The Difference Between a Career Advocate and a Mentor

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Renee Dye’s successful career in corporate strategy wasn’t her initial goal. The vice president and chief strategy officer of Navigant, who earned a doctorate in English and American Literature, floated between teaching and publishing jobs, and eventually made her way into the business world as a communications consultant. It was there that she found the spark that ignited her career and led her to corporate strategy.

Dye spoke to the audience of BBA seniors at their Sept. 19 Convocation, and students couldn’t help but notice that her career took unexpected leaps—leaps that ultimately led her to the fulfilling work she enjoys today. How did she get there?

“At key junctures, it was my personal relationships that enabled me to navigate career points,” Dye said. Her academic and professional connections helped her find work that provided new connections and opportunities.

“Relationships matter. And quality matters over quantity. You need well-placed advocates who are going to be invested in helping you succeed,” Dye told the Class of 2017.

An advocate is not the same thing as a mentor, Dye cautioned. “A mentor can be a friend, a coworker or a therapist who will help you think through what you need to navigate your career more effectively. An advocate is someone who is going to create opportunities for you."

So how does one find an advocate, who can be so critical to career growth? For Dye, it’s about being authentic. “People can tell if you’re trying to kiss up to them because you want something out of them,” she said. "But you have to show a real level of engagement with them and work that reflects that quality—there’s no shortcut on that.”

Prior to Navigant, Dye served as a leader of the Global Strategy Practice for McKinsey & Company. She has authored research on strategy that has been published in Harvard Business Review, Fortune Magazine, McKinsey Quarterly, and others.