BACKGROUND: HIV continues to have a disparate impact on young cisgender men who have sex with men (YMSM), young trans women (YTW), and gender-nonconforming (GNC) youth who are assigned male at birth. Outcomes are generally worse among youth of color. Experiences of discrimination and marginalization often limit educational attainment and may even more directly limit access to gainful employment. Though seemingly distal, these experiences influence young people's proximity to HIV risk by limiting their access to health care and potentially moving them toward sex work as a means of income as well as increased substance use. Work2Prevent (W2P) aims to achieve economic stability through employment as a structural-level intervention for preventing adolescent and young adult HIV infection. The study will pilot-test an effective, theoretically driven employment program (increased individual income and independence [iFOUR]), for HIV-positive adults, and adapt it to the needs of black and Latinx YMSM, YTW, and GNC youth aged 16 to 24 years who are vulnerable to HIV exposure. OBJECTIVE: This paper aimed to describe the protocol for the exploratory phase of W2P. The purpose of this phase was to determine the essential components needed for a structural-level employment intervention aimed at increasing job-seeking self-efficacy and career readiness among black and Latinx YMSM, YTW, and GNC youth aged 16 to 24 years. METHODS: The exploratory phase of the W2P study consisted of in-depth interviews and focus groups with members of the target community as well as brief interviews with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ)-inclusive employers. The study team will conduct in-depth interviews with up to 12 YMSM and 12 YTW and GNC youth, up to 10 focus groups with a maximum of 40 YMSM and 40 YTW and GNC youth, and up to 40 brief interviews with LGBTQ-inclusive employers. Participants will be recruited through a community-based recruiter, passive recruitment in community spaces and on social media, and active recruitment by research staff in community spaces serving LGBTQ youth. RESULTS: In-depth interviews were conducted with 21 participants, and 7 focus groups were conducted with 46 participants in total. In addition, 19 brief interviews with LGBTQ-inclusive employers were conducted. The analysis of the data is underway. CONCLUSIONS: Preliminary findings from the formative phase of the study will be used to inform the tailoring and refinement of the iFOUR adult-based intervention into the youth-focused W2P intervention curriculum. Perspectives from YMSM, YTW, GNC youth, and LGBTQ-inclusive employers offer a multidimensional view of the barriers and facilitators to adolescent and young adult LGBTQ employment. This information is critical to the development of a culturally appropriate and relevant youth-focused intervention. TRIAL REGISTRATION: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT03313310; https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03313310. INTERNATIONAL REGISTERED REPORT IDENTIFIER (IRRID): DERR1-10.2196/16384.