Queered & Careered: Things to Bring and Leave Behind

Queered & Careered is a column that offers tips and tricks on how to navigate career development as a queer person — from job searching to career inspiration to dealing with straight nonsense in the office.

Hi there! I’m Tiara. I’m a Career Coach and I’m here to talk about career development.

Okay, okay: I know what you’re thinking. Career development? On Autostraddle? Why on Earth would I keep reading this when I could add my two cents to this hilarious, queer thread about favorite pizza toppings (my two cents: mushroom pizza is bomb, pineapple pizza is a hot mess, and unpopular opinion, white pizza=meh)?

I GET IT. For real, I do. Career development has not traditionally been a very sexy topic.

But, before you click away, please let me share this fact I just learned from a random Google search. The average person spends over 90,000 hours of their lives at work. 90,000 hours. And, if you’re queer like me, then you have probably spent the majority of those hours trying to figure out what you want to do with your life, reassuring your parents that you’ll figure it out, wearing itchy blazers to interviews, and praying to Janelle Monáe for strength as you have to deal with yet another microaggression at work.

There are not enough spaces where queer people can be in community together to discuss the particular issues we have to confront as we navigate our careers. My intention for this column is to create that much-needed space. Sooooo, let’s take it from the top:

Patriarchy, Heterosexism, Capitalism!

We are going on a trip together and we need to LET GO of additional career baggage that is unproductive, soul crushing, and heavy heavy heavy, like the three words above. So, before we start packing for our trip, I thought we could do a little fall cleaning (is that a thing? let’s make it a thing).

Here are some of the things I recommend we bring and leave behind for our journey!

LEAVE BEHIND: (or shove in the garbage disposal): Capitalist-Bootstrap-Career-Fantasies. Patriarchal and Heterosexist ideas about what you’re supposed to do and how you’re supposed to act.
BRING: An awareness of your identities and how they will inevitably impact your career path.

One of my most meaningful career-learning moments came in the form of a college student I worked with a few years back. She came to me in tears because she hated her major and she didn’t know what to do. I immediately offered the best career advice I could give at the time, influenced by my default can-do Auntie Oprah rhetoric.

Old Me: I know what you can do! Why don’t you just change your major and do something you really love? THEN, you’ll get good grades because you’ll be passionate about the subject.

Her (blank face, mildly irritated): My parents are paying for my education so I can’t change my major and I have to go into this field.

Old Me: (melanin developing the ability to blush).

Capitalism tells us that everyone has the ability to do what they love and get the money they deserve if they work hard enough. Unfortunately, what capitalism is also saying here is that people who are not doing the work they love or earning the money they deserve did not work hard enough. Thus the biggest thing we have to learn as we begin this career journey together is that our identities matter.

They matter when we’re choosing work, when we’re applying for a job, when we negotiate salary, and whether we accept a job or not. They influence who we get along with at work, the promotions we receive, whether we apply for a promotion or not, whether we work in a place that even offers promotions.

I am a Black, queer woman. I am also a cis person who is non-disabled and college educated. All of these identities, and many more I don’t have time to list here, inevitably impact my career path, for better or worse. And they do for you too.

As we start this journey together, ask yourself: In what ways have you internalized capitalist thinking in your own career development? What identities have been or are currently the most salient for you when you think about work?

LEAVE BEHIND: The Career Coaches, Counselors, and Guides in your head who are critiquing your resume with a red pen and wearing a business suit — probably forcing you to shake their clammy hands, probably saying something basic and heteronormative like “men should wear suits and ties to interviews and ladies should wear dresses that drop below the knee.”

BRING: Your support network — the queer friends, mentors, allies, and role models who you can vent to as you navigate your career journey.

A few years back, I saw the amazing Dr. Brittney Cooper in a lecture and she said a quote that has stuck with me since: “Find your crew and then be a good crew member.” Finding a career that works for you and your needs is a lifelong ride and one of your most important tasks is asking yourself who you want in the car.

First, be your own Career Coach! Ntozake Shange once said “I found god in myself and I loved her fiercely.” As your Queered & Careered Coach, I am here to help and I am here to guide. But, ultimately you are the one who is going to be making the decisions about what is best for you and your career. Be the Career Coach you always needed. Don’t solely rely on the experts because you’re the greatest expert on YOU.

Second, take stock of the people you surround yourself with on a daily basis and ask yourself if you want to confide in those people about your career process. It is my firm belief that different people come into our lives for different purposes. The friend who gives me amazing dating advice may not be the friend I confide in about a rough job search, and that’s okay! How do you want to feel as you grow in your career? Which friends, mentors, and role models create that feeling in you?

Third, surround yourself with a diverse group of people that can complement your strengths and weaknesses! I am a flighty dreamer (my sun, moon, and rising signs are all air if you were wondering). Knowing this about myself, I keep two pools of people around me: other dreamers who tell me to take the job abroad and go for my dreams, and more practical friends who encourage me to ask the right questions before I leap into new opportunities. What are your strengths and weaknesses? How can you find crew members who will affirm and/or challenge you?

Fourth, leave behind people who are trying to control your process. This can be a mixture of folks, but they are most often mentors and family members, both by blood and by choice. If you have these relationships in your life, these are most likely people who want to protect you from the mistakes they made. Unfortunately, sometimes that protectiveness can lead you to second guess your choices. Communicate that you want support and care from these people as you go throughout your journey, but make it clear that this journey is your own.

LEAVE BEHIND: Dry (often basic) career education which encourages you to “play it safe,” “take this seriously,” and “fit in.”

BRING: Your sense of PLAY and ADVENTURE. That dream of becoming a circus artist. Your vision board, your tarot cards, your unheard poetry.

You know what I’m sick of? Career development coaching that is devoid of joy and play. Yes, finding a job is important. Yes, deciding what you want to do with your life is a major decision.

But does it have to be so boring and serious all the time?

When I was going through a recent job search, I surrounded myself with positivity and play throughout the process. My friend and I made long lists of the qualities our perfect job would have and kept them in our journals, reviewing them together every few weeks. I also loudly sang and danced to Janelle Monáe’s “I Like That” whenever I sent in an application in order to remind myself that I’m a bad bitch regardless of the response. When I got rejections, I sang the song twice, often in the shower (back up dancers included).

What gives you joy? How do you process your experiences, and how can you make your career journey a joyful one? Once again, 90,000 hours. I know that many people are in circumstances that do not allow them to actively pursue work they love. But, the process can start here. What do you believe is possible for you? What would be the next best step? How can you have FUN while taking those steps?

Yay! You made it. I’m proud of you. Hopefully you’ve already begun the process of discarding the things that aren’t working in your career concept and packing the things that do. “Marie Kondo” that shit, and have fun doing it.

What are some of your biggest questions about career development, and what are other things you hope to bring with you and leave behind on this journey?

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!

Tiara Dee

Tiara’s six word memoir is “born with questions in her mouth.” By day, she works as a sassy, affirmation-card-wielding Career Coach. After hours, she is a creative writer, book reviewer (@booknerdspells), and unofficial bubble tea ambassador. Tiara writes angsty fiction and essays about intersectionality, mermaids, reading, spirituality, being queer, and traveling. She hates beets and people who touch her hair.

Tiara has written 18 articles for us.


  1. i am beyond excited to see what else comes out of this column! i work as an editor (which i love) in corporate marketing with a senior focused audience (which i don’t). our diversity and inclusion efforts have come really far but they are still sorely lacking in many areas, and the company is still very very entrenched in patriarchy and whiteness. V V V excited to gain some strategies

  2. This is such a great idea! I am glad you bring up trying to balance doing something you care about with the realities of capitalism. I am stuck on that so hard right now, and there is no easy answer. I hate trite “follow your passion” stuff. I have mouths to feed.

    • I totally agree Elizabeth! “Follow your dreams/passion/heart” career advice is nice, but not practical for everyone.

  3. Thanks for this! I had a really rough week dealing with feelings of misery about work (I like my job and co-workers, but finally sinking in that being female disabled and queer is negatively impacting my career and my manager just doesn’t get it) and this was really what I needed.

    • Hi Eva! I’m glad that this article helped you in the midst of a stressful work week. We will definitely be talking about how to practice self care in negative work environments over the coming weeks. Self care is so so important, especially since some employers are not invested in/equipped to support staff with marginalized identities.

  4. I really appreciate that you acknowledged disability/non-disability as an identity that impacts how we navigate our career paths. I feel very lucky to have a lot of privilege in a lot of areas, and becoming disabled still abruptly and drastically altered my career path. I haven’t been able to work for a couple years, and I’m just beginning to find potential career paths that might support my body’s survival as well as my financial needs. I’m really looking forward to this column.

    • Thank you for your comments Lee- I am so glad that you’re excited for this column. As a huge book nerd, I have to leave a book recommendation that I think you’d enjoy/find healing and guidance from as you go about job/career searching: many of the poems in Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha’s Body Map discuss work and disability in a really powerful and engaging way. Would definitely recommend!

  5. I love this so much! After over a decade of moving definitively in one career direction, I’ve recently stumbled into an entirely different field that feels so dang RIGHT for me. The questions and invitations in this article feel so exciting to dig into as I contemplate where to point myself next!

  6. I’m excited for this series! I was privileged to have a career in a field that was my passion for ten years where as long as I didn’t spend much, I was doing fine. Then it was time for a change. Now I have two part-time jobs that work really well with the rest of my life. It’s a balancing act, for sure!

  7. stoked for this! I am in a transitional space job wise and have been doing a lot of thinking about some of these ideas.

  8. I‘m here for this! Like my job on a lot of days, love my co-workers and I‘m very lucky that I earn well and don’t feel overwhelmed with my work (that was not always the case) but I’m not sure I wanna do what I do for the rest of my life. Let’s play!

  9. Love this!
    I’m in between jobs as they say and trying to wrestle up the courage to apply for more leadershippy and demanding positions. Basically this means that I’m continually beating down imposter syndrome with a stick. It’s surprisingly emotional, this whole application deal.

  10. I had an experience recently in which a friend and I applied for the same job and she got it and I did not even get an interview.

    The thing is that I was much more qualified and had direct experience in the field, she did not.

    She is white and has a ‘white’ name and I do not. It was a really miserable slap in the face because it just reminded me that this shit is just harder for some people. It’s really been getting me down to know that no matter how much important shit I do, some people with the power to make my life better will neverrrrr care.

    Anyway, I applied for three jobs yesterday and we will see what happens.

    • That is really crappy about not getting the job! Good for you for putting in three more applications! I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

  11. YES! I am beyond stoked for this column. I’ve been feeling a little stagnant and burned out in my career, wondering how to reconcile ambition with angst about capitalism, etc. This first installment was absolutely wonderful & I can’t wait for more!!

  12. I literally started crying at my desk at work reading this. I feel like so many of the stressors in my life over the last eight years have been related to trying to exist as a queer person in the workforce. Thank you.

  13. Looking forward to seeing more of this content here, even if you are wrong about pineapple pizza

  14. I’m deeply curious about how to probe the culture of a company before committing to working there. Most of my jobs the work has been fine, but the people and the culture have made it unbearable to work there. I try to read glassdoor reviews and research the company, but usually there’s only so much I can find. Asking questions about the culture and the vibe in interviews always feels weird, since I don’t trust the hiring manager to be totally truthful and sometimes I feel like the entitled millenial stereotype.

    Excited for the series!

  15. Oh I NEED this column right now, so stoked! Currently thinking of fully changing fields so I need aaaalll the career wisdom.

  16. I’m also very excited for this column! Work stresses me out sometimes, and generally being the only non-male/queer person in the room does not help. Thanks for sharing your advice with us.

  17. this series is so amazing i reset my password to comment and say that!

    it also comes at a really relevant time. i am starting a major “career shift” in my last year of my bachelor’s. i’m pretty excited, and i’m making as many moves as i can pre-graduation. that’s not my question/comment, though.

    today my dad messaged me out of the blue telling me to change my linkedin name from “jen” (which is what i’ve gone by professionally for like two years) to “jenna,” which is my full legal name. his reasoning? it’s “more professional.”

    how do you navigate the whole name situation in jobs? this is obviously such a complicated topic for lgbt ppl, it seems like an interesting article. my situation is so basic compared to what a lot of ppl deal with, and my dad’s suggestion was clearly off-point and vaguely sexist, but i’m surprised nobody’s written about it yet!

    • I put the short version of my full name by on resumes and apps and give my legal name to HR/payroll, which is what most people expect. Your dad is out of touch with professional norms. Whatever goes in your professional email signature should be what’s on LinkedIn.

  18. I am trying to be a professional for the first time in my life these days and I am very excited for this column!

  19. Im so happy autostraddle is doing this series! Thank you! As queer people we have so many issues beyond coming out and I rarely get the space to discuss that. Eg dressing authentically. That said I also feel that being an out lesbian has helped my career. Sure I’ve not got jobs because of homophobia but I wouldn’t have liked them anyway. I have felt that being out have me access to a network I wouldn’t have had as a straight woman.
    Im also excited to get the perspective of people of color. I’d love to hear how people approach starting a new professional role, assessing culture and the way things get done. Navigating office politics as a queer person without compromising your ethics or sense of self. Helping change the culture for the better. Some ideas or requests I guess.

  20. I can finally leave my old life behind because I’m moving abroad soon and this has been a real dream of mine for several years. Despite the fact that I’m a junior developer, I found many vacancies on relocateme with the possibility of relocation. Over here there are many vacancies for IT specialists. If you are looking for a job and you are considering moving abroad, I advise you to check the site.

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