Of course, there are many benefits of earning a college degree, but for most college students, obtaining a job after college is the number one goal! The transition from college student to full-time employee can be difficult and stressful for anyone, but as a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual individual there may be unique challenges. You may want to consider the following:
Do I plan to be "out" or "not out" at my new job?
You must decide how important it is for you to be "out" at your new job. Understanding why it is important for you to be "out" will help you navigate this decision and process. Consider the following:
- Is being "out" a significant part of who you are? (i.e. Being visible will provide equal treatment and support)
- Sexual orientation is only a small part of what defines you as a person (i.e. You are very careful about who you tell and don't tell)
Making your decision
- If your answer is #1…it might be important for you to target LGBTQIA friendly employers
- If your answer is #2…you might want to lean towards LGBTQIA friendly employers, but can also keep your options open
Remember: The way you see yourself, what is important to you, and your decision to be "out" at your new job may change over time and/or depending on the employer or work environment. Think through the pros and cons:
- You no longer have to lie about what you do outside of work.
- Rude jokes at work may stop (at least in your presence.)
- You can build closer and more open relationships with your coworkers.
- Decreased stress from not having to hide so much about you.
- You could be happier and healthier at work.
- Your productivity could improve.
- It's possible that you could be fired.
- You may be treated differently by those that you were close to.
- Your partner may not be treated the same at workplace functions.
- You could be harassed and have no recourse.
*Make your own list of pros and cons to help you decide whether to be "out" at your new job.
More Helpful Tips
- Know that coming "out" is an ongoing process just like anyone getting to know anyone else.
- Most LGBTQIA employees recommend focusing on the job at first. Once you have the job and have shown your employer that you are a good employee, then you might begin making some deeper self-disclosures like sexual orientation and gender expression.
- Prepare yourself for (even innocent) heterosexism (i.e. "Are you married?") and know how you will react.
What are the basics of a resume?
A resume is a carefully edited summary of your education and experience. It is a marketing tool that gives the employer an overview of your experience, skills and potential fit for the job. The resume is the employer’s first impression of the job seeker. Its purpose is to generate interviews. Three major components of your resume are:
- Education – Focus on academic preparation by maintaining good grades and completing relevant coursework.
- Experience – Focus on workplace skills that are job-specific and transferable. Find an internship before you graduate!
- Activities – Focus on leadership roles and team roles.
Need help developing a resume? Visit University Career Services for resources to help build your resume.
How do I reflect potentially sensitive information on my resume?
Should you include LGBTQIA activities on my resume? The first step is to consider your audience and determine your comfort level. Ask yourself:
Do you want to "screen out" employers?
List your affiliation and then be prepared to talk about it in your interview.
Do you want to focus on your skills and accomplishments rather than affiliation?
List organization as "anti-discrimination group", and list accomplishments as a result of your experience.
Do you feel more comfortable with only introducing your professional self rather than your personal self on a resume?
Use a functional or skill-based resume and group accomplishments in student organizations together according to functions and skills rather than organization.
Schedule an appointment with a career counselor at University Career Services for a resume review and assistance on how to reflect your experience in a way that is best for you.
Who do I apply to?
One important consideration in deciding who to apply to is whether you plan to be "out" or not. Knowing this will help you decide what kind of work atmosphere will be best for you. Find out the following:
- Non-discrimination policies and regulations
- Look at the employer’s non-discrimination clause. You should be able to easily locate this information in their promotional materials. It will often look like, "XYZ is an equal opportunity employer, and does not discriminate based on race, gender, age…" Look to see if sexual orientation and gender expression are included in their statement. You can also contact the employer’s Human Resources Department to find this information. If this information is difficult to find, this may be a warning sign.
- Know which states have laws that ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender expression. It is important to know your state and any state that you might move to for a job.
- Know which states ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and which states ban employment based on gender. A ban on one type of discrimination does not necessarily mean that the state bans all other types of discrimination.
- Remember that some companies have an anti-harassment policy but do NOT have an anti-discrimination policy.
- Do they actively embrace diversity and welcome LGBTQIA employees?
- Look at their history of hiring LGBTQIA and other minority applicants.
- Do they offer Domestic Partner Benefits?
- If not, are they working towards Domestic Partner Benefits?
- Are they offering alternative options for partners (i.e. Metlife, Aflac)?
- Look for companies with LGBTQIA employee groups.
- Are they "informal" groups facilitated by the employees?
- Are they "formal" groups facilitated by the employer?
Do your research and know what you are getting into. Find out information such as which employers are considered to be the "Worst Retail Employers to Work for Because of LGBT Inequality" by the Human Rights Campaign and which employers are included in The Advocate's "In Good Company Top 10 List".
Do I know the employer, state, and federal policies and regulations?
Federal, state & local laws regulate questions an employer may ask a candidate. Employers should not be asking about your race, gender, religion, marital status, age, disabilities, ethnic background, country of origin, sexual orientation or age. However, depending on the state you live in, there may not be protection against sexual orientation or gender identity.
Do I know what questions are illegal during the interview?
As with any interview situation, the key to dealing with issues of sexual orientation is to practice. Focus your attention on preparing for the interview. Schedule an appointment at University Career Services for a mock interview and practice handling questions regarding sexual orientation or involvement in LGBTQIA groups. That way you won't be caught off-guard or seen as unprepared if you encounter that type of questioning.
If you are asked a question that you think is illegal or discriminatory you have some options.
- Answer the question
By answering the question you may actually help your chances of getting the job, particularly if you give the "right" answer. Doing so, however, may convey to the interviewer that you are not familiar with the laws relevant to the interview process. You may also harm your chances of being hired if you give the "wrong" answer.
- Refuse to answer
You do have the right to not answer the illegal question. However, a flat refusal to answer may harm your chances of being hired for a position. The interviewer may see you as an uncooperative person.
- Examine the question for its intent and respond with an answer as it might apply to the job.
Example: Question - Are you a U.S. Citizen? (Illegal question) Answer – I am authorized to work in the United States.
How do I fit in at my new job without feeling like an outsider?
Check your baggage
Leave mistrust and painful memories from past experiences at the door and exhibit a positive attitude in your new role. Your attitude really does affect the way you feel and will translate into the work that you do.
Have specific goals
Understand the expectations of your job and meet them. Build a solid set of skills and make the effort to broaden them by volunteering for new projects. This can help you better understand your organization and allow you to connect with other employees and managers not associated with your daily responsibilities.
Emphasize your accomplishments
Let your supervisors, co-workers, and upper-level management know of your accomplishments. Keeping them informed about how you have contributed to the organization, like cutting costs or solving problems, will help you excel in your performance reviews and get ahead!
Know your rights
You don’t have to put up with behavior that is offensive. If you know your rights, you will know when they have been violated and what options you have.
Find a mentor
Many times, developing a supportive relationship with a seasoned professional (who may or may not be gay) can help you successfully navigate your career path. LGBTQIA professionals who find a trusted mentor often learn how to negotiate work relationships and seek out situations that can help their advancement.
Engage in professional activities outside the workplace
Professionals outside the organization may fill a void and prove to be equally helpful and supportive, whether or not mentor relationships develop in your workplace. Extending yourself in the community through professional associations or community organizations (including professional LGBTQIA associations) can help you expand your network and allow you to interact with professionals outside the organization that you trust.
Do I plan to transition on the job?
Again, know what you are getting into…
- What legal factors do you have to consider?
- Does the employer's nondiscrimination statement explicitly include gender identity and/or gender expression?
- Does the employer's city or state laws explicitly include gender identity and/or gender expression?
- What employment factors do you have working for you and against you?
- Do employee health benefits cover hormones, sex reassignment surgeries, or other trans-related health issues?
- Does the employer's place of work have trans-friendly restrooms?
- What are the employer's "gender transition" guidelines?
- What personal factors are important to you?
- What do you want your employer and co-workers to know?
- What do you consider to be private aspects of your transition?
- Who are your Allies and support system?
- Who will likely be a challenge working with during your transition?
Coming "out" as a transgender person will mostly be a long and challenging process. The challenges can be even more difficult in the workplace. Know your employer, your co-workers, prepare, and utilize a support system.
What is discrimination in the workplace?
So, you have done your research and chosen the best path for you. What if, after all of your hard work, you find yourself in a difficult situation? Discrimination can be individual or institutional and subtle or obvious. Be able to recognize forms of discrimination such as physical violence, verbal abuse/threats, bullying/intimidation, teasing/off-color jokes, shunning/isolation, and other forms.
What do I do if I am discriminated against?
Honest Evaluation of the Situation
- Can you identify specific examples?
- Be aware of your biases, but trust yourself.
Document Specific Incidents
- What happened?
- Keep a record of the incidents, but remember that if legal action is taken they will need the entire record so keep your personal journal separate. Keep the record at home and not at the office.
Evaluate the Incidents
- Was this an isolated lapse of judgment?
- Are there repeat acts?
- What is your reaction to the incident? Trust your gut…
- Document, document, document
Determine the Best Course of Action
- Can the issue be addressed by alerting your supervisor or human resource manager?
- What if the discrimination continues?
- Find out your employer and state guidelines and steps to file a complaint.
- Talk to your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or similar office to address options.
- File an internal complaint.
- Seek legal advice and representation.
- Don’t take these steps lightly! Unfortunately, this process can lead to a cold work environment, suspension, or even being fired.
Where can I find additional resources?
Counseling and Psychological Services
University of Houston
226 Student Services Center 1
Houston, Texas 77204-3026
University Career Services
University of Houston
106 Student Services Center 1
Houston, Texas 77204-3040
LGBTQ Resource Center
University of Houston
Houston, TX 77204-4014