LGBTI graduates need mentoring and advice from members of their own community if they are going to succeed in their chosen careers.

That’s the conclusion of Out for Sydney, a networking program for young professionals which celebrates its first year at an event this evening in central Sydney.

The organisation looks to match up LGBTI students, and those in the early stages of their careers, with LGBTI mentors as well as internship opportunities.

Out for Sydney media director Mitchell Price said LGBTI university students benefited from the career advice and perspective of gay people already in their chosen industry.

“When I first started at university it was daunting and while there were mentoring programs there wasn’t something that recognised that our community is unique and we have our own challenges,” he said.

“To have a mentor that understands those challenges and can take people under their wing is really beneficial.”

Within a year Out for Sydney has gone from none to 280 active members, including 80 students and more than 70 mentors, and has held five networking events.

This evening’s event, which is hosted by professional services firm PwC and is free for anyone to attend, will involve a panel discussion on the issues faced by LGBTI people in the workplace followed by an opportunity to network.

The debate will feature NSW upper house Liberal MP Don Harwin, who publicly came out last month, and long time LGBTI advocate and Labor’s shadow transport minister Penny Sharpe.

Price said Harwin and Sharpe were positive role models for young LGBTI people: “They both come from different aspects of life with Don having a long history in law while Penny has that community background and has been a warrior for LGBTI people.”

Three quarters of Out for Sydney’s current membership is male while those studying law and commerce are in the majority.

In 2015, the organisation hopes to attract more women and increase participation from people in the marketing, management, engineering, public policy, IT and not-for-profit industries.

Price said he saw Out for Sydney as running alongside the established Sydney Gay and Lesbian Business Association (SGLBA), which also organises mentoring programs as well as the popular Fruits in Suits and Lemons with a Twist networking events.

“The SGLBA do a great job and we both exist for a core reason but Out for Sydney was founded by students who wanted a different style of mentoring and we see it as a complementary service,” he said.

Out for Sydney’s free networking event will be held from 6.30pm tonight at PwC Sydney, Darling Park Tower 2, 201 Sussex St, Sydney. Register at https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/out-for-sydney-final-networking-event-for-2014-hosted-by-pwc-tickets-14207018575

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