In an effort to combat underrepresentation in the workplace, CareerLAB is making a concerted effort to reach out to students and alums identifying as people of color, first-generation and LGBTQ. CareerLAB hosted its first LGBTQ CareerCon in partnership with the LGBTQ Center Apr. 3 at the Faculty Club.
Preceded by two CareerCons for first-generation students, the LGBTQ+ CareerCon was the third of a series of CareerCons aimed to help underrepresented students. Though the CareerCon model has been around for a few years, the center only started to organize group-specific CareerCons in the past year, said CareerLAB Director Matthew Donato. CareerLAB aims to address specific student populations and communities that need unique advice in career planning, the job search and networking, Donato said. Students not only seek career advice regarding specific fields but also the specific identities or communities to which they belong, he added.
The LGBTQ+ CareerCon included a moderated panel that featured alums who spoke about their experiences navigating the work environment as queer and trans persons. After the panel, students had a chance to ask questions and engage in one-on-one discussions. During the panel, speakers touched on various topics, such as the challenges of being out in the workplace or finding welcoming workplace environments.
Angela Zhuo ’19, who attended the CareerCon event, said the speakers’ stories about navigating their fields taught her about being vocal about identity. “Sometimes it is a mechanism you have, you are not sure if this is a safe space to talk about your identity,” Zhuo said.
The first group-specific CareerCon was a CareerCon for first-generation students in 2016, Donato said.
Trevor Lyford ’18 who attended this year’s First-Gen CareerCon Mar. 4 said that the event was more helpful than he had anticipated. As a first-generation and low-income student, Lyford found career planning overwhelming, but said that he finds value in connecting with people who understand the same issues he faces.
Lyford, who aspires to become a doctor, said that he used the event to speak with first-generation alums at the Alpert School of Medicine for advice about how his experiences can be an advantage. He said that after the event he kept in touch with the first-gen Med School students — one has even become his mentor. “She offered to help me through the process of applying to medical school after I graduate from Brown,” Lyford said.
CareerLAB plans to continue group-specific CareerCons, focusing on international students and students of color. Conversations around shared experience “can really empower students who might feel discouraged,” Donato said.
Besides the group-specific CareerCon, CareerLAB has set three goals — engaging in data-based programming to reach more people of color, mentorship and diversifying staff — as part of its diversity and inclusion action plan, released Mar. 9 .
CareerCon stands out as one way to facilitate connections between students and alums, but it only occurs once a year, Donato said. However, if prior commitments prevent students from coming to CareerCon, they should still have an opportunity to connect with alums, he added. Donato said that he hopes to employ technology to support a mentoring program between students and alums. Currently, CareerLAB is working to collect alums’ information for student use on sites like BrownConnect.
CareerLAB is also considering the diversity of its staff, Donato said. As stated in its DIAP, CareerLAB is committed to making diversity a key aspect of its hiring process. Though they have a diverse staff of peer career advisors, he said that most full-time employees are white. “We want our staff to reflect the diversity of the student body,” he said.
Donato said that they are on track to implement all three goals this year, and they will continue to organize the group-specific CareerCons focusing on different identities.