Providing Career Development Opportunities for Queer Individuals

Higher Education, Jamie Piperato, Career Development, Queer Students

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Career development centers provide excellent services for students on how to navigate the

higher education, Jamie Piperato, Career Development

job search process; however, the majority of this information has been created and distributed through the dominant lens. Most career development centers lack identity-conscious resources for students in the queer community; and, in the case that an institution does provide resources, they are in an online format usually consisting of a list of links. Institutions must do more to provide in-person training for students who identify in the queer community. In addition, these trainings must be intersectional in their approach. Institutions must provide identity-conscious workshops that provide students of various identities a way of understanding the process ahead of them.

Fouad and Bingham (1995) state that vocational research has been primarily produced by White scholars; specifically, it is founded in Western European culture and within a framework of masculinity. Savickas (as cited in Vespia et al., 2010) states that there is a 100-year tradition of career development work that has silenced the experiences of marginalized clients. As a result, it is vital to encourage career development centers to increase their services to marginalized individuals by providing identity-conscious programming. It is important for all identities to be represented in the services provided by career development centers. For this particular document, an argument will be made that calls for the inclusion of services for queer-identities in particular. Specifically, four areas will be addressed as reasons to why career development curriculums should include queer-conscious education: (1) providing vocational support; (2) providing role models; (3) preparing students for experiences; and (4) the intersect of identities.

First, in a study conducted by Nauta, Saucier, and Woodard (2001), results showed that sexual minorities felt significantly less supported and guided from others in the areas of academic and career guidance. In addition, Nauta et al (2001) state that sexual minorities’ career decision making and implementation are influenced because of reasons such as “stereotypes, discrimination, environmental barriers, and other forms of bias that typically impede the development of minority groups” (Herr & Cramer, 1998, p. 154, as cited in Nauta et al, 2001). Currently, many institutions do not educate students on topics of career development through a identity-conscious approach; but, the lack of this inclusion in an office’s curriculum can impact a student’s success. Institutions must provide more support to LGBTQ+ students than resources in the form of hyperlinks on their website.

Second, it is vital for institutions to provide role models for students in the LGBTQ+ community who can speak to the experiences of living openly as queer employees. It is a proven fact that individuals are more likely to seek out other individuals who are similar to themselves. This is supported by the social learning theory introduced by Bandura (1977). For both sexual minorities and trans* individuals, it is very important for students to have role models who are out in the workplace (Nauta et al., 2001). Students are able to gain confidence and reassurance about the job search process when they are able to confide in people who have experienced similar encounters due to their identities. This can be especially important to students who have androgynous gender identities and expressions. By providing services that emphasize the queer experience, students are able to gain insights and become more prepared for what they will experience as marginalized individuals.

Third, it is vital that institutions prepare students for their experiences. Negrete & Purcell (2011, p 83) state, “as individuals across the continuum of sexual orientation and gender identity continue to gain acceptance in society through increased visibility, they face a more covert kind of discrimination.” This discrimination often takes the form of microaggressions that students, faculty, and staff alike may have difficulty naming and therefore addressing. As educators, it is important for our institutions to create comprehensive trainings to better understand how to recognize and combat such covert discrimination, moving beyond rudimentary teachings and toward informed solutions that combat the root of the problem. Discrimination in the workplace is a reality for many queer-identified people and it has “a profound effect on the well-being of this population (Coteau, 1996; Croteau & Hedstrom, 1993; Driscoll, Kelley, & Fassinger, 1996; Elliott, 1993; Fassinger, 1995, 1996; Griffin, 1992; Hetherington et al., 1989; Levine & Leonard, 1984; Morgan & Brown, 1991; Orzek, 1992; Pope, 1995, 1996; Worthington, McCrary, & Howard, 1998 as cited in Chung, Williams, & Dispenza, 2009). It should be the role of career development centers to provide students with effective coping strategies so that they can increase their self-efficacy and well-being (Chung et al., 2009).

Fourth, career counselors should be aware of how the intersection of various identities may impact a student’s experience.  Purdie-Vaugns and Eibach (2008) explain that “because people with multiple subordinate group identities (e.g. ethnic minority women) do not fit the prototypes of their respective identity groups (e.g. ethnic minorities, women), they will experience what we have termed ‘intersectional invisibility’” (p. 377). In similar ways, queer people of color, queer students with disabilities, and students who are otherwise marginalized in addition to their sexual orientation and gender identity are often made invisible by current education practices, but face compounded forms of oppression that must also be addressed. McCann and Kim (as cited in Abes, Jones, and McEwen, 2007), note, an intersectional approach to different personal identities “[recognize] how socially constructed identities are experienced simultaneously, not hierarchically” (p. 3). Particularly as the demographics and visibility of students’ identities are growing and changing, it is our responsibility as educators to address the identities of our students simultaneously and with equal measures of respect, instead of treating them as separable entities that can be examined and solved in singular, isolated training sessions. In order to adhere to our students’ individual needs, we must recognize that their identities and struggles will also be unique, and structure our programs accordingly.

Higher Education, Job Search, Jamie PiperatoFurthermore, it is vital for all institutions to assess what services they provide in order to accomplish identity-conscious programming. Do you work at an institution whose students could benefit from this type of programming? If so, email me at! I have an interactive workshop entitled, “Confronting the Job Search Process as a Queer Individual” that discusses the job search process for students who identify as queer.


Abes, E.S., Jones, S.R., & McEwen, M.K. (2007). Reconceptualizing the model of multiple dimensions of identity: the role of meaning-making capacity in the construction of multiple identities. Journal of College Student Development, 48(1), 1-22.

Fouad, N. A., & Bingham, R. P. (1995). Career counseling with racial and ethnic minorities. In W. B. Walsh & S. H. Osipow (Eds.), Handbook of vocational psychology: Theory, research, and practice (2nd ed., pp. 331-365). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Nauta, M. M., Saucier, A. M., & Woodard, L. E. (2001). Interpersonal influences on students’ academci and career decisions: The impact of sexual orientation. The Career Development Quarterly. 49, pg. 352-362.

Purdie-Vaughns, V., & Eibach, R.P. (2008). Intersectional invisibility: The distinctive advantages and disadvantages of multiple subordinate-group identities. Sex Roles, 59, 377-391.

Vespia, K. M., Fitzpatrick, M. E., Fouad, N. A., Kantamneni, N., & Chen, Y.  L. (2010). Multicultural career counseling: A national survey of competencies and practices. The Career Development Quarterly. 59, pg. 54-71.

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