Vicki and I recently attended a Ladies in Leadership Luncheon, held at the Petroleum Club in Shreveport. Fun fact: the General Manager of the Petroleum Club in Shreveport is a woman! Every event that I have attended, Jennifer Terrell has done a superb job of organizing. The members of the panel were asked to talk about their start as entrepreneurs, share hindsight, and to offer suggestions on venturing as a woman in historically male-dominated fields.

The common advice was to establish a relationship with a mentor who met some or all these characteristics: in your field, locally based, female, older, or in business for longer than you.

I consider myself lucky, but I never take for granted, that I have a great mentor in my boss and Bottom Line business owner, Vicki Lynch. We often discuss our shared vision for the future of Bottom Line Accounting, and frequently share personal struggles. She offers me support and insight on my professional and personal growth.

It is very important for young women to establish a relationship with a mentor figure. Find someone who has done it before. Learn from their struggles. You do not have to make the same mistakes. Relying on your support system is important for small business owners, and imperative for women.

Women often don’t realize the negativity of their inner voice. It can take some “real talk” from a respected, outside source to knock ourselves out of the funk of self-doubt. Most folks deal with imposter syndrome, even those who seem so certain and grounded in their worth. If you find that your inner voice is too critical, aggressive, and negative, a mentor or support network can help you overcome those thoughts and feelings quicker, so you can get on to be the best version of you.

The best part of life, especially of having a mentor, is that you can pay it forward someday. The knowledge and experience you gain from an adviser or coach should be passed on to someone when the opportunity is ripe for you to share.

Where to look to find a qualified individual and how to ask? I suggest starting in your organization, your professional and personal networks, then explore options in local and national professional organizations. Social media networking makes it quite easy to interact with those you admire. Research their answers to career and life questions; they may already be available to you, and if not, don’t be afraid to ask! Make a list of qualities you might like to work with in someone and see who meets your criteria. Be open to unexpected opportunities.

We do learn from experience, but it does not have to be our own. I hope this serves you.