On October 12th, students and alumni gathered virtually for the Center for Career Education’s annual LGBTQ+ Alumni Panel and Networking Event, this year titled Queer Career Connections.

The theme of the discussion was navigating one’s identities in the job search process and evaluating the LGBTQ+ climate at an organization. Below are some excerpts from the robust panel discussion.


Be bold in cold outreach: Being bold can be your greatest asset in conducting cold outreach. Ricky Rios, Senior Manager of Product Management at Amazon told an account of a student reaching out to him via a LinkedIn message after having missed a panel in which he was one of the panelists for Columbia College. The student asked for Ricky’s e-mail address in the LinkedIn message. Ricky was happy to chat with the student so he sent over his email address. The student then proceeded to send a prospectus on a startup that the student was thinking about joining and he asked Ricky what he thought about the idea. Ricky immediately thought how bold the student was in asking him for his opinion and he added that he respected the student for their “hustle” and in reaching out. 

Ricky shared that oftentimes doing cold outreach one will not get a response “9 times out of 10” but students should continue to pursue reaching out to alumni or people they may not know. 

“You’ve got to reach out.  I think if you see something in somebody’s background that’s pretty interesting… try to make emails as personal as possible. I think this student had referenced, ‘Hey, I couldn’t make that panel you were on.’ So I said okay,  I’ll give you five more minutes. I would say put yourself out there and reach out to people and if someone doesn’t reply I think that’s okay.”

Network naturally: You may already be networking without even realizing it here at Columbia. J.T. Ramseur, a Master of Social Work candidate at Hunter’s Silberman School of Social Work, describes his time “unknowingly networking” while working at Columbia College as a post graduate. 

J.T. talks about how he came upon an opportunity with the Academic Success Program on campus as he was a former ASP student, and then he connected with someone in Multicultural Affairs through work he had done with the office previously and he took on an interim position with Under1Roof. Finally, he came upon an opportunity with admissions.

Here, he speaks to how he was networking without even knowing it: “An opportunity came up in admissions. I was unknowingly networking through the student connections I had made while I was there to find opportunities that felt more right than some of the other things that I’d applied to from more formal systems.”


Evaluate the workplace community: J.T. Ramseur, a Master of Social Work candidate at Hunter’s Silberman School of Social Work, shared that he recommends keeping your identity at the forefront of the work that you do. When joining a new setting, think about “what does community-building within this space look like, who are going to be the people who I can talk to who I will know, who will be able to help me […] stay grounded in that way.” 

Ask the company about DEI initiatives: Ricky Rios, Senior Manager of Product Management at Amazon, recommends asking about what the company has done regarding DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) initiatives. Ricky says that due to increased attention towards the fight for social justice, he is now asking hiring managers at Amazon “What have you done to display commitment to DEI, to diversity, equity and inclusion?” Ricky makes the distinction between asking about the work that has been done for DEI versus the goals companies have for DEI. 

Interested in learning more? 

If you’re looking for more information on your LGBTQ+ career path, and/or additional intersectional identities check out our info for resource pages.