At the VCU Career Services Office, we embrace and celebrate the diversity of our campus and alumni community and are committed to creating an inclusive environment where all are welcomed, respected, and supported.
We are dedicated to providing services and resources that will help create a more equitable playing field for all VCU students and alumni as they consider career options, engage in experiential learning, and apply for employment and volunteer positions, acknowledging that not everyone has equal access to career-related opportunities and professional networks. As a department, we promote and are deeply invested in the work of diversity, inclusion, equity, social justice, cultural humility, and constant learning. As a team comprised of individuals from many different backgrounds, we will continue to do our part to advocate and make positive change each day that helps open new doors to careers and professional opportunities for VCU students and beyond.
We aim to provide support and encouragement to VCU students and graduates of all backgrounds and identities as they explore, prepare for, and pursue their career goals and contribute their unique and important ideas, skills, and values to the world. We encourage individuals to consider value alignment as they evaluate places to work, connect, and gain experience along their professional journey, asking hard questions and reflecting on what they both hear and observe in action.
We welcome you to engage with us early and often—please visit our website, stop by our space, and make an appointment to talk with one of our career advisors. Your continuous feedback and engagement with our office is essential to our office's mission of empowering all students to lead meaningful careers and lives, and we look forward to working with you.
The career and graduate/professional school search process is a time when you’re trying to figure out who you are and what opportunities you want, while also considering how others will see you once you've decided to apply. With so many employment options and graduate/professional development programs available around the world, and depending on what you want to accomplish with your life, there's something for everyone. Many of them may appear to be viable possibilities in professional life, but do they meet your needs and aid in your growth? Race, ethnicity, gender, class, ability, age, religion, sexual orientation, family position, and other aspects of your identity and culture are assets that you will bring to your future employer or graduate/professional school. You may, however, be unsure about how and when to communicate certain aspects of your identity. How do you filter down the options to a small list that will get you closer to your professional goals while also honoring who you are as a person? The following are a few questions to consider as you gain information on options and opportunities during your search process:
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Examples of identity-specific questions:
Deciding when and how to disclose elements of one’s identity to others, especially in professional or academic settings, is a personal, nuanced, and potentially difficult choice. It is not often clear if and when sharing information about our mental or physical health, gender identity or expression, family structure or plans, religious beliefs, political affiliation, sexual orientation, ability status and accommodation needs, or other identities is safe to do, even if these things have a direct impact on our career decision-making process and/or workplace needs.
Legally, there is very little an individual is required to share prior to applying for or accepting a job, internship, or graduate/professional school program offer (see details on illegal interview questions below), and many of our intersecting identities are not necessarily visible or clear without explanation. However, as one seeks to find a supportive environment or best fit for their own core needs and values, there may be benefits to sharing key pieces of information during the networking or hiring process.
Being forthright about certain elements of one’s identity can help ensure there is support and flexibility available at a given organization or institution before deciding to work/go there, and help determine where one could actually thrive and be able to be most authentic on a daily basis. While the commonly-used adage of “if they knew about [insert identity/situation] and weren’t supportive, would you really want to work there?” may apply, every situation is different and it will always be up to each person to decide if, when, where, how, and with/to whom to disclose. Our team of career advisors is always here to help if you want or need guidance on your specific situation, to practice your own language around disclosure in professional settings, and to determine what may work best for you.
In the United States, it is illegal for potential employers to ask you about any of the following during the hiring process. While sometimes well-intentioned, these questions can lead to discrimination in the recruitment and selection process and direct answers should be avoided or deflected until or unless an individual wants to share any of this information with their new employer:
If you are asked about any of these topics during an interview, application process, or networking conversation, you can decline to answer, redirect to a related skill or competency you’d like to highlight, or use this as an opportunity to disclose, only if you feel comfortable doing so (e.g, if work-life balance is highly important to you, mentioning your family in the interview may give you a chance to see if there is value alignment with your potential supervisor or the organization more broadly; sharing your pronouns or name of use could give you more confidence throughout an interview instead of constantly being deadnamed or misgendered throughout the experience). If you are asked an illegal question during an interaction with an employer you connected with through a Handshake posting, VCU Career Services event, and/or Federal Work-Study position, please contact the VCU Employer & Experiential Development Team at firstname.lastname@example.org for support. For additional guidance and practice on how to navigate illegal questions or topics, we encourage you to meet with a career advisor.
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