Almost every student needs guidance and support when entering the workforce. After all, it’s a confusing, foreign, and oftentimes frustrating experience. However, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) students require unique—and often additional—assistance.
Here’s how to ensure you’re meeting all of your students’ needs.
Know Their Main Concerns
Every LGBTQ student is at a different stage of identity development. But, says Mary Beth Barritt, assistant director of the University of Vermont’s career center, there are “salient issues” with which career counselors should be willing and able to help.
Barrett says that LGBTQ students are typically focused on deciding whether or not to disclose their identities, and when (on their résumés, in the interview, and so on); finding employers “where they will be comfortable bringing their whole selves to work”; and determining whether all career fields are possible for them.
In addition, transgender job seekers often want to address such issues as “transitioning on the job and conducting a job search with a work history in another gender, as well as questions related to disclosure, use of legal name and gender markers,” said Barritt.
To ensure that you and your fellow career service associates are knowledgeable about these topics, Barritt recommended reading relevant articles in professional journals (such as the Journal of LGBT Issues in Counseling or the Journal of LGBT Youth), attending LGBTQ-themed presentations and conferences, and working with your university’s LGBTQ center.
Alfonso Coro, executive director of non-profit organization OUT for Work, suggested that career service professionals also familiarize themselves with legislation in their city and state so they can aid students in knowing their rights. This map of LGBT rights by state, provided by the Human Rights Campaign, is a good resource.
Provide Online Resources
Some students may not feel comfortable coming into the career center to discuss their identity—and even those who do will benefit from additional information. For that reason, you should provide online resources for LGBTQ students on your career center website and social media accounts.
In fact, one of the criteria for an A+-Gold-Certified OUT for Work career center is offering either a specific website or link to LGBTQ workplace issues on the career center’s homepage.
For an example, look to Gold-Certified University of Pennsylvania Career Services’s LGBT Career Resources page, which is easily found on the Career Services homepage and has a variety of resources for LGBT students.
Patricia Rose, director of Penn’s Career Services, highlighted several especially helpful links: the Human Rights Campaign site, which has a list of Best Places to Work for LGBT people, broken down by industry, and a Corporate Equality Index, which ranks the best corporate policies for LGBT employees.
“We also link to other groups, like the Center for Gender Sanity, which helps those who are transitioning in the workplace,” Rose said.
Programming gives you yet another opportunity to help LGBT students prepare for professional challenges.
UVM’s career center (which, like UPenn’s, has received Gold certification from OUT to Work) partners with student groups and the on-campus LGBTQA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Asexual, and Ally) Center to provide workshops for LGBTQ students.
“For instance, each year we do a workshop, ‘Trans in the Workplace,’ as part of the Translating Identity Conference here at UVM,” Barrit said. “We also frequently do workshops related to disclosure on a résumé or in an interview or job search process.”
The University of Pennsylvania’s Career Services offers job-hunting and resume-writing programs for LGBTQ students. These programs focus on issues specific to the LGBTQ community, such as whether or not to indicate one’s sexuality on the résumé or during the application process.
“There are also a number of different LGBT student groups that bring back alums who can discuss their own careers,” Rose said. “In addition, the Wharton Alliance (LGBT Wharton undergrads) brings corporate recruiters to campus who wish to pitch their opportunities to the membership.”
Above all, you should focus on creating a respectful and inclusive space for LGBTQ students.
“Always ask LGBTQ students how they identify,” Coro said. “Everyone is unique and different and need to be seen for the individual they are. If you don’t know or aren’t sure, ask. Educate yourself and let your students know that you are there for them and fully support them as a career professional.”