Back in 2018, a friend approached me for advice on finding a job at a local LGBTQ-owned or affirmative company. She had just left a position with a company that she claimed had treated her disrespectfully on several occasions because she is transgender. Of course, she didn’t want a repeat of that experience.
At the time, I really had to wrack my brain because although I had connections with many companies and businesses that advertised with Outlife757, that type of support didn’t necessarily translate into a safe and affirmative workspace. Keep in mind that five years ago, employers with outward facing diversity, equity, and inclusion policies and internal programs were not nearly as common as they are today.
And, bam, right then and there, the Hampton Roads LGBTQ Career Expo came into being.
Now until then I had never produced a Career Expo, let alone ever been to one. But I’ve often found this old adage to be accurate: it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. I reached out to Old Dominion University’s Career Counseling Office with the concept, and they immediately signed on as a partner. I then approached Hampton Roads Business Outreach and they joined as well.
Today, both ODU and HRBOR remain our presenting partners, and recruiters were quick to follow suit. Our first Expo sold out at 50 recruiters, among them Sentara Health Services, Dominion Energy, Avalon Bay, and in later years, Dollar Tree Family Dollar, Busch Gardens, the City of Norfolk, and the City of Virginia Beach – just to name a few.
Despite that nasty COVID business forcing a cancellation in 2020, we’ve produced the Expo every year since 2019 and in 2023 we attracted more than 200 job seekers from across the Commonwealth.
The Expo continues to grow with offerings not only for job seekers but for employers as well. Two years ago, we added a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Seminar for Expo recruiters and members of Hampton Roads Business Outreach. Panelists from local corporations and governments with nationally recognized DEI standards lead the seminar which gives participants concrete action items towards developing their own DEI programs and policies. It’s now a standard part of the Expo program.
This year we grow again when we move the Expo from Chartway Arena to the Webb University Center on ODU’s campus. By doing so, we put the Expo in the middle of the highly trafficked Student Center and exponentially increase the number of available recruiter spaces.
The 2024 Expo is scheduled for March 21st from 11am until 3pm. Registration for recruiters and job seekers is open now at outwork757.com. Admission is free for job seekers.