Ready for Career Growth? Advocates are Key!

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Career advocates are critical to career growth. In fact, employees with advocates are 23% more likely to advance at work. Emory University Goizueta Business School's Professor Renée Dye joins to discuss how you can cultivate and attract influential players to meet your goals.
Career advocates are critical to career growth. In fact, employees with advocates are 23% more likely to advance at work. However, many people assume that their success is based purely on capability.  
Renée Dye joins to discuss the key role and critical attributes of advocates, how you can cultivate and attract influential players to meet your goals, and the impact of remote work on relationship management and organizational culture.

Renée is an associate professor in the practice of Organization & Management at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. Prior to this role, she served in McKinsey’s Global Strategy practice for more than 12 years and as chief strategy & innovation officer for Navigant. Her expertise has been featured in leading publications, including the Harvard Business Review, McKinsey Quarterly, and Fortune.  

Organizational Politics: A Big Challenge for New & Emerging Leaders  
During a recent survey of MBA graduates at Goizueta, Dye uncovered a startling insight. Of the many challenges new and emerging leaders face, these graduates felt least equipped to navigate organizational politics. She encourages universities to add curriculum around this topic–and devotes an entire class to this area to support her students. It takes more than strategies and skillsets to propel yourself to the C-suite; career advocates and champions are key.   
Organizations are Not Meritocracies 
While organizations are not meritocracies, many workers and students feel that career success is predicated purely on capability. Dye shares that excellence is critically important, but it’s not enough. Relationship management is a crucial skill everyone should cultivate.  
Research shows that employees with advocates are 23% more likely to advance at work. So, what should you look for in a career advocate? 
Mentors vs. Advocates 
Mentors and advocates are both important for career growth, but the set of attributes necessary for each varies. A mentor is a personal coach that provides a safe place to share. You can go to this person with no fear of judgement or consequence. You can be completely transparent and open about mistakes. On the other hand, an advocate needs to be above you vertically in your own or outside of your organization. They have likely been in the job market longer than you, have accumulated more experience, and can open doors for you. They are in a position of authority and have political power. They also need to have a deep and abiding faith in you and what you can achieve. They know you are not going to let them down.  
Common Mistakes in Identifying Advocates  
The most common mistake that employees make, particularly underrepresented individuals, is assuming that an advocate needs to look like them. It can be human nature to search for advocates of your same race and gender, but this can greatly limit your pool of potential advocates. Instead focus on your fit in other areas. Do you share similar personalities? Do you approach problems in a like-minded way? Do you have shared interests? 
The Advocacy Value Proposition  
When you are working with an advocate, their credibility is on the line. They have worked hard to advance in their career and have accumulated social, political, and relational capital along the way. For them to take you on, you must prove that you will add to their store of capital rather than deplete it.  
So, what can you do to make it a mutually beneficial relationship?  
  • First off, do excellent work. You will not even be considered unless you always bring your A-game.  
  • Next, make yourself indispensable to your potential advocate. It’s important to note that this does not have to be in the confines of your job description. For example, if they support a nonprofit that is near and dear to their heart, support their work on the board, chair a committee, and get involved. Leaders appreciate this effort because it shows that you're not just in it for a narrow job evaluation, but that you are committed for the long haul.  
  • Show gratitude. Individuals want to know they're making a difference in your life. Communicate gratitude in a heartfelt and thorough way to cement your advocacy value proposition. 
Remote Work & Career Growth 
In recent years, we've seen a major shift in employer policies surrounding remote work. Surveys show that workers are eager to embrace the flexibility of this approach, but there are costs to working off site, including diluted company culture and waning employee engagement.  
Younger workers benefit most from in-office culture because they are exposed to advocates and can participate as apprentices. It’s very difficult to cultivate a relationship with an advocate remotely, and the exchange can feel transactional. For older employees who have built relationships for decades, remote work may not impact career trajectory; however, while it may seem attractive, you’re not giving back to the younger generation through the advocacy and apprenticeship that you enjoyed earlier in your career.    
To learn more about Goizueta Business School and how principled leaders are driving positive change in business and society, visit  
Ready for Career Growth? Advocates are Key!
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