For any young graduate winter in their final year can be a very busy period. Finishing the penultimate semester (term), worrying about the final assignment topic (or dissertation) and looking for a graduate job once they finish their studies. An LGBT+ graduate is likely to ponder over very important questions in their job search: should they apply only to LGBT+ friendly employers? How do you find who those employers are? Is it safe to be “out” at work? When should they “out” themselves – is the interview the right time or should they wait to start working? How to find other LGBT+ colleagues and support? This article will try to provide some answers.

Some candidates may feel a safe approach is to apply only to openly inclusive and supportive employers. Unfortunately, there is no such list, although Stonewall’s Top Employer’s list and Freehold’s list of sponsors and supporters may be taken as indication of LGBT+ friendly employers, but this is by no means an exhaustive and definitive list and could easily miss out some great companies. The better approach is to consider the employers a candidate is applying to and doing some research. Does their web-site mention diversity and inclusion (D&I), specifically related to LGBT+ staff? Do they have an internal LGBT+ networking group? If answers are not available online, is there anyone you know who works there that you could ask? If you feel comfortable asking, these are the questions you may want to ask at the interview. What is their culture like? What D&I initiatives they have? How do they support their LGBT+ staff? What percentage of their workforce identifies as LGBT+? Some companies offer meetings with existing staff members as part of their graduate assessment days. Normally these are at a similar level to the graduate. If you do not feel comfortable enough asking these questions at the interview, you could ask if it would be possible to have a chat with a past graduate or another member of staff to understand better company culture. This could be a more comfortable approach having a chat with someone more informally.

It is safe to be “out” at work. The property industry has made great progress over the last 10 years, with many companies championing their D&I policies, creating LGBT+ networks they are proud of. However, when is the right time to come out is down to the individual – whenever one feels safe and comfortable enough. There indeed is no rush, but equally remaining “in the closet” for too long can put an unnecessary pressure on a graduate, not allowing to be themselves at work. If for some reason you do not feel comfortable enough coming out to your line manager or colleagues (due to perceived or real barriers), consider joining an internal LGBT+ network. These can be found via the company’s intranet or you could ask HR if one exists. Joining such a network can give you confidence and courage to come out should you eventually wish to.

Whether you can find support internally or not, you could always join a support and networking forum such as Freehold. Freehold brings together a wide range of LGBT+ property professionals, from architects, surveyors, planners, engineers, lawyers, project managers, valuers and more. It is a great platform where you can meet other professionals, grow your network, and share experiences. Freehold also offers a mentoring scheme aiming at providing support to our members and aiding their professional development.

The property industry is indeed a great place for any LGBT+ graduate. Finding whether the potential company is the right fit may not seem as straightforward, but the key is to do the research and ask the questions. Coming out at work should be completely on your own terms and in your own time. Many companies have internal LGBT+ networks which are great platforms for any LGBT+ graduate to grow their network and confidence. There are also several professional LGBT+ networking platforms such as Freehold, Building Equality, Planning Out, LGBT+ in FM that can help you grow your contacts, getting support and establishing yourself as a new starter in the industry.

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Author: Marko Salopek