, preparation is of utmost importance in putting your best foot forward.
If you are still trying to learn more about a company’s culture, “test the waters” by asking the interviewer about the company’s diversity initiatives. You may decide to wait to come out until after receiving a job offer, when candidates have more leverage, or until after starting a new job, where you can come out to coworkers on your own terms.
Your job search
Research and information gathering is an extremely important part of the job search process. As an LGBTQ+ job seeker, there are a variety of ways you can identify companies that are committed to diversity, including:
- Policies: Does the company legally protect you from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity? Do they have an Equal Employment Opportunity Clause?
- Company Culture: Does the company post inclusionary language on their website? Is company-wide diversity training available? Are there affinity groups or ERGs established for you to join? Does the company appear on pro-diversity lists?
- Benefits: Do they provide medical benefits and coverage to same-sex and domestic partners? What is the scope of that coverage? Does health coverage cover transitioning costs? (You don’t have to be an employee to ask HR about these items.)
Please note that these are some initial suggestions to consider; they do not guarantee a lack of bias in an organization or company.
If you want to discuss these or other career related issues further, make an appointment with an ECS Advisor by scheduling in Handshake. We are here to support you!
Coming out at work
Coming out at work can be a challenging issue to tackle. When you first start your job, it may be best to focus on learning the job, performing well, and establishing yourself as a professional. As you get more acclimated and get to know people, consider the benefits of coming out and the drawbacks of staying in the closet. Use your best judgment in determining what level of disclosure you are comfortable with in the workplace. It may help to conduct a trial run with someone you trust first and move forward from there. Again, the bottom line is that you must decide what will be most comfortable to you.