Inclusion in the Workplace

What you do with your liberal arts education as you leave the University of Puget Sound can cause ripples of change in your department, organization, field, and ultimately the world…

As a liberal arts student, you have delved into critical issues that affect our global society, you’ve developed strategies for voicing your perspective, and you have held difficult but crucial conversations.

Moving forward from this space of critical analysis and progressive thought into a working environment can feel like you are stuck in a time warp. The reality is that organization policies and even individuals will be rooted in implicit and explicit bias and ignorance.

Career and Employment Services (CES) has compiled resources and created a guide to help you navigate:

  • The Identity Resources community pages (located on the Interests and Identities tab up top) contain curated lists of services, organizations, and articles that can support career development for a variety of identities.
  • With the Thrival Guide (below), we hope to equip you with tools – to find an organization and position, to know your rights, and to prepare to successfully start a career in ways that you will thrive.

Explore the Guide and the Identity Resources. If you have questions, or would like to talk through any of the topics you find there, the CES Career Advisors are available to chat. Schedule an appointment via Handshake.

The Thrival Guide was created in partnership with NEXT Consulting.

Identifying Inclusive Employers

Finding an organization that aligns with your ideals, values, and goals can be an invigorating part of the internship and job search. At first glance it can be difficult to tell if an organization is all talk, or is progressively building a culture of inclusion.

No organization is perfect. But there are ways to find an organization where you’ll feel comfortable working or interning. Because you’ll be investing a significant amount of your time at an organization, take a close look – examine their practices to help you determine whether or not an organization will be an ideal place for you to begin your career.

By perusing the organization’s website, commonly on the “About Us” page, you can learn about what the organization hopes to be known for (mission), ethics that lead their decision making (values), what they hope to accomplish (vision), and how they plan on accomplishing their goals (strategic plan).  

Review these elements to see how your values align with the values of the organization:

  • A mission is a formal summary of the aims and values of an organization – essentially why it exists and their overall purpose.
  • A values statement, or core values, includes the fundamental beliefs and principles that define and guide the organization.
  • A vision statement includes what the organization hopes to achieve in the future.
  • A strategic plan is a comprehensive report of the organization’s future with a detailed plan to achieve goals.

Look at what the organization says compared to the action that it takes. Do they communicate equity and inclusion as key values, but fail to actively practice those values?

Their written commitments are what you can hold your potential employer accountable to throughout the interview process and then as an employee.

Nondiscrimination Policies clearly state the type of discrimination and harassment that is unacceptable for this organization, how to report and file grievances, consequences of violating the policies, and protection against retaliation.

Additionally, look for a statement of the organization’s commitment to investigate all complaints (both present and prior).

Here are a few policies as recommended from the Human Rights Campaign:

Diversity & Cultural Competence Training: In every organization, there will be individuals who are at different levels of intercultural competency and who are unaware of how implicit biases may affect their overall behavior.

While some organizations create spaces to discuss the ways in which privilege and inclusion impact employees’ lives at work, others may not have a common practice of open conversations in the work environment.

Diversity trainings are on-going, routine professional development opportunities to build upon intercultural competencies within the workplace, and set the expectation for individuals to respect all other individuals within the organization.

Ask how regularly staff members are provided professional development related to equity, diversity, and inclusion at the department-level as well as within the entire organization.

Employee Resource Groups: Affinity groups within the organization may include a mentorship program for professionals of color, LGBTQ, professionals with disabilities, and other groups from marginalized populations.

For example, T-Mobile offers six employee resource groups.

By looking at an organization’s human resources web page, you can see what current inclusive diversity initiatives are offered to engage and support employees.

Health Insurance and Benefits: When browsing the benefits package, take a look to see if it promotes inclusivity, such as by providing transition-related health care, and partner benefits.
Inclusive health insurance plans may include:

  • Mental health counseling (E.g. benefit covers gender-affirming care)
  • Pharmacy benefit (E.g. benefit covers hormone replacement therapy)
  • Medical visits and lab procedures (E.g. benefit covers of medical visits to monitor effects of hormone therapy and associated lab procedures)
  • Surgical procedures (E.g. benefit covers surgeries such as hysterectomy for purposes of sex affirmation or reassignment)
  • Paid short-term Leave (so long as this benefit is not subject to transgender exclusion)
  • In-network healthcare providers that represent a variety of identities (use the find-a-doctor function on the health plan webpage)
  • Other inclusive benefits may include the following. Please note, this is not an exhaustive list:
    • Paid holidays/floating holidays/Religious holiday flexibility
    • Guaranteed Paid Parental Leave
    • Transportation Support for Procedures Not Provided In-State (E.g. some reproductive healthcare)
    • Flexible Scheduling
    • Student Loan Reimbursement
    • Tuition Benefits
    • Retirement Benefits
    • Mental Health Days
    • Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)
    • Employee Relocation Package
    • Paid Time Away to Volunteer
    • Childcare/Eldercare
    • On-site Health Centers and Fitness Centers
    • Continuing Education/Professional Development Funds
    • Adoption Assistance Reimbursement

Chat with people who’ve worked at the organization…

  • Having a conversation with a professional who has an understanding of what you may be going through can help you strategically plan for your next step in your career development.
  • Informational interviews are meetings, initiated by you, with an individual who has experience or knowledge in your area of interest. Prepare to ask questions that can fill in gaps that are not outlined on the website or job description.
  • Networking, at its core, is about relationship building. Connections within organizations can lead to job opportunities, but pursuing a networking relationship exclusively to seek an open position can come across as transactional.
  • To build authentic connections, make sure to be present in the conversation to simply learn about the person’s path and to ask for advice – and know that your relationship building will help plant seeds for when a position opens up that aligns with your talents and interest.

How do you find professionals to connect with?

  • Personal Network: Do you know of an alum/professional who used to be in your student organization, major, or work at your part-time job? Reach out and ask them questions about the transition to the workplace and what advice they may have regarding finding an organization that aligns with their values.
  • Events: Attend events sponsored by CES, including Click to Connect, and Dinner with Strangers, which provide opportunities to network. We host a variety of events, large and small, where alumni return to campus to share their stories, experiences, and career-path insights. ~Both CES/university-sponsored events and events hosted by recruiters/employers/organizations are posted in Handshake.
  • Online:
  • Professional Associations: A simple internet search, something such as “BIPOC engineers” can help you find professional associations both regionally and nationally, along with any related events that may be taking place. Many employers will cover the expenses associated with opportunities to participate in these associations for professional development. Finding Mentors: As a young professional, consider building your own personal board of directors.
  • You may develop short-term (or flash) mentorship relationships with folks who have experience with a specific step in your career journey, or longer-term mentorship relationships with trusted supporters who you continue to check in with and turn to over a number of years for guidance about your career, field, industry, or life.

You might choose to seek out mentors who share a career field, a salient identity, or a shared experience – whatever feels most meaningful and helpful to you. Get started searching for and connecting with mentors through Puget Sound’s Mentorship Network, Logger Link.

Questions to ask during an Informational Interview
For general questions, consult the CES Informational Interview Guide.

  • How does this organization welcome and create a sense of belonging among employees?
  • How did you build a support network at this organization as an intern/entry-level professional?
  • What is the work environment and culture like at this organization?
  • How does this organization engage colleagues in conversations about inclusion?
  • Does this organization have affinity or alliance/employee resource groups or mentorship programs?
  • How does this organization listen and incorporate feedback from employees?
  • What type of professional development is offered at this organization?
  • How does this organization promote or retain their employees?
  • How has this organization responded to the increased and widespread awareness around equity and social justice?
  • How does this organization respond to national calls to action around equity and justice?

  • Does the organization take pride in a diversity award? If so, what organization recognized them? Why?
  • A web search, sites like Glassdoor and Comparably, or even Google reviews can help you gain a solid understanding of the organization’s reputation.
    • Are the reviews consistent?
    • Do you notice any red flags in the comment sections about how individuals are treated at different levels within the organization.
  • Check out the employer collection “Invests in Diversity” on Handshake.
  • Set up a Google Alert for organizations that you are exploring, to keep up to date on any news regarding the organization — both good and bad.

Gathering your Community & Building Support Networks

You may know of a student from one of your student organizations, your major, or part-time job who has graduated and moved away from Tacoma. Consider reaching out to them and asking for any advice they may have about starting out as a young professional in a new city.

What are your hobbies and interests? Dancing? Running? Trapeze? Crocheting? There are groups in every city – research local meetups.

  • Meetups: Meet new people who have similar interests and identities.
  • Social Media: Search the hashtags of your preferred social media platform to identify interest groups and communities in your area.

It’s easy to slip into a routine when you first start your career: work, home, work, home. Plan in advance to attend events that pique your interest, alumni networking opportunities (meet local Loggers), gatherings of young professional networks, etc. to break the routine.

  • Join a Logger Alumni Regional Club: Alumni regional clubs often host networking or social events to bring the Logger alumni community together.
  • Volunteer Match: Volunteering is a great way to meet people in a new city while also investing in your new community.
  • Eventbrite: What events are happening that are local? You can search by identity, and personal or professional interests.
  • Search your city’s website or your neighborhood association page to look for upcoming events or programs.

Self-care & Community Care

Self-care and community care are critical to maintaining physical, emotional, and social well-being. Sure, sometimes this can look like doing your nails, getting a good workout, watching a whole season of your favorite TV show, or taking a nap. But care also involves setting boundaries, being accountable, and developing your emotional awareness.

While self-care refers to actions that support your individual well-being, community care refers to actions that you take (and benefit from your community taking) that promote a culture of communal well-being (for example, reaching out to a friend to see how they’re doing, sending coworkers messages of gratitude, remembering community member’s names).

See below for some suggestions of self-care and community care that you can make a part of your routine. This isn’t an exhaustive list of what self-care looks like – try out different strategies and find a routine that works for you!

Here are suggestions for self-care and community care that you can make a part of your routine. This isn’t an exhaustive list — try different strategies and build habits that work for you!

  • Rest: Make time for adequate sleep and try to stick to a routine.
  • Reflect: Make time to journal and practice gratitude.
    • What matters to you most in life?
    • What talents or skills do you have that give you a sense of pride or satisfaction?
    • What do you do to recover from setbacks quickly, and what more can you do?
    • What is one thing that you experienced recently that gave you a sense of wonder or awe?
    • Who has helped you to become the person you are today, and what’s the top thing you would thank them for?
  • Nourish Your Body: Eat a little something every few hours & stay hydrated.
  • Explore: Be a tourist in your own city – go out and explore.
  • Do Things You Enjoy: Color, paint, put together a 3000+ piece puzzle, listen to music, take a bath, hike, read a book, go on a walk/run, listen to your favorite song, etc.
  • Engage in Community: Join a club,  attend a support group, or volunteer.
  • Mindfulness: Meditate, relax, and breathe.
  • Practice Community Care: Call a friend up to ask how they’re doing; give a non-tangible gift (help with a chore, quality time, etc.) to a loved one; learn and use the name of your barista, mail delivery person, or bus driver; vote; volunteer; etc.
  • Think of your future self: Tackle a chore or project that will give you a sense of accomplishment, like doing a load of laundry, deep clean an area of your space, or check in on your budget.

  • Remind yourself of what you can and cannot control. Take your time to research employers and to prepare your application materials. Do what you can to focus on what you can control at that time, and try not to worry about the pieces that are outside of your control. Once you submit your information, complete an interview, send a thank you note, etc., the remaining days and decisions are in the hands of the organization.
  • Rejection does not mean you did anything wrong. Sometimes an organization isn’t the right fit for you, and vice versa. Have a gameplan for what you can do immediately after a rejection to not feel deflated, and be willing to ask the employer about advice going forward.
  • Practice self-care to reduce job-search burnout and to maintain self esteem. If you are applying to positions/internships and not hearing back, it’s easy to take that personally. If you aren’t actively practicing self-care, your lowered self esteem can begin to show through in your application materials and in how you present yourself.

  • Set and maintain boundaries. You might spend 40+ hours of your weekly life working for your organization — typically more time than you spend with family or friends within a given week. Do you check your work email before you go to bed? When you wake up in the morning? Or at all? Know what your limits are.
  • Balance work schedule and personal life. You are more than your job title or organization. How are you making time for your own life’s demands? Are you maintaining relationships outside of work?
  • Make time for self-care breaks such as time for stretching or quick walks during the work day.
  • Create a healthy workspace for yourself. Check with your organization’s ergonomics representative, bring healthy snack alternatives, consider packing your own lunch, try desk exercises, etc.
  • Develop a short list of top priorities each day. Staying on top of your workload can help minimize stress as you begin and end the workday.
  • Consider your needs and resources before committing to a project, assignment, or other opportunity. Learning to advocate for yourself is an important step in growing as a professional, including when to say “no.”
  • Use your vacation time. Your time away from the organization helps you to recharge and perform at your best level.

There are many reasons for leaving a job: pursuing new challenges in your career, leaving poor management or a position that doesn’t evolve with your skills and talents… but how you go out is a part of your personal brand. Unless you are in an environment in which your safety is at risk, an exit strategy is a way to move forward on your own terms while maintaining key relationships.

A termination or lay-off may come as a complete surprise. Nancy Schlossberg developed a Transition Theory that may help you as you leave your role and begin your search for the next opportunity by taking a deeper look into the Situation, Self, Social Support, and Strategies.

Take a look at the current situation

  • What was behind the layoff/termination? If you have any suspicion that you were wrongfully terminated, consider your next steps:
  • When was the last time you experienced a sudden and unexpected change? How did you handle it? What was helpful in moving on? What were some of your characteristics that you demonstrated in that time of uncertainty?
  • Are other sources of stress present?

Check-in with yourself

  • What do you need at the moment? What do you need to process?
  • Allow yourself to grieve. The loss of a job comes with other major feelings, and you may need time to adjust.

Consult your support network

  • Partners and close relationships
  • Family members
  • Network of friends
  • Communities and organizations (ex. Puget Sound alumni)
    • You could post in Logger Link and get the perspectives and advice of other Logger alumni

Develop strategies

  • What about the situation is within your control?
    • Remember your worth as an individual is more than any job or organization. After coping, self-care, and reflection, how can you take ownership in moving forward? What can you do at the moment?
  • What can aid in managing the stress of the situation?
    • File for unemployment and COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act)
      • Find out how to apply for your state’s unemployment benefits and COBRA on the USAgov Unemployment Help page.
      • COBRA lets workers and their families remain in the employee’s group health insurance plan for a limited time after a change in eligibility.
    • Crisis hotlines
      • 211 is a toll-free call that connects you to a community resource specialist in your area who can put you in touch with local organizations that provide critical services.
      • Look for others in your area via internet search terms such as “job-loss hotlines” + your city/state
    • What are some of your coping techniques that lead to self-care?
      • Meditation/relaxation? Physical activity? Reading? Friendship? Humor? Hobbies? Spirituality? Pets? Sleeping? Nutrition? Check out the self-care and community care section above for some suggestions!
  • Washington State Specific Resources

There may be instances where the ignorance of an organization (both of the individuals and of the collective culture) require you to acculturate (adapt to the mainstream culture) or to confront. As you decide how to respond, maintain awareness of:

  • Your well-being: Would confrontation make it harder for you to work in this space at this time?
  • Your values: Would not confronting the situation or behavior conflict with your personal values?
  • Your job security: Would confrontation threaten your job security? If so, do you have other options?
  • Support: Do you have the support of other employees or leadership in confronting this issue?

Regardless of your decision to acculturate, confront, or move on from the organization, remember to practice self-care.

Finding Your Voice and Maintaining Resiliency

When you start a new job, there can be a lot of pressure to fit in and adapt to the office culture. But you may find that no matter how much your values align with those of your new employer, there is room for positive change. What ways might you bring your voice to your workplace?

Whether you bring up an issue with your direct supervisor, provide constructive feedback during a company review, or share resources or articles in your team messaging channels, there are many ways to encourage your employer and colleagues to consider a different perspective.

Resources by identity:

What is resilience? It’s both the process and the ability to adapt to difficult or challenging experiences, to maintain a sense of control over your environment, and to move forward in a positive manner.

If you’re advocating for progress, expect that the process may be slow, move backwards, or feel as if systems are stuck. Practicing resiliency can provide you with a way forward.

Strengthen Support Networks: Loved ones, friends, and mentors can provide you with support to get through challenging times and bolster your resolve.

  • Who can you turn to, to process what you’re experiencing?
    • Personal Relationships: Trusted friend, family member, mentor
    • Workplace Relationships/Resources: Direct supervisor, Manager, HR representative, Employee Resource Groups
  • What community organizations are you a part of outside of work?

Clarify your Purpose: Understanding what is important to you can help move you forward. If what you’re experiencing is unpleasant, only you can decide if it’s worth tolerating in order to fulfill your purpose.

  • What’s connecting you to this work?
  • What is important to you at this moment?
  • What pieces of your work do you want to advocate for or change?
  • How does this fit into your longer-term goals?

Build Self-Awareness: Understanding how you interact and react can provide insights for how to use internal and external feedback during future encounters.

  • How do you react in various situations, internally and emotionally?
  • How do you interact with others?
  • How do you respond to feedback?

Enhance Self-care: Ensure that you are attending to your self-care in order to recharge, continue the work you’ve set out to do, and avoid burnout.

  • How do you set boundaries? (Avoid checking email outside of work hours? Leave the office or log off when your work day is over?)
  • How do you know when you need a break and need some time to process?
  • How are you recharging at the end of the day?
  • How are you spending time away from the office (evenings, weekends, holidays, and vacations)?

Take a look at the “Self Care & Community Care” section above for ideas of what this can look like in your everyday life.

Actualize Strengths: Lean in to the things you do best instead of always trying to improve areas that are perceived as a deficit.

  • How can you capitalize on your strengths to reach your goals?
  • How can you document the strengths and skills you are developing along the way?
  • What are some of the great things you have done in the past week, month, or year?

Broaden Coping Skills: Recognize when you need help and don’t be afraid to reach out.

  • Healthy Thinking
    • When things aren’t going well, it’s easy to focus on the not-so-good. Instead,
      • Notice when negative thoughts or experiences are holding a large amount of real estate in your mind.
      • Practice noticing and naming as the first step in helping to disrupt these thoughts.
      • Identify potential triggers to negative thoughts and when these patterns come up – acknowledge them rather than avoiding it.
    • The more you practice, the more you’ll be able to train your brain to handle negative thoughts differently in the future. How do you call attention to recurring negative thought patterns? What can you do to disrupt this thought process? What does it look like to create space for yourself to process/understand experiences (internal and external)?
  • Wellness
    • The connection between our physical bodies and our mental health is important. By caring for your health (getting the right amount of sleep for your body, eating foods that nourish and satisfy you, and caring for your physical needs) and establishing solid habits, you can set yourself up to better weather a challenging time. By practicing mental and emotional wellness, you’ll have rhythms to fall back on when you’re experiencing stress.
    • Wellness looks different for everyone, but might include choosing a time to stop looking at your phone, making time for meditation or mindfulness practices at the beginning of the day, or reserving time for a walk on a couple of evenings each week. Is there a small change you can make that would help you move toward wellness?
  • Connection
    • If work becomes heavy, reaching out to a connection you trust and can confide in can be helpful to validate your concerns and process the emotions you are experiencing. Our relationships help us to be our authentic selves, share vulnerabilities, strengthen our communication skills, build empathy, and stay level-headed. Who do you trust that can you reach out to? A family member, friend, mentor, or peer?
  • Finding Meaning and Purpose
    • How you perceive what you are doing and what part you play helps establish meaning and value for the work that you are contributing to. Each person has a different way of finding purpose. Connection with purpose can help you move through tough times.   Where do you find satisfaction and motivation in your work to continue onwards?

Adapted from:


In the employment landscape, policies and practices around “professionalism” are being challenged within organizations; progress in becoming more inclusive continues.

Being professional is: making an effort to be comfortable around other people and to help them feel comfortable around you. It’s about presenting yourself in a way that shows you can be trusted and taken seriously – by demonstrating respect, courtesy, honesty, integrity, self-awareness, and competency.

Although the definition above is indeed what being a professional is truly about, the term “professional” is rooted in whiteness and is historically aligned with cisgender, male, straight, able-bodied, Christian, middle/upper class privilege. It is a word that has been used to normalize assimilation into whiteness and to justify discrimination.

Researching an organization’s reputation can help you build a clearer picture of how the organization is implementing equity and inclusion policies, as well as the diversity of their workforce.

If you find an organization to be less inclusive than you would hope for, it is within your purview to determine whether to acculturate to the organization, speak up and challenge the system, or move on in your search.

Tools and resources for building your work wardrobe

  • The 4x4x4 rule comes out to 64 possible ensembles. Invest in four of each category to start your work wardrobe:
    • 4 bottoms (slacks/skirts)
    • 4 tops (that can be worn alone or underneath jackets)
    • 4 jackets/jacket alternatives: Sweaters, coats, or other pieces that can be worn over a shirt

Adapted from Power Etiquette: What You Don’t Know can Kill Your Career by Dana May Casperson

  • The Campus Clothing Closet is an anonymous resource for members of the campus community who are experiencing financial insecurity. In the spring, the closet resources shift to support the coming job application season, featuring professional wear for job interviews.