Being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Queer (LGBTQ+) in the job search process can be a daunting task if you’re unsure about how your identity will be received in professional environments. Depending on the state, there may be some protections offered. For example, here in the state of North Carolina, there are laws in place that “prohibit discrimination against public employees based on sexual orientation only”. This means that public employees are protected based on their sexual orientation, but not gender identity. This law does not apply to private companies. Here are a few tips to think about or utilize as an LGBTQ+ person in the job search.
It’s a Personal Decision
When deciding whether to apply for a job or stay with your current company it is a personal decision whether you come out as LGBTQ+. You may want to weigh how important your identity is in the workplace and how much you enjoy sharing personal information with your colleagues (such as who you’re dating, what interests you have, and what areas you are passionate about). Either way, you want to make sure you are comfortable with the decision you make rather than being pushed into either coming out or concealing your identity in the workplace.
It is very important to research any companies that you’re looking into. For example, many companies will have their non-discrimination policy listed on their website or listed at the bottom of a position description. Take a very good look at their non-discrimination policy and see if it explicitly mentions gender identity and sexual orientation. Many companies do not realize that gender identity and sexual orientation are missing from their non-discrimination policy since they use what the federal government sets as a standard. Another way to check on diversity is to look and see if they have any Affinity or Resource groups. Affinity groups are groups in organizations where people from similar identities can come together in support of one another. For example IBM, Ally Financial, and Duke Energy have great LGBTQ+ Affinity groups. Other areas to check on companies is to research their reviews on Glassdoor.com, their standing on the HRC Equality Index and Diversity INC’s Top 50 List.
Utilize Your Network
No matter your identity it is very important to utilize your own network in finding possible positions. This can be especially important for LGBTQ people. Connecting with friends and family who work at companies can give you insight into the company culture and if any LGBTQ+ people currently work there. You can also join LGBTQ+ groups on LinkedIn to get insight from current or past employees.
Your resume is the first introduction to your career brand. Much like choosing an employer, it is a personal decision on how much you disclose on your resume. If it is important to you that your employer and colleagues know you are LGBTQ+, then you may want to leave on specific volunteer or experiences that were with LGBTQ+ organizations. If you decide that you want to keep your identity separate from your work, then you may want to rebrand or refocus these experiences. Focus more so on the skills as opposed to the organization where these skills were obtained. For example, you can take a LGBTQ+ specific organization and turn it more into a community outreach or involvement organization. Just know that during an interview anything on your resume can be brought up in the interview, so you’ll want to practice interviewing beforehand.
For Trans* job seekers you can also put your preferred name as opposed to the legal name given to you at birth. Since the resume is not a legal document you do not need to put your legal name. Keep in mind though your employer will need your legal name when you fill out your paperwork for taxes and payment.
During your interview is another example of when you need to decide how much you want to disclose about being LGBTQ+. Anything on your resume is up for grabs, but so is your social media, LinkedIn or other public information that the employer may come across. This is also a great time for you to find out if this company is the right fit for you. Ask questions like “How does your company define diversity?” to gauge the climate of a company. When it comes to what to wear at the interview that is where you need to reflect and make note of what is the company/industry you are interviewing with. For example, some tech and communications companies may have a more relaxed and casual environment, so business casual could work for that interview. This can vary across industries, so the best rule of thumb is to keep it professional and at a minimum no jeans, t-shirts, shorts or sneakers. If you are dressed professionally but change up the masculinity or femininity of your clothing you also want to ask yourself, “If a company won’t hire me for the masculine/feminine clothing I wear, is that a company I want to work for?”.