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Booz Allen Chief Financial Officer Lloyd Howell Jr. recently held a roundtable in Midtown Manhattan with college students participating in the Business Today 44th International Conference. During the event he offered the following career advice for those entering the workforce:
Develop Your Critical Thinking Skills. As an employer I look for critical thinking skills, judgment, and decision making. Much of what we deal with is anything but structured. The ability to look at a complex problem from many angles and then make a decision based on judgment and experience is an important skill. I learned it from a mentor, from working alongside a very successful executive, and asking questions.
Learn Continuously. Booz Allen is a learning organization. We emphasize development and training. That leads to the ability to constantly learn new crafts, new areas, how to help new clients. People who are drawn to consulting often can’t quite figure out exactly what they want to do at first. Continuous learning gives you the opportunity and platform to try different things. I always enjoy learning something new, and that inquisitiveness has certainly helped me in my career.
Be Positive. Be positive, principled, proactive, and productive. Work gravitates to those who enter the workforce with a positive disposition. People gravitate to them, they’re invited onto engagements, and to be involved. These are people who raise their hand often, who are team-oriented. It comes across powerfully.
Learn About Yourself. Appreciate that you are still learning about yourself. Early in my career, all I knew for certain was that I wanted to be an engineer, so I majored in electrical engineering. I had no idea what came next. I was either going into investment banking, consulting, or working in a traditional engineering capacity as an R&D analyst. I decided based upon the recommendation of a good friend. That’s how I got into Booz Allen. Being open to the most random advice and ideas will help you learn about yourself.
Make Connections. I like to joke that I don’t remember much academically from either undergrad or graduate classes, but I remember everything socially—the connections I made with classmates, professors, and friends in the cities where my schools were. They are probably the biggest contributors to my success, the people I met and the relationships I’ve had for many years.
Be a Team Player. It’s important to leverage coworkers and colleagues, to offer them help and ask them for help when you’ve got too much on your plate. In academics, I’ve seen the emergence of a lot of group projects, which is terrific. It’s a perfect mirror of what happens in the workforce.
R.E.S.P.E.C.T. I’ve been super impressed with the younger generations in our workforce. They are extremely respectful and helpful—It’s so important. It contributes to you being seen in a positive light, and people wanting to work with you and for you. All of that starts with respect.
Be Patient. Patience is something I lack, but my advice is to be patient. Everyone wants it yesterday, but it doesn’t work that way. With patience, it more times than not will happen when it is supposed to happen. Things need to happen in their own time due to a variety of reasons.
But Don’t Be Patient About Planning Your Career. Everyone should have a career plan, and we should all be impatient in thinking through it and getting feedback. If you say you want to be president tomorrow, well that’s probably not realistic. There are probably some things you need to do in order to get there. But be aggressive in putting that plan together and getting feedback. Once you get into your plan, things happen. There might be any number of life events that cause your two-year timeline to stretch to three. Be patient with that. Learn from it. It will make you a better professional, a better person.
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