What’s it like being LGBT in work?

It depends on the sector, your manager, your co-workers, your customers and clients. You are more likely to be viewed as providing an unusually creative, if exotic, addition to the organisation than as something strange to be avoided. It’s different from coming out at university, not better or worse, just different. This explains why initially graduates tend to pop back in the closet for at least a short time to take stock, and why not? But it’s not a good place to stay: it’s dark, damp and no-one will visit you.

The good news is that may employers really, really want you to work for them because they:

  • can’t afford to miss out on great talent
  • are aware of the research which says out people are happier, more creative and more productive – and more likely to stay.
  • genuinely believe diversity, inclusivity and equal rights are important and part of their values
  • have LGBT customers and clients who expect to see their identities reflected in the organisations they entrust with their money.

What information is there to help me?

– There are many resources to help you think about what it’s like to be LGBT at work whether as an intern, on work experience, a year placement or in full-time work. For evidence of this see Stonewall’s Starting Out Guide which lists loads of companies out to attract you and guidance on what to look for in an LGBT friendly employer.  Another helpful guide is Target Jobs Sexual Orientation Guide
– To check out individual organisations, search their website using keywords eg: diversity, inclusion and LGBT
– There’s a bunch of coming out videos on YouTube, some feature incredibly good-looking and confident people who obviously have lots going for them already, some are more regular people: I found their testimonies more useful.
Your Careers Service should also have resources. However, as with all student services, some are better than others. The University of Birmingham runs a mentoring scheme specifically for LGBT students, still unique we think. I also run LGBT careers events for them and they advertise recruitment events aimed at LGBT students run by individual employers or sectors such as law, accountancy etc. Some careers services websites, even at Really Famous universities have almost nothing. If you are at such a university, you might do the following:
– ask the Careers Service to put some resources on an easy-to-find section on their website
– suggest they invite local LGBT employers to speak about their experiences
– ask lecturers to contact LGBT employers – especially useful for those doing vocational subjects such as medicine, law, engineering, property and business.
– link in with oSTEM – a US/UK network of student societies bringing together science, technology, engineering and maths students. Currently Glasgow and Birmingham universities are members.
– run an event yourself, but do keep your careers service informed, they can help advertise it

How I can help

If you are a students’ union, LGBT society, elected students’ union officer or member of staff, I can help you plan a strategy for enhancing the employability and careers advice for your students. This could be a one-off talk, a workshop or working on a fully worked out strategy. I can be contacted at: sean@getoutstayout.org.uk or 07776215873 for an initial chat.

How you can help me

I’m collecting good practice and case studies to create resources on this website to help students come out at work. All contributions will be anonymous. If there is anything you think would be helpful, do let me know.