Last week, Portland State’s Advising and Career Services and the Queer Resource Center co-hosted a series of events called Queer Career Week from Jan. 26–29.
The events included a job application workshop, resume and cover letter critiquing, a panel about being queer or trans in the workplace, and a meet and greet over cookies and coffee.
Events were open to all students and community members.
ACS hosted a similar event about 10 years ago according to Ann Mestrovich, employer relations coordinator at ACS. It was, she said, a one-day conference.
The week began with a job application workshop on Monday, Jan. 26. It was run by Michelle Schwartz, a former PSU employee and current manager of Diversity and University Programs at Cambia Health Solutions, and David Weir, an executive assistant and the co-chair of the Professionals Respecting Individuality, Diversity, and Equality (PRIDE) Employee Resource Group at Cambia Health Solutions.
Weir discussed the importance of ERGs in facilitating open and supportive work environments and the projects PRIDE is involved in.
“We have considered ourselves kind of the trailblazers,” Weir said. “We are working with [human resources] to get Cambia accredited with the [Human Rights Campaign] for 2016.”
Schwartz discussed best practices for writing resumes and cover letters, including highlighting transferrable skills and critical thinking. She emphasized the importance of having a good resume and cover letter.
“Not often in life do we get to tell our story,” Schwartz said. “That’s what I think of these documents—they’re your story.”
ACS also hosted resume and cover letter drop-in hours on Tuesday.
Mestrovich and Craig Leets, Queer Student Services coordinator at the QRC, met over the summer and discussed the possibility of a weeklong series of events geared toward queer and trans individuals.
“We decided to run with it,” Mestrovich said.
“Queer and trans people are an underrepresented and often marginalized group of people in the United States,” Leets said. “And so, as with any part of life, accessing work can be really tricky or complicated…I think that it was important for us to have a conversation that was somewhat specific to the concerns or issues or needs of queer and trans people and students on campus.”
Rachael Anderson, a junior sociology major at PSU and volunteer for the QRC who attended several events during the week, said, “[Queer Career Week is] important for strengthening and promoting diversity.”
Seven panelists from Portland-area businesses participated in “Out at Work: Queer Professionals Panel” on Wednesday in Smith Memorial Student Union. The panelists work for nonprofits, law firms, multinational corporations and as private consultants.
Leets said that he and Mestrovich wanted a broad representation of different workplaces and work experiences. “The students are looking for a variety of things.”
Leets opened the panel by talking about cultural shifts surrounding gay marriage and why he wants to continue discussing the everyday lives of the queer and trans community.
“Some might think [marriage equality] indicates a total culture change,” Leets said. “I think many of us who might be queer and trans in the audience, on the panel, in the room, know that’s not the case. Sometimes our day-to-day experience is not changed by these laws that happen way above us.”
Panelists discussed how they came out both personally and professionally, how it has affected their professional lives, and resources, such as ERGs, that audience members can take advantage of.
Several audience members shared their experiences being queer or trans in the workplace. One audience member asked how to create opportunities for equality within different organizations.
Norbert Teston, the director of quality projects footwear at Adidas and one of the panelists, said, “The first hurdle is to try to get people to understand that there is an issue…I want people to be talking about it because the more people, the more buzz we’re going to create, the more impact we’re going to have.”
Steve Lesky, the program officer at Cambia Health Foundation and a panelist, agreed with Teston. “To be able to position yourselves and your skill sets and your intentions to understand and kind of address all of these issues to the extent that [is] possible within a society I think is going to be very important moving forward.”
Later, Lesky touched on the importance of holding events geared toward the queer and trans community.
“It is a recognition that, although we are more similar than we are different in many cases, a one-size-fits-all approach is not going to work,” Lesky said.
Schwartz, who was also on Wednesday’s panel, said that fighting for inclusion and diversity is a continuum. “Your goal should always be moving.”
While employed at PSU, Schwartz was on the committee that removed gender as a required classification on the application for admission.
“It’s a topic that needs to be talked about more,” Anderson said.
Mestrovich said that student feedback was positive. “That gives us the energy to hopefully make it an annual event.”
Leets agreed with Mestrovich. He said that it’s important to continue the work that Queer Career Week did.
“This is not the end of the conversation,” Leets said.
The Queer Resource Center is located in 458 SMSU and is open 8a.m.–5 p.m. on Mondays and Fridays and 9 a.m.–7 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. For more information, visit their website at pdx.edu/queer.