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Job-Smart Strategies for LGBTQ2S+ Youth

Finding work that allows you to use your skills and strengths successfully is a common career goal. As part of a sexual or gender minority, finding work where you feel safe is an important way to reach that goal. These strategies will highlight your options so you can make decisions that are right for you.

The Alberta Human Rights Act says it’s illegal to discriminate because of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. It’s also illegal to deny your same-sex partner any work benefits offered to opposite-sex partners. Good to know, right?

But if you’re an LGBTQ2S+ youth, you know that your community has had to deal with offensive and violent actions. You may have had to deal with them yourself. It makes sense, then, to protect yourself by not coming out or by finding work where you feel safe. If you experience prejudice as you search for work, remember this: it’s not okay, it’s not your fault, and anyone who does this is wrong.

Here are some things to think about:

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Disclosing or coming out

Sharing that you are LGBTQ2S+ is a highly personal decision. You may wish to discuss this with a counsellor, therapist, or other trusted advisor. Keep these things in mind:

  • Pros: Disclosing can mean being happier in your job, because you don’t have to pretend to be what you are not. You can talk freely about what you did on the weekend and bring your partner to social events. This is easier to do in a workplace that is diverse and inclusive.
  • Cons: Sometimes you may need to take a job at a workplace that doesn’t support diversity. If you disclose during a job interview, you may not be hired. If you’re already working at such a place, coming out can change how people relate to you. You may face unfair behaviour.

Disclosing can happen any time during the job-search process or not at all. This depends on what you want and the circumstance you are in. You may choose to:

  • Actively make others think you’re heterosexual or cisgendered
  • Quietly appear to be heterosexual or cisgendered
  • Honestly share your life and activities without LGBTQ2S+ labels
  • Openly speak about your sexual orientation or gender identity, using LGBTQ2S+ labels

Gender transitions

During your career, you might decide to change the way you express your gender to others. If you’re planning a gender transition, you’ll want to be in a workplace where you feel safe.

Here are some gender transition plans for different workplaces that you can share with your supervisors, leadership, and human resources (HR). These plans will help them better understand what they can do to help:

Researching employers

Many organizations in Alberta recognize the value a diverse workforce brings. This number is growing, even in industries that often have not been inclusive in the past. To find them:

  • Check out the companies that support, donate to, or are members of LGBTQ2S+ organizations, such as the Alberta LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce.
  • Explore business directories like these in Edmonton or Calgary.
  • Type the following in your search engine to find local organizations that may be friendly to the LGBTQ2S+ community:
    • Your location
    • The word “jobs”
    • The words “diversity”, “inclusive”, “LGBTQ”, or “Queer”
  • Visit the website of a company you’re interested in. Read its policies, mission statement, media releases, and more. Does the company support inclusion, diversity, or the LGBTQ2S+ community? If it celebrates events like Pride, it may be a good place to work.
  • Recognize that many jobs or organizations are unionized and unions often have policies to protect minority rights.

Does a company that interests you have an HR department or an LGBTQ2S+ employee group listed on its website? If so, ask HR or the group about the workplace. You can do this without sharing your name.

Your network of friends, mentors, or trusted members of your LGBTQ2S+ support group can also offer insights and referrals. This is useful when you are looking into small, local organizations.

Applying as a gender minority

You can share your pronouns at any time during the hiring process. That could be in your cover letter, at the beginning of the interview, or in follow-up emails. You may want to practise how to politely correct any misgendering that happens during this time.

Since resumés and cover letters aren’t legal documents, you can use:

  • Your legal name
  • Your chosen name
  • A combination, such as Christine (Christopher) Smith

Note that your prospective employer may need to do some checks. Some documents, such as transcripts or criminal record checks, may only use your legal name.

If you choose not to disclose as a gender minority

Your deadname—the name assigned to you at birth—may be on the official documents that your prospective employer needs to see during the hiring process. If so, you’ll need to decide if the job is worth it. If it is and the company has an HR department, contact the person who oversees hiring. HR staff must keep your personal details confidential. So, you can explain that you go by your chosen name, as shown on your resumé.

Some of the people you use as references may know you by a different name and gender. If you disclose before or during the interview, you can tell the new employer how the reference knows you. But if you don’t want to disclose to the new employer, tell your references your current name and pronouns. If that’s not possible, you may need to find references who respect your identity.

Writing a resumé that fits the job you want

When employers read your resumé, they’re asking themselves, “Does this applicant have the skills and experience I need?” You’ll need to answer that by showing how your skills and experience are a perfect match for this job. You can’t just write a one-size-fits-all resumé and expect to be hired.

Explore Resumés and References for helpful templates and checklists. You’ll find everything from how to create a master resumé and choose the resumé type that fits you best, to what kind of references to use.

If you choose not to disclose in your resumé

You may need think about how to present any experiences you’ve gained as a member of the LGBTQ2S+ community. To avoid outing yourself, you might:

  • Identify the organization by a less revealing name. Its legal name, for example, may not be same as its more common name.
  • Combine organizations if, for example, you’ve gained skills while volunteering or working at “various community groups.”
  • Choose to refer to the next level up in the organization, rather than the LGBTQ2S+ section or division within it. “HR Department” is less revealing than “LGBTQ2S+ Diversity Office.”
  • Use a broader job title such as “diversity advocate” instead of “LGBTQ2S+ advocate.”
  • Make sure your references from the LGBTQ2S+ community know you don’t wish to be outed at this point. If you change your mind during the hiring process, let them know.

Preparing for the interview

Like all job applicants, you should learn all you can about the company. Be ready to speak about all your skills and achievements, including those you developed through LGBTQ2S+ roles.

If you are a gender minority, put some thought into how you want your gender to be seen in the interview and dress accordingly.

Check out Interviews and Offers for common interview questions, questions you should ask at an interview, and more.

Dealing with workplace discrimination

Many organizations now have written policies to protect sexual and gender minorities, but unfair treatment can still occur. Workplace discrimination falls into two groups:

  • Formal discrimination covers decisions made about your actual working conditions. This can include hiring, hours, same-sex partner benefits, and wages.
  • Informal discrimination covers hostile or negative actions toward you, including disrespect, snide or abusive comments, and damage to your property.

If you’re dealing with discrimination at work, contact the Alberta Human Rights Commission for help.

If you’re unable to find a workplace where you feel safe, you still have options. For example, you can also create a safe space for yourself through self-employment or entrepreneurship.

Stepping into the adult world of work as an LGBTQ2S+ youth can be scary, but that world is changing. These days, you can find allies almost everywhere.

Look for a job at a company that embraces diversity and inclusion. The LGBTQ2S+ employees that work at such companies report feeling more satisfied and committed in their careers. That’s a great way to start yours.

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