So you’ve decided what you want to do, gone through college, and are now qualified for the work you think you’ll be doing for a while. Now comes the hard part: Finding a job you’re comfortable with. For members of the GLBT community, this can be the hardest part of all. There are some things that can make the search easier, however. Before you do anything, know your rights. They differ depending on the state, your specific situation, and even the market. Do some research. Find out about the market you’re going into. This can help you figure out how Out you want to be.
When you’ve tested the temperature of the overall market, start researching individual employers that you might apply to. Find out about office culture, any problems they’ve had in the past, their harassment policies, and the courses you have to make a complaint, should an issue arise. In addition, inquire about benefits. Once you’ve found out about an employer, you can make your final call as to how Out you want to be. In an interview, ask questions. Make sure you get a good feel for the place. Sometimes reports don’t match up. Remember: if they don’t hire you simply because you were asking questions, you definitely wouldn’t have been comfortable there. If you have a situation, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
For Allies, the situation is a bit different. Instead of finding an accepting environment, your job is to create one. This can be something as simple as asking about your coworker’s partner. There are many things you can do to support the LGBT community in your workplace.
Some steps to helping create an inclusive environment:
- Be known as an Ally. Depending on your workplace, you can put up a rainbow flag, mention queer-friendly events that you’ve been to, or just be friendly.
- Let them come out in their own time. If they’re not out at the office, there may be a reason.
- Be sensitive to their needs.
- If applicable, use their preferred pronouns.
Ask questions, just not inappropriate ones. Don’t overstep boundaries. If the person you’re talking to seems uncomfortable, don’t push. Do, however, push to make your office more inclusive if you can.
Resources for both on-campus and off:
- Career Services – GLBT Job Search Tips online workshop
- GLBT Services at UMD – Angie Nichols
- QASU – Student organization on-campus at UMD
- Sexual Orientation & Career Decision Making (from Lawrence University)
- Human Rights Campaign – Corporate Equality Index (see how corporations are rated)
- PFLAG is an organization for Allies. This document goes over specific workplace issues, and how you can handle them as an Ally.
- For those who feel that their office needs a more formal approach to being accepting: http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/establishing-an-allies-safe-zone-program
- Out for Work Job & Internship board
- Out & Equal Workplace Advocates – Workplace Resources