The path of an entrepreneur can be a lonely one, carrying the responsibility for a company and its employees all on your own. As Shaherose Charania, CEO and Co-founder of Women 2.0, puts it, “A mentor—someone who’s invested in your personal and professional growth—makes all the difference.” We asked her to fill us in on the challenges startup founders face when seeking a mentor—and why it’s totally worth it to find one anyway.
Seriously, you need a mentor
It’s crucial to be able to discuss ideas and decisions with someone with no stake in the company, in an environment where you’re supported. A mentor is thoroughly invested in your professional development, but is not attached in any way to the success of your company. For that reason, they can provide a fresh perspective on problems you may be too close to, and, most importantly, you can speak with them knowing that they have no personal stake in any decisions you make and are solely looking out for your best interests.
Go to conferences
Become visible in your industry by attending relevant events and conferences. Be aware and notice people who are drawn to your work, because those are the people who make great mentors. They see potential in what you’re building and will want to see you succeed.
Know what you don’t know
Your mentor doesn’t necessarily need to be someone who’s followed your exact career path. In fact, it can be more beneficial to you if they haven’t. Look for someone with experience in an area where you lack it. As an entrepreneur, if your goal is to grow your company to the corporate level, you could benefit from a mentor in the suit-and-briefcase world. If you’re looking to expand your knowledge in a different industry than your own, seek a mentor who works in that industry.
Build an authentic connection
Let the relationship form naturally. Take the time to find common ground. Impress them—show them why they should take an interest in you and your business.
Work with your mentor’s style
Feel out how your mentor wants to manage the relationship. Maybe it’s informal and you can pick up the phone anytime and call her, or maybe it’s formal and she prefers to set up monthly check-ins. Does she prefer to talk in person, via email or on the phone?
It’s not a girls’ club
Women should look for both male and female mentors—and mentees. While it’s important for women to help build up a strong new generation of female leaders, what will really help with creating a more diverse workforce is ignoring gender.