Career Resources for LGBTQ+ Students
LGBTQ+ students face some unique challenges when seeking jobs and internships, so you may have questions about how best to proceed. Review this guide and meet with one of our career coaches to prepare for the application and interview process.
Know your rights
In June of 2020, the US Supreme Court issued a landmark decision that employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is prohibited under federal civil rights law. That being noted, this decision is still relatively recent, and not all employers may be fully complying (even though they should be). The enforcement apparatus of the executive branch also may not yet have implemented all of the policies and procedures needed to ensure that this ruling is fully enacted. And some employers in some parts of the US are likely to be more in compliance than those in other areas. (There are also local protections at the state, municipal, and county levels in some places.)
If you want to learn more about your rights, check out the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Pride at Work, and WorkplaceFairness.org:
What are your rights?
US federal law prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex/gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Nevertheless, in practice, LGBTQ+ individuals (and all women) may at times face biased treatment in hiring and promotion practices, harassment and intimidation, unsafe or inaccessible bathrooms in places of employment, inadequate healthcare coverage (e.g., no coverage for gender-affirming healthcare, or no coverage for HIV/AIDS-related healthcare), and being tokenized or called upon to perform the uncompensated labor of educating coworkers. You have the right to address such issues and seek corrective action, and there are resources in the links on this page if you need external assistance.
Note that remediation may sometimes require persistence and may take a very long time (even years) to play out. Thus, please remember that you also have the right to move on and find a better situation for yourself if you are unable or uninterested in holding a particular employer to task.
Case law is conflicted and confusing at this time regarding the tension between protecting the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals and protecting the religious liberties of individuals (e.g., a small business owner) who feel that their religious beliefs compel them to uphold LGBTQ-exclusive policies or approaches. The question is not fully settled, but most progressive thinkers feel that religious freedom, while extremely important in its own right, should not supersede one’s obligations to follow the laws in general, including nondiscrimination laws. At this time, though, you may want to “do your homework” when considering any particular prospective employer or internship provider to ensure that you are comfortable with their current policies, approaches, and workplace cultures.
Whether or not to disclose your identities
Unless a job applicant has disclosed a particular LGBTQ+ identity, an employer is prohibited by law to make any inquiries about your sexuality or gender identity. Ultimately, the decision about whether and what/how much to disclose is up to you.
If you choose to disclose your identities in the hiring process, keep in mind the following guidelines:
- Focus on what you can offer the employer in terms of knowledge, abilities, and ideas.
- Remember that you are applying to complete certain essential job functions, and not to be a particular type of person.
- Do not feel that you need to be apologetic about your identities or experiences, or that you need to give explanations for your life.
- Emphasize the positive contributions that you will be able to make and what excites you about the position and the organization or company.
For more resources on disclosing your identities, take a look at the following resources:
- Should You Come Out at Work?
- Coming Out at Work
- Financing and Support for Gender Confirmation Healthcare
Outside of the US
Note that LGBTQ+ rights (and even the ways that gender and sexual identities are defined) vary widely across the globe, breaking down both along the lines of national levels as well as more local-level and informal practices and even individual companies and organizations. Not all locations have legal protections for LGBTQ+ individuals and, indeed, in some countries it is still illegal to be LGBTQ+ (and sometimes even punishable by death). Even when LGBTQ+ individuals’ rights are protected, individuals and groups may act extrajudicially to harass, intimidate, harm, and even kill LGBTQ+ persons (as still happens at times in the US). By way of contrast, some countries have even stronger protections for LGBTQ+ individuals than the US (e.g., Iceland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Canada). For these reasons, both international students and US students should learn about national and local rules, practices, and attitudes surrounding LGBTQ+ people when considering jobs and internships in any location.
- Map of Countries that Criminalize LGBTQ+ Experiences
- Equaldex is a crowdsourced guide with lots of information about LGBTQ+ life worldwide