Scholar Mary Susman Reflects on Out for Work Conference

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I am incredibly grateful that Point sent me to the Out for Work conference in Chicago Sept. 27-29.  During this  weekend in Chicago I was able to not only face a looming fear I have as a graduating senior—what in the world will I be doing a year from now?—but do something about it. I’ll be blunt: my concern was never really about being out at work. As we heard at the 2013 Scholar and Alumni Leadership Conference, we Point Scholars fully intend to be out at work—we already are out and creating change. My concern was finding work—work that is impactful and fulfilling.

Senior year is a whirlwind paradox of fun and stress. After spending the summer studying abroad, I’ve been grappling with exactly what I want to do and what I can do with deadlines quickly approaching. This conference bolstered my confidence and helped me feel excited about my next steps. I am prepared and excited about my options.

The conference was not perfect. Conversations focused on the importance of being out in terms of company efficiency and profit making: you should be out because then you can focus on doing your job, not on hiding your identity. Here’s my issue with this: we should be authentic about our lives not just because it helps companies. Speakers also did not acknowledge what it meant for us to discuss the concept of being out at work while many vulnerable LGBTIQ folks (particularly those who identify as trans and gender non-conforming) cannot secure employment, nor did they mention the privilege of being out.

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Panelists discussing being out in the workplace.

That said, the conference was very helpful. On Saturday, I went to workshops on being out in different fields and making a career out of advocating for the LGBTIQ community. On Sunday, I was able to sit with recruiters from various companies and have my résumé critiqued before a career fair. This proved to be the biggest highlight of the conference for me, since I got to make valuable connections in a rather informal setting.

I am grateful to Point for investing in me and helping me not only pursue higher education, but also figure out what comes next. A main theme of the conference was mentorship. I am grateful to Point for already showing me the immense value of intergenerational mentorship. As I was reminded at the conference, I am so fortunate to be a Point Scholar and to have a community of support like none other. This community strengthens me, guides me, and gives me oh-so-much hope for the future.

This post was written by Phyllis Mandler & Gary Elden Point Scholar Mary Susman
Mary Susman was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska. She believes the LGBTQ community and other minority groups are often excluded from coverage or inaccurately portrayed in the media. Mary plans to be a vehicle through which voices can be heard, believing that through ethical journalism, stereotypes can be broken and inclusion can be achieved. Mary continues her activism while studying media studies and sociology at the University of California, Berkeley. Learn more about Mary.