How mentoring can help LGBTQ people in their careers

Two men are talking at a table. A man is wearing a suit and looking at the other man. There are speech bubble illustrations.

PinkNews spoke with entrepreneur Ed Johnson, co-founder and CEO of PushFar, to learn how mentorship can positively impact the LGBTQ+ community and why it’s so important for LGBTQ+ founders to be visible in the startup ecosystem.

Navigating a career and climbing the professional ladder is an overwhelming experience, even more so for the LGBTQ+ community. From deciding when is the right time to come out to work to encountering imposter syndrome more often, the LGBTQ+ workplace experience can benefit from some extra support.

This is where mentoring comes in. Having a mentor can help anyone, no matter where they are in their career path, gain insights and insights that can’t be taught at work or even in college.

Ed johnson wears a white shirt and smiles at the camera.
Ed johnson is the ceo and founder of pushfar, a platform that connects mentors and mentees. (push far)

“The benefit of mentoring for me was understanding and perspective.”

For Ed Johnson, CEO and co-founder of tutoring platform Pushfar – tutoring isn’t just his business – it led him to where he is today.

“I think being an entrepreneur, you’re constantly facing new challenges and situations every day that you’ve never faced before,” he says. “So for me, it was about having someone who gave me support and guidance based on first-hand experience.”

In Johnson’s case, he didn’t have a business before, so he didn’t have experience with the basic structures like accounting, legal issues and fundraising to start a business. By having him as his mentor, Johnson had the right tools to build his business. “Giving me the perspective and advice I really needed at that time was very valuable.”

“Born from a personal need, and from a personal perspective”

Johnson had an entrepreneurial spirit from a young age. He considers selling candy to children at the playground to be his first business venture. While he appreciates the freedom and flexibility that entrepreneurship can bring, it’s the innovation and creation that he truly loves. “The ability to create something is something that I’ve always loved,” he says, “and to create something that you can somehow give to the world, that other people can see and benefit from, I think it’s really good.”

As she got older and started her career, Johnson’s idea for PushFar grew out of her experiences struggling to find a mentor to guide her through the next steps of her career journey. “I was a little lost in my career, and I was hoping to find some kind of platform or network to connect people and there really wasn’t anything out there.”

Based on this need, he created it in 2018 PushFar – A platform that connects people with potential mentors. The company has since expanded and now offers organizations the ability to facilitate their own in-house mentoring programs. “It was born out of a personal need,” Johnson tells us, “and a personal vision and problem and then he realized there was a broader problem that a lot of people were dealing with.”

Ed johnson is on a rooftop in central london, wearing a white shirt and jeans. He is holding a glass and behind him is the pride flag.
Ed johnson believes that increased visibility for lgbtq creators will lead to more lgbtq activists. (push far)

“Know that you are a business as a creator”

In terms of LGBTQ+ inclusion within the startup ecosystem, progress is ongoing, and there is more work to be done. A report by Proud Ventures highlights that 75% of LGBTQ+ founders hid their identity from investors at some point during fundraising rounds. While Johnson didn’t have the same experience, she believes mentorship can help LGBTQ+ founders be their authentic selves at every stage of launching a new business.

Johnson believes that LGBTQ+ visibility is important in the field of entrepreneurship and can only bring general benefit. “For people who maybe don’t have confidence and come up with these really innovative ideas, if they see people like them doing things, I think that will encourage more entrepreneurs.”

“When we start getting a more diverse set of entrepreneurs, we get a more diverse set of businesses and innovation,” Johnson continues. “And if we have more visibility, hopefully the LGBT community within that will encourage more entrepreneurship as a result.”

In addition to finding a mentor, Johnson has some other key advice for up-and-coming LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs. “Not every investor is going to be the right investor for you,” Johnson says, “so don’t be afraid to say no to potential investors; don’t be afraid to walk away if it can’t be you.”

That confidence to walk away takes time to build, but Johnson is confident that a more confident creator will lead to a better product. “Know that as a creator you are largely a business,” concludes Johnson.

“You have to believe in yourself, no matter what. And yet, it is expressed in order to be able to give the best to that business, to give it life and to be successful.”

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