Job fair focuses on queer careers

A career conference focusing on queer issues today is hoped to be the first of a series of events tailored to students with unique needs and situations.

“It’s really about customizing the services that we offer and bringing it to the students,” Career Center counselor Cheryl Hollatz-Wisely said. She hopes that this career conference, partially funded by Diversity Action Council, will be followed by events centered on the career issues of students with disabilities, students of color and international students.

The conference, called “Working it Out,” takes place beginning at 8:30 a.m. in Room 327 of the Smith Memorial Student Union today.

Very little personalized career services have been available for students – a situation that Hollatz-Wisely hopes will be remedied by these conferences and the formal research on student needs that will follow.

The conference will cover a variety of issues queer students face, such as being out at in the workplace, finding supportive employers with anti-discrimination policies, domestic partner benefits and more.

Specialized career services for students who identify as queer are important, she said, because research shows that “most of the career research on students is on straight students. The default [feeling among queer students] is that employers are straight and not affirming.”

Career Center research says that queer students are the least likely to use career services, which is a partial reason why the first conference is focused on this group. Queer-identified students are likely to assume that the career services are straight-centered, Hollatz-Wisely said, adding that this conference will also serve as a way to let Portland State’s queer population know that the Career Center services are meant for them as well.

“Offices really need to take the initiative and demonstrate that they are open and affirming offices.”

The conference will be a starting point for the Career Center to begin doing research on the unique needs of students by passing out surveys to attendees.

Kirk Snyder, a researcher and author of literature on queer career issues who will be the keynote speaker at the conference, said “one of the most important things is to place yourself in a work place where you can succeed as yourself, where sexual orientation is a non-issue.”

According to Snyder’s research, done at the University of Southern California, individuals who are out in the work place receive salaries up to 50 percent higher than those who remain closeted. “It’s extremely important for [queer] students to realize that they can be successful as themselves in the world of work,” he said.