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

Don’t Get Stuck: A College Student’s Guide, Part 2

By: Glen

A fear that many people have is being stuck with a “dead-end” job. This is why more and more people are attending college. The expectations of today are that people need a college degree (or more) to get the job they want. Unfortunately, running off to college and getting a degree is not the cure-all to avoid being stuck. If this is true, what is the answer? This is the second in a series of posts to help give some ideas for what to do while at college to give you an advantage in the world.

Don't get stuck

Explore The Unknown

My first post in this series discussed joining student organizations. Besides building resumes, joining an organization also aids in the networking aspect of advancement. When trying to brainstorm organizations to join, try to think outside the box. It is nice to be involved in at least one organization that is something you know you enjoy; however, college is a great time to try and expand your horizons, and learn some new skills. For some people, trying new things is easy. Whether it comes easy or not, continuing to grow as a human being is important to not getting stuck. I brought up student organizations again, because there are definitely chances to reach out and learn new skills in different student groups. If you see something that might interest you, but you are unsure about, try it out!

There are many more things to try in college; you never know when you will find something meaningful.

Here is a short list of things to try:

  • Study Abroad
  • Take a class for fun
  • Run for a leadership position in a club
  • Make friends with people from different cultures
  • Join those friends’ cultural organizations!
  • Become involved in a professor’s work (research or performance)
  • Apply for work just because it sounds fun

“Some of those ideas do not seem like things that can get me a job…” That statement is correct, in a small sense. A lot of these experiences will not lead directly to a full-time job out of college; however, they will help you develop your transferable skill set. Study abroad can help you gain the confidence to try new things, and be open minded. Taking a class for fun will aid you in your knowledge base, which never hurts. Holding a club leadership position puts responsibility on your shoulders, strengthening your leadership skills. Making friends with people from different cultures will open your world, in a similar way Study Abroad does, especially if you become active in their cultural activities. Becoming involved in a professor’s work can give you real-world experience, and a professional colleague. Applying for jobs that sound interesting can aid you in finding what in the world you want to do with your life!

I will end this post in the same manner I ended my first one: if you don’t want to get stuck, don’t sit still. Be proactive. Expand your horizons. All of those clichés are applicable. Whatever you do: don’t do nothing.

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Importance of Multi-Skill Development

By: Michael

In recent posts, I’ve talked about how I chose my major as well as why you should be an accounting major. Today, I’m going to tell you the benefits of having an additional major/minor (even one that may seem unrelated to your field). If you’ve taken the time to read my bio, you know that I’m an Accounting and Philosophy double major with a minor in English. Now, it is arguable that Philosophy and English is the best option for a pre-law track and there is a surprising amount of overlap between Accounting and Pre-Law. It’s funny because I didn’t realize the cross-over until after selecting them. There’s also a reason that your university requires you to take generals or liberal education requirements; to develop a broad understanding of different skills and fields. Many students don’t realize that by gridlocking themselves into a single major or area of study can put you at a disadvantage when you begin your job search.

There are all kinds of supplemental studies you can do to make your education qualifications stand out more. A study in applied ethics can directly support a degree in business, social sciences, and even medicine! Also, a minor in English can help your writing skills and a minor in communications can help in any field. At UMD, I have been a writing tutor for the past two semesters which seems to be both unusual and intriguing to both my peers and interviewers. Often times people are surprised that an accounting major tutors writing as if I’m out of my realm, but the truth is, you’re going to be using writing no matter what field you go into and that’s just a fact. It’s too often that I get students from the other colleges that need help with writing because either their major didn’t provide enough training or they didn’t put forth the initiative to develop their skills. Try not to be the person who makes up the excuse that your major is too time consuming to add a minor or do additional course work, that’s old news and there are plenty of students who can attest to the possibility of doing a double major in two different fields and still graduate in four years. Don’t be afraid to broaden your horizons, the more you’re open to expanding your knowledge the better it will be in the long run.

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Advice on Transferable Skills from a Theatre Major

By: Emily

When I was a freshman, I came into college not really knowing what I wanted to do with my life. Now that I’m a senior, nothing much has changed. I will be graduating with a theatre degree with no intention of pursuing an acting career and psychology and art minors with no immediate plans on attending graduate school. I still don’t know what I want to do. What has changed is my outlook on the skills I have to offer, more specifically, transferable skills.

Transferable skills from Theatre

Being Present

There are few things more detrimental to the actor than being on autopilot. No matter what day you’re having, when it’s show time, it’s show time and you have got to deliver the very best you have. Sometimes actors and actresses perform in the same show twice a day for one or more years and even if they have said the same lines a hundred times before, it must sound fresh and new every performance. They are able to do this by striving to be in the moment, having a constant awareness of what is happening around them and listening and responding to the subtle changes in inflection and movement of the other characters.

One of the most critical transferable skill you can learn in life is to be an active learner rather than being on autopilot. Active learners are present, mentally as well as physically, are engaged in being investigative, asking questions and formulating their own opinion. Those who practice and build this skill in the classroom have a real advantage in the professional world.

Adapting

One thing that still amazes me about live theatre is that if a set piece crashes to the ground, if a prop breaks or if somebody is ill or injured onstage, “the show must go on.” With so many elements creating a composition, something is bound to go wrong every performance and usually it does. During these events, it is absolutely essential that the actors continue on and make sure that the story is being communicated to the audience.

Another transferable skill is being able to adapt to changes, being flexible and open to new ideas. Like most things, this comes with practice, and a good way to develop this skill is to accept when things do not go according to plan. When faced with an unexpected challenge, take a deep breath and focus on solving the problem, instead of focusing on your own disappointment. Sometimes these problems are blessings in disguise and teach you a new way to respond to a difficult situation.

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