5 Career Skills Developed in Group Projects

By: Whitney

Oh no! The dreaded two words revered and feared throughout the land of colleges and universities: group projects. I’ve heard many a student complain about group projects, and while we all have probably had our fair share of group project horror stories, these groups are a potential goldmine for developing many soft skills needed to flourish in our future careers. Of the top 10 skills and qualities employers seek in job candidates from National Association of Colleges & Employers, ability to work in a team is ranked number two. Plus, I would say the top five skills on their list can be learned through group work. Call me crazy, but I actually like group projects (provided everyone pulls their weight) and here are some reasons why.

5 Career skills developed in group projects

Combine your Strengths with the Strengths of Others
Chances are on a group project or team you will work with people who have different strengths than you do and will have slightly different perspectives and knowledge bases. This diversity can lead to better solutions to problems and higher quality work than an individual might have been able to accomplish on their own. This is one of the things I like best about working on group projects. For instance, I can be a very detail-oriented person, sometimes I find that I have trouble starting projects because I am hung up on the details. My group members for my psychology research project were able to get us started with basic ideas for our research paper, then I was able to refine it by adding necessary details and rephrasing sentences so ideas were conveyed more clearly.

Improve Understanding
Sometimes at school and work, you just don’t understand something, and collaboration in a group means you have access to knowledge that is outside of yourself. Asking a peer for explanation can be less intimidating, and they also may explain it in a different way you grasp more quickly. I have also found that when you teach something you are better able to understand it yourself. I understood the concepts in my communication class better after discussing it with my group members, talking about them until we came to a satisfactory understanding. This also helps you develop the communication skills needed to collaborate with others.

Break Down Tasks and Delegate Responsibilities
“Many hands make light work” and whatnot. Beyond the obvious potential benefits of dividing up work, the ability to break down tasks and delegate responsibilities are vital skills within organizations. While you may not be interested in taking a leadership position, these skills display a couple of leadership abilities too. I’ve been in groups where we meet and do all the work during meetings. In my most recent series of group projects (accomplished with the same group) we chose to meet, outline what we were going to do (break down tasks), and divide up the work, before a final meeting to pull it all cohesively together.

Practice with Feedback
Feedback is a huge part of the working world, and it is important for us to practice how to receive it professionally (as well as give feedback). In one part of my group project series, I volunteered to take the analysis part of the paper (which is potentially the most important), only to struggle with what to come up with. I met with my group told them of my struggles and they gave me feedback, positive and negative, on what I wrote. Negative feedback is not always easy to hear, but the feedback gave me a jumping off point for us to collaborate and make the paper better.

Conflict Resolution
When you work with others there is always the potential for conflict, which means there is always the potential for creative conflict resolution. In almost every group project you will work with people you have never met before, while I have never been in an academic work group that was fraught with conflict, both conflict resolution and relationship building skills are important for work and for life. You can use these group project experiences and what you learned from them as examples in interviews to answer questions like “tell us about a time when you solved a problem,” “worked with someone different from you?”, or “resolved a conflict?”

Conclusion
The Harvard Business Review collected data which shows “over the past two decades, the time spent by managers and employees in collaborative activities has ballooned by 50% or more” (Cross, Rebele, Grant, 2016 as cited in Duhigg, 2016). So love ‘em or hate ‘em, it looks like we aren’t getting out of group projects any time soon. Group projects are valid experiences, that have the potential to hone your soft skills. If you’re interested, you can check out a more extensive list of benefits of group projects. And if you’re a nerd about people and human behavior, like me, or simply a fan of Google, you can check out an awesome New York Times article about their “quest to build the ‘perfect’ team”.

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Photo Source: Unsplash | Kelli Tungay

You Shared WHAT!?

By: McKenzie

Social media is a huge part of our lives. We have reached a technological point where almost everyone is advertising themselves on one online platform or another. Whether you accept it or not, your online platforms are marketing who you are to anyone who comes across your profile. This includes, but is not limited to, friends, family, peers, coworkers, and employers. While technically your social media is not something employers should not be looking at it does not mean they cannot see it. For example, I recently learned in an HR course that more and more companies are using social media to engage employees. One of the companies I work for uses a Facebook group so supervisors and employees can offer and see other shift openings all across the different company locations. This is incredibly useful, but it means that every coworker and supervisor in my company can easily access a direct link to my Facebook. I personally am not concerned since I monitor my platforms for inappropriate comments, posts, etc. I, however, have seen plenty of people who should be concerned about the content of their social media.

Social media, mobile Facebook app on phone

I will admit I am a curious person and would argue that most people are too. Having worked with many staff at one of the companies I work for, I was very curious when their profiles were being suggested as “friends” to me. It is very hard, if not impossible, to not click on a coworker’s Facebook. I have seen the all the profiles of those who I work with directly (including supervisors) as well as other staff who work at varying locations. I was amazed at what people were willing to post publicly. I felt that I gained a lot of knowledge of the people around me. Not all the information I came across was pleasant so I was shocked that it was also public. If you have learned anything from what I have just told you then I hope it is this: you should assume anything you post online is now public information. You ARE advertising yourself. Post everything you do with the mental note that anyone could see it.

Of Possible Interest: 

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Photo by: Unsplash | William Iven

What to do with Morocco?

By: Tori

Read all about Tori’s experience in Morocco

Now what? I’ve lived independently abroad, taken a deep-dive into an ocean of unfamiliar culture, and gone through a few challenges that have shaped my world-view. So, now what? What can I do to highlight this experience? HOW do I highlight this experience?

It may seem like an impossible feat to narrow your study abroad experience down into a tangible, easy to comprehend package, but it actually isn’t that hard!

The first step is the hardest – and takes the most time, but is necessary in order to process your thoughts, feelings, etc.

You need to REFLECT on your experience.

Some questions that may be useful to help you reflect are:

  • What are the top three lessons you learned while abroad?
  • What surprised you most while abroad?
  • What was your favorite memory?
  • What was something that was hard, different, or challenging?

Once you have reflected on your overall experience, consider how study abroad grew your skills, leadership, and career-related attributes.

Consider specific examples from your time abroad in which you expanded upon these skills:

  • Assertiveness, adaptability, critical thinking skills, flexibility, independence or self-reliance, patience, open-mindedness, problem-solving, self-confidence, initiative, perseverance, and time management

Once you’ve done this, it’s easy to narrow down your experience by putting it on your resume. This is a great way to highlight your abroad experience in a quick, accessible way. For example, you can list the institution where you studied and a few courses or projects you worked on underneath your education section:

Study Abroad in Resume Education Section Example

The final step is to connect the dots by directly applying your study abroad experience to your potential career opportunities during an interview.

Q: What experience do you have working with people from backgrounds different than your own, and how do you think those experiences relate to the workplace?

Q: Can you tell me about a time you took a risk and it paid off?

These are two common questions individuals are asked during an interview that can relate to your study abroad experience. Make sure you find a way to talk about your study abroad and highlight it for others to see. Not only does this help you stand out as an applicant but it also helps others understand people and places who are different.

Of Possible Interest: 

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The Impact of Microaggressions

By: Tony

It’s just a fact of life that you are going to come into contact with people who are different than you. Whether it be at school or in the workplace, you will inevitably end up talking to someone whose background isn’t the same as yours. Naturally, you will want to get to know each other, which is great. However, you may run the risk of committing a microaggression.

The impact of microaggressions

What is a Microaggression?
A microaggression can be described as covert or unintentional discrimination. They are words and actions that marginalize certain groups of people, even if it is unintentional. The main issue with microaggressions is that even though they may be minor offenses, they can add up quickly and seriously damage one’s self-image and make them feel as though they do not belong. Often, microaggressions manifest themselves in seemingly innocent ways whose impacts are not apparent unless their underlying implications are thought about.

Examples of Microaggressions and Implications

  • “Where are you from?” “The Twin Cities” “No, where are you REALLY from?”
    • The implication is that the second person is being identified as a foreigner and not as the group they choose to be identified with. If you are wondering about someone’s ethnic or racial identity, there are better ways of going about that.
  • “Can I touch your hair?”
    • The implication is that the body of the person who’s being asked is exotic and a target of curiosity, which is degrading. I’m sure the awkwardness of the situation outweighs the satisfaction of your curiosity.
  • “Oh, you’re Latino?! Do you know (random person)?!”
    • Not all (Latinx/Black/Asian/Native American/Queer/Muslim/etc.) people know each other. Assuming that they do gives the implication that their group is small and lacks diversity.
  • (When speaking to a person of color) “Say something in (foreign language)”
    • This implies that all people of color know a second language, which is not true. Worse, it implies that POCs are trained animals that will respond to your whims.
  • (When speaking to a POC) “You are so articulate”.
    • This implies that POCs are uneducated and unable to make intelligent conversation.
  • Blatantly using the wrong pronoun
    • Yes, mistakes happen, but if you know someone’s preferred pronouns, please use them. Mis-pronouning someone implies that you do not accept them for who they are, or at best, you do not care to listen to them.
  • Catcalling
    • The implication is that you see women as sex objects that only exist more male enjoyment.
  • “That’s so gay!”
    • The implication is that being gay is a negative characteristic.

How to Avoid Microaggressions
In my opinion, the keys to avoiding microaggressions are recognition and reflection. You must recognize when your words or actions, intentional or not, have a negative effect on others. You must also reflect on how you can improve your behavior and become more inclusive. As a general rule, if you are curious about a certain aspect of someone’s life, such as their racial identity or any conditions they may have, get to know them. If they wish to tell you about themselves, they can do so on their own terms. It may also be helpful to ask yourself why you want to know about that aspect. Is it to get to know the person better? Or, is it based on sheer curiosity?

Ultimately, modifying behavior is a personal act that you must figure out yourself, but I think self-awareness is a good starting point. With this information, you can do your part to make your classroom or workspace more inclusive and welcoming to all people.

Of Possible Interest: 

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Photo Source: Unsplash | Michal Grosicki

Job Search Tips – Part 2

By: Ellen (Career Counselor & guest blogger)

Here’s part two of the job search tips we sent out during the summer on our Twitter account. I should explain this briefly. We frequently send out job search related content on our Twitter account. This was a concentrated effort (with a hashtag & everything) to share a #JobSearchTip every day that we were sending out content on Twitter. If you haven’t checked out part 1 yet, do so.

Job Search Tips

I thought it would be helpful to have all those tips in one (or two) places. Today, I’m sharing all of the job search tips that we tweeted out during July. Even if it’s not July, these tips can be helpful for whenever you’re conducting a job search.

Bullet Journal Job Search Habit Tracker

There you have it. So many job search tips in one place. Go forth and conquer the job search process!

Of Possible Interest: 

My Internship Story

By: Heidi

After recently finding out and accepting my first internship offer, I thought I would share my story of the whole process. It all starts with how I found out about the company. When I heard about Andersen Corporation for the first time, it was when they came to my organizational behavior management class to talk about the company and internship opportunities for the next summer. I knew with it being junior year, it was time to get down to business with internships. I listened to what the speakers had to say about their experience and enjoyment of the company, and by the end of class, I decided I would go to the table in LSBE (our business school) and talk more with the recruiters about setting up an interview.

"Since I went in with this 'nothing to lose' mentality, I told myself I was going to be the most honest version of myself in this interview, allowing myself the opportunity to make a genuine connection."

I approached the table and spoke with one of the recruiters. I introduced myself with my name and saying I was a student who was in the class they just spoke in. Looking at the interview sign up sheet it was a little intimidating knowing I had a long day ahead of me next. Although I am not much of a morning person, I signed up for the first interview at 8 am the next day.

I went home that night knowing I was going to need to update my resume, scrape up a new cover letter specific to this interview, and do more research on the company. By the time I finished my resume and cover letter it was a little too late in the night to email it to the interviewer in my opinion, so naturally, I printed off three copies of each just in case. I did my research on the company from their website on the variety of information offered, taking notes so I could really get the information in my head. The following morning I woke up early getting dressed in an outfit I had previously laid out the night before to prevent last-minute scrambling, packed a lunch, along with extra clothes for the night because I knew I was going to be on campus until about 8 pm due to sorority recruitment we had going on that week.

Internship Interview Tips

I went into my interview with the mindset that I had “nothing to lose” with this being my first internship interview ever, and also at the beginning of my junior year. Since I went in with this “nothing to lose” mentality, I told myself I was going to be the most honest version of myself in this interview, allowing myself the opportunity to make a genuine connection. At the end of the interview, I asked questions that were important to me such as how she felt being represented as a female in her company as well as her experience being an intern and moving up in the company into a full-time role. The next day I followed up the interview with a personalized email touching on things we talked about in the interview as well as thanking her for her time.

I believe the most important thing when it comes to interviewing is to be your most genuine and authentic self. It allows you to really make a connection with an employer to see if you would both be a good fit for each other. Professionally speaking when it comes to the interview process, my advice would be to always do your research on the company, give it a chance, and set yourself up for success.  

Of Possible Interest: 

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Photo Source: Usplash | Vincent Versluis & Takemaru Hirai

The Art of Maintaining a Busy Schedule

By: McKenzie

Sometimes maintaining a busy schedule can feel impossible. Many students in college work and are involved in extracurricular activities, in addition to classes, making it incredibly difficult to continue this busy lifestyle. But fear not, as a seasoned pro at accidentally overworking myself I have some tips and tricks that help me keep it all together (and avoid overworking myself).

Tips for Maintaining a Busy Schedule

Get enough sleep
It is recommended to get 7-9 hours of sleep per night. This is something you should definitely avoid slacking on. When I worked overnights I used to schedule when I would get sleep to make sure I was getting enough rest. You can’t perform any task as well as you want if you are falling asleep while doing it.

Keep a calendar
When you’re a busy person it is often hard to keep track of all the things that you’re doing. I have found it best to start a calendar. You gain the skill of time management and it helps you to anticipate how much time you have for the little things like homework or even a nap before class.

Make time for food
Food is fuel! Not only should you be eating enough but you should also be mindful of what you’re eating. While I am an avid lover of pizza rolls I am also sure to be considerate of my portions as well as what I am putting into my body. You will get out of it what you put into it.

Always make time for yourself
The most important time of any day is the time you dedicate to yourself. We all need a little bit of me time and practicing self-care is a really great skill to develop. Any schedule is manageable if you make time to do whatever it is you love to do.

Of Possible Interest: 

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Photo Source: Unsplash | Jessica Arends