Peer Career Advisor (PCA) and Posse Scholar Zoey Ellis’22 interviewed Terrence (TJ) Smith, Account Manager at Google, to answer common career related questions LGBTQ+ identifying students might have when seeking job opportunities.
Zoey: What activities or student organizations were you involved in during college and how did they help you get to where you are today?
TJ: I was involved in Black Student Union as the treasurer. I also was a RIDDIM co-director and a Language Tables manager. My experiences in these organizations allowed me to strengthen transferable soft skills such as: people management, effective communication, and organizing events. That said, I think the biggest benefit was being able to have a diverse outlet. Understanding the importance of caring about something or being involved in something outside of work is crucial.
Zoey: As a graduate who identiﬁes as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Non-Binary, Gender Non-Conforming, Genderfluid, or Queer, what are some of the questions you suggest students should keep in mind when researching employers and applying to job opportunities?
TJ: When researching employers, check to see if they have a LGBTQ+ resource group, typically you can find that around the company culture section. Do they have a resource group? Are they recognized for their work in the LGBTQ+ space? If they have a company blog, do they mention topics the queer community face? Honestly, any question that interrogates how the company values their queer employees.
Zoey: Would you suggest students consider to what extent they would like their career to incorporate their LGBTQ+ identity? Do you want your identity to have a major role, such as working for an LGBTQ+ advocacy group? Or expressed in a different way, like joining the LGBTQ+ affinity group for employees at an organization?
TJ: When thinking about your brand and who you are, think about what kind of role you want your LGBTQ+ identity to play. I, personally, decided to be out at work, but I haven’t been too involved with our company’s LGBTQ+ resource group. I’m a big advocate of separating work and personal life, so I focus on expressing my queer identity in avenues outside of work i.e. volunteering with LGBTQ+ orgs.
Zoey: Could you recommend any career related LGBTQ+ resources that helped you in the job search process?
TJ: O4U (Out for Undergrad) is a great organization that hosts conferences for queer college students to explore their LGBTQ+ identity while in the workplace. I recommend every queer student to at least check out the website. If they have an event for your field, definitely apply! It’s a great network and exposure opportunity.
Zoey: Have you come out to your employer, and if so, when in the employment process and how?
TJ: I came out after I was already hired. If you decide to divulge your queer identity during the interview process, I would just make sure you leverage it in a way that shows strength to your character. I have no strong feelings for or against discussing your identity while interviewing, it’s all situational.
Zoey: What advice would you give your younger college self?
TJ: Be open to change. Determining how you spend your 40+ hours of the week for the rest of your life at 21 years old is absurd. Your dreams may change. Don’t be afraid of evolving.
Zoey: Is there any other advice that you’d like to share with Middlebury students?
TJ: You’re a Middlebury College student during a pandemic. Except for the class of 2020, literally no one alive can say they’ve experienced that. Be easy on yourself and give yourself space to take things day by day.
If you would like to contact Terrence (TJ) Smith, please reach out via Midd2Midd!