Shiza Shahid, co-founder and ambassador of Malala Fund
By Shiza Shahid
May 21, 2015

MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: Why is it important to have a mentor? is written by Shiza Shahid, co-founder and ambassador of Malala Fund.

Contrary to what many people may advise, I think we all need to stop looking for mentors. Today, it appears as if every young professional is desperate to find “the one” person that will guarantee their career advancement. I’ll admit I’ve had some wonderful mentors who have guided and supported me throughout my career. But we attract mentors to ourselves because of our performance, not our neediness. So instead of searching for a mentor, I think we should focus on creating a community of dynamic peers. We need “friend-tors” more than mentors. As we begin our careers, it’s imperative that we create a community of peers that will push us to succeed.

A “peer” is someone who is at a similar level of success or achievement as yourself. Someone who you can learn from, but also provide advice in return. It is a mutually beneficial relationship. When I decided to start the Malala Fund, I knew it would be a major entrepreneurial undertaking. I was determined to base my startup in New York, despite never having lived there. But I knew NY would provide the type of entrepreneurial community that would accept and support a then 23-year old with big dreams to change the world.

And I was right. It wasn’t easy being a young entrepreneur, but luckily I had a great group of peers to help me along the way. They taught me how to build a startup from literally nothing at an extremely accelerated pace. They helped me push through when things got tough. And most importantly, they broadened my horizons with the work they were doing.

So my advice to young professionals is: stop seeking mentors in the hopes that they will “lift” you up. Instead, go out and create a community that will push you, support you, and teach you. And always remember to give more than you take, because that will lead to the greatest success.

Read all answers to the MPW Insider question: Why is it important to have a mentor?

The do’s and don’ts of an effective mentor by Shannon Schuyler, leader of corporate responsibility at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Why you’re never too old to have a mentor by Kathy Hopinkah Hannan, national managing partner of corporate responsibility at KPMG.

How men can step up and help women get ahead at work by Gloria Cordes Larson, president of Bentley University.

When it comes to mentors, the more the merrier by Sharon Price John, CEO of Build-A-Bear Workshop.

Are you qualified to be a mentor? by Sarah Watson, chief strategy officer of BBH N.Y.

Is mentoring necessary for career advancement? by Teresa Briggs, vice chairman and west region managing partner at Deloitte.

Do all employees benefit from having a mentor? by Dawn Zier, president and CEO of Nutrisystem.

4 things your boss won’t tell you (but a mentor will) by Penny Herscher CEO of FirstRain.

What qualities make a good (and bad) mentor? by Karen Tegan Padir, president of application development at Progress Software.

Why mentoring is unlike any other professional relationshipby Jenni Luke, CEO of Step Up.

Why you don’t need a mentor to be successful by Beth Brooke-Marciniak, Global Vice Chair of Public Policy at Ernst & Young.

What qualities should you look for in a mentor? by Gay Gaddis, CEO and founder of T3.

4 things to consider before choosing a mentor by Camille Preston, founder of AIM Leadership.

The most important quality a mentor should have by Kathy Bloomgarden, CEO of Ruder Finn.

Why women are more likely to be mentors by Alyse Nelson, CEO and co-founder of Vital Voices Global Partnership.

3 reasons every employee needs a mentor by Sally Blount, Dean of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

Why this AOL executive chooses her mentors — wisely by Allie Kline, CMO of AOL, Inc.

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