In case you haven't heard the news, getting hired while LGBTQ can be a little difficult.
I'm not going to talk about inequities here, as others on Bilerico have made pointedly clear. We need job protection, and we need it as soon as possible, no doubt about it. Instead, I want to talk about how to play the hand we are dealt, stilted and stacked against us as it may be. For the most part this means understanding the usual job-seeker advice - network, make a resume, etc. - but there are a few extra wrinkles for LGBTQ people, young and old.
However, every Millenial is stuck with the same aces-and-eights hand. Unemployment in the Millenial generation - across all demographics - is an absolutely terrifying 37%. Jobs are hard to come by in the recession, and will continue to be hard to come by for at least a few years. LGBTQ Millenials, this author included, face a a double whammy: present unemployment rates, plus existing prejudice toward LGBTQ people, plus the fact that people are coming out younger and younger, mixed in with an internet that encourages open participation and never, ever forgets, make a recipe for potential disaster.
Again: not fair, not right, but we don't get to complain about the cards when we sit down to the poker table. And, more importantly, schools don't teach kids how to play a poker hand proper; that's where the community comes into play. Assuming that the world will continue to be unfair, and accepting that finding work is a competitive proposition - for which we will be at a disadvantage - we have to simply find ways to play the hand we're dealt.
Ante up. Your cards may suck, but here are a few tips on how to play them best.
Find What You Love and Do It
I know this is a column on queer issues, but I really want to hammer this home: the rules of the job market are the same for everybody. Slanted sometimes, yes, but the tips are always the same. Nobody starts out with experience; it is earned over the course of years. Showing passion and dedication to your craft, whatever it may be, helps build that experience.
I found out that I loved writing in high school, and spent the first five years of my writing "career" pounding out stories too terrible to print anywhere. But I loved doing it, and I kept doing it, and as my experience grew I got to a point where I could hope to make a living off my craft. It will not happen overnight, but this approach - putting personal development in the driver's seat of career development - is the only reliable one in the long term.
Decide On Your Disclosure Policies
Over 70% of Millenials have at least one social networking profile and at least some form of web presence. Managing an online identity is important because it's often the first stop for a potential employer. It's best to pretend that personal identity is a piece of meat, and the internet a shark-infested ocean. The idea is to get bites in the right places (People who can say "You're hired!"), and avoid chumming the water near the sewers.
The big question here - one I'm still struggling with myself - is whether or not LGBTQ activism will affect job prospects. Writing on LGBTQ issues and generally being open and honest about life does open people up for discrimination, and in the modern psyche the tendency is to blame the victim of discrimination for "asking for it." There are two options here: either accept that some people will use sexual orientation or gender identity to disqualify an applicant for a job, or stay deep in the closet. I've seen both methods be successful, but the former is a tougher sell than the latter, and the latter is harder on the psyche than the former.
It really boils down to a numbers game. Recent polls show that 43% of people see gay and lesbian relationships as "wrong." Scarier still is the fact that similar numbers were not collected for trans people, and we can only assume the number would be higher than that. Coupling these numbers with the 37% across-the-board unemployment rate for Millenials begs the question: is being out worth the coin-flip on whether or not a hiring manager is okay with LGBTQ people?
This is where I dip my feet into piranha-infested water, because I'm going to suggest that being out and loud is a potential determent to getting hired short term, and reduces options for discretion in the long term. (Again, the internet has perfect memory.) Make an informed decision on your disclosure policies, employment-wise, and stick to them. You may decide to be out, passive, discrete, stealth, closeted, or even a fierce advocate - whatever you do, understand that there's no putting the image back into the box afterward. There are consequences to being out, and the odds are bad enough that it may not be worth the trouble. Again, there's no set answer for this: only odds to guide a personal decision.
Nobody Is Entitled To Anything
Yet another disturbing fact: 85% of hiring managers think that the Millenials feel entitled to their job. Nobody is entitled to anything, job-wise, especially in this lagging economy. Work is hard to come by, and in many places there aren't enough jobs to go around. It sucks that anti-gay prejudice may close doors for LGBTQ job-seekers, yes, but all we can do is know that jobs aren't a guaranteed right, roll up our sleeves, and get to work.
This may mean developing a "business personality" to deal with the working world. The Austen I bring to my workplace is not the Austen that visits friends on the weekends or posts on Bilerico, and it took a while to develop that split. This isn't anything against a LGBTQ identity. This is simply how the American workforce works: there is the private world, and the public world, and nary shall the two intermingle. Discussing LGBTQ news and stories is okay, sure. Even still it's worth it to put the phrase "I'd rather not discuss that with coworkers" into your workplace vocabulary.
Networking Leads To Jobs
This section should be named "Let others help you, and pay it forward," but "networking" is far more recognizable.
We spend a lot of time on Bilerico pointing out the injustices faced by LGBTQ youth. Everything, from the stress of the closet to bullies on campus to family matters, can become a struggle, and this struggle does affect efforts to get hired. (It's hard to focus on getting a job with an abusive boyfriend, for example.) There are groups dedicated to helping these youth dig out of these holes of experiences, and there are people out there who honestly want to help their neighbors in any way they can. Living openly and honestly, much like any disadvantaged minority, requires new coping strategies, new job-search methods, and new perspectives on how the world responds. These people can help Millenial youth find their way.
The key here, hiring-wise, is that you can network through these communities and services. I'm not talking about making Facebook groups, or throwing a tweet to followers; I'm talking old-fashioned, shake-hands-and-make-friends networking. Volunteer, both with your local LGBTQ community and with organizations in your career field. Make friends in your local communities. The friends you make there will know friends, who will know friends, who may know hiring managers looking for new blood. What the college resume-writing classes don't tell you is that this is how most hiring decisions are made: inside leads.
(Finding these leads in the community has an added bonus of leading you to cool people. For example, I met the ex casting director of Fox networks through my local StepUP organization. We stuffed condom bags together and talked about movies for a good hour.)
Most importantly, it's vital that you are prepared to pay these favors forward once you're established. When somebody comes looking for a job, ask around in your network about leads. In fact, that's the best part about getting involved: you get to make a difference in the life of somebody coming up the road behind you. Few things are more rewarding.
Be Prepared To Lose
(Related: You can't get lucky if you don't play the game)
You will lose on occasion. You will probably get laid off - possibly more than once. The new jobs environment demands an almost constant job search on the part of workers, who are now faced with the reality of quick, harsh layoffs. It may be because of your orientation or gender identity, but more likely it's a sign of the modern working times - jobs are temporary.
Even though you may find yourself "paying dues" in a job you hate, don't stop searching. The job market is like a huge roulette wheel - you can try to play the odds, but in the end you can't win anything if you refuse to play. Understand that most Millenials - not just LGBTQ ones - are tearing through jobs like crap through geese, and that that is how the job world works now now.
Use Any Municipal Laws To Your Advantage
I'm breaking the "Don't feel entitled" rule, yes, but there's no reason to not push chips in when you have a winning hand.
Some states and municipalities have anti-discrimination laws barring bias against LGB and/or T persons. If that happens to be the case in your city, be sure to know the law going in. Don't rely on it, mind you, as employers will find a way to fire those people they don't want to work with, period. At the same time you may have a bit of leverage if, say, an offer letter is tendered but then rescinded once the employer finds out about your orientation or gender identity.
However, "Know your rights" is a far cry from "Play the LGBTQ card," and the gap is business professionalism. It's probably better to not discuss sexual orientation or gender identity during an interview process if it can be avoided. You want them to see your abilities separate from your identity; be sure to give them a chance to do exactly that. However, knowing the laws regarding your orientation or identity will at least serve to boost your confidence - at the very least, a hiring manager may have to cook up an excuse to not take you, and if they do you probably didn't want to work for them anyway.
So there's a few tips on getting hired while young and LGBTQ. Please share your tips and thoughts in the comments. You can never have enough information in this realm, after all.