Calling someone out for not contributing during a group project is exceedingly easier than owning up to your own shortcomings. Professors have twisted humor to subject students to group projects, especially when group members are picked at random. “As if I will ever be drop-kicked into a situation involving a group of strangers working to meet a common goal and a lofty deadline?!” WRONG. (Maybe some wisdom was acquired when they earned that Ph.D.) In the work force, there is life after college, you may find yourself in a group project type scenario again. Get comfortable with the uneasiness of cat herding, negotiating, and communicating because it’s not getting any easier.
I have participated in a handful of internships, co-ops, and summer jobs during my time at UMD. At the conclusion of each experience, I have a false sense of accomplishment that, “I cannot possibly learn more than I already have this summer!” Without failure, every summer, I am steamrolled by a new life lesson. Fall 2017 I learned about adaptability when my co-op was delayed by Hurricane Harvey and how to do more than your assigned project summer of 2016. This past summer I was assigned to a sort of group project, but a group project with so many people that some of the participants weren’t even stationed on Earth. While Co-Oping with the International Space Station‘s Mission Control this summer I learned about communication, more specifically brutal honesty. Embarrassingly, I learned how to be the shameful sap who owns up for not getting their work done in a group project.
Sitting console in International Space Station Mission Control.
Operating a space station requires trusting a lot of people to contribute their parts. Space travel, humanity’s greatest group project. When someone doesn’t contribute to a college group project your group’s grade suffers, or at least the slacker’s grade does. When someone doesn’t contribute to flying the Space Station worse things happen; maybe a light bulb isn’t replaced, maybe something gets thrown away that shouldn’t, or maybe the station deorbits? Mission Control has a reliable way of reassigning responsibilities if someone is unable to get the job done it is handed off to someone else. The key to reassigning work is letting your flight team lead know you can’t complete the work.
This summer I failed to communicate that I could not get one of my tasks done. Fortunately, it was not a task involved with real-time space operations. Yet, it was a task assigned to me that my mentors expected me to complete. Although my reasons for not getting it done were very valid, fearing to admit the brutal honesty that I could not get it done prevented my mentors from receiving the information they needed. If I had owned up to not being able to complete a project sooner it could have been assigned to a different intern. Unfortunately, the task simply didn’t get done at all.
At the conclusion of my Mission Control Co-Op I asked, “what more is there to learn?” At least I am equipped with the confidence that brutal honesty is better than hiding a failure. Don’t be THAT PERSON in your group projects of life.
Photo Sources: Unsplash | NASA; Kirsi