RMIT University is launching a new initiative to give its LGBT students an edge by connecting them with queer professionals in their future industry.

The Pride Mentoring Program begins this week, aiming to connect gender and sexuality-diverse students at the university with leading industry professionals who are also LGBT.

RMIT Pride Mentor coordinator and employment services manager Adam Rowland said the pilot program was the first of its kind in Australia.

“Instead of doing a peer-mentoring program, we’ve really wanted to develop students potential career success as well as their academic success and introduce them to people who are working in an industry which they’re study,” Rowland said.

The program has been calling out for LGBTI professionals with at least three years in their specific industry to spend an hour a month with a student during the semester.

“The idea is to be a role model who can lead by example and take students through misconceptions of potential stereotypes that they might have of the LGBTI community and help them with their career and academic success,” Rowland said.

Queer mentor programs have previously focused on peer-based support and buddy networks between students. The Pride program provides “career development” and “professional networking” opportunities.

Melissa Kliese, communications officer for university graduate and career advice website Unigrad.com.au, said students could benefit from mentors with career advice and by making industry connections.

“It’s important to get your foot in the door,” Kliese said of future university graduates.

“If you know someone in an organisation through work experience, cadetships or vacation programs, you can get great contacts that help build your network.

“Doing work experience can help you find a mentor…and is a great and valuable way to increase your network.”

Pinnacle Foundation co-founder Sean Linkson said RMIT’s mentoring program was “fantastic”.

“It’s a really important part of the education process,” he said.

“I think someone with some maturity and wisdom who can influence you during those early study years and give you skills on how to study and get the most out of your studies is an absolutely critical part of growing and learning and developing.”

While mentor applications have closed for semester two, Rowland said interested professionals could put forward any expressions of interest.

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