A few days before the spring semester began, I participated in the SophoMORE Connections Program. If you are a first-year, I would definitely recommend taking advantage of it in the future. While the majority of events dealt with networking and the specifics of working within a certain industry, there were also lunch sessions on Saturday. The topics of these lunch breakout sessions ranged from searching for an international job to, you guessed it, internships and jobs for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-gender and questioning (LGBTQ) students.
Being an LGBTQ Initiatives intern, I was curious about the session and decided to attend. While the group turned out small, the conversation was great. It may seem arbitrary to some people that this session even existed, but people identifying as LGBTQ face some unique challenges and considerations in the workplace. When should I come out? Do I need to come out? Could I lose my job if people find out? How will it affect my interactions with coworkers? What types of martial benefits would not apply to my partner?
For most people, these things are taken for granted; that’s the power of privilege. So, with three LGBTQ-identifying graduates in the room, there was a lot of input on these questions. One person immediately felt welcomed in their workplace, coming to realize that many of his coworkers were already out and accepted within the company. Another person emphasized the struggle with coming out at work based on the geographic location of the job. Each person’s experiences were different within his or her own workplace, and it made me realize this situation is like most: each one is unique.
While the questions above are definitely important to consider, it is up to you to decide how far “out” you want to be at work. Some people may be comfortable putting LGBTQ-related information on their resumes, showing employers their interest and possible traits right away. Others may never come out, whether for personal safety, unequal employment practices or other reasons.
I felt this session was also useful in understanding what another person may be thinking as they decide whether or not to come out at work. Simply knowing that there are additional considerations for LGBTQ employees to take into account allows co-workers to better support each other. This is obviously a good thing and makes for a stronger, more connected company if not also increasing personal connections.
If you are currently looking for a job or internship, I would recommend outforwork.org. This site is designed specifically for the LGBTQ community and has LGBTQ-friendly job and internship postings throughout the year from partnering companies. So if you are part of the LGBTQ community and preparing to enter the wide world, realize that there is no set plan for how – if ever – to come out in the professional world. What is most important is your own comfort and understanding of the possible effects that may result. There are many ways to come out at work, just as there are many different people. Take things as they come, and be conscious of your decisions while pursuing your career. For now, we’re into another semester at Colgate. Welcome back.