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Taking the Pain out of Group Projects …and how they will help you in the workplace

Group project: two of the most dreaded words in college history. Professors love them. Students suffer through uneven workloads, members who ignore emails and having to redo others’ subpar work. Here are three tips to help your group projects go more smoothly and three ways the skills you learn can apply to your future career.


1. Worship the Google Doc

We’re all a little a perturbed that the LSU Mail transition to Outlook takes away our access to Google Docs. Nonetheless, most people have individual Gmail accounts, and it’s simple to make one if not. Google Docs allow all group members to view and edit a document remotely at the same time. You can leave each other notes, message within the document and see who has recently made edits. Basically, it’s a group project lifesaver.


2. Communicate (in person!)

Seems obvious, right? A lot groups I have worked with will exchange email and phone number information early on, then only communicate through those mediums. In general, much more can be accomplished in a 30-minute face-to-face meeting than in a daily email train. There’s a time and place for both, but take initiative to organize meetings to delegate tasks, then stay up-to-date through email or text.


3. Don’t be afraid to take charge

Having a group “leader” who keeps everyone on track can be a huge advantage. By facilitating communication, reminding members of deadlines and generally being on top of things, projects will go much more smoothly.


How can the skills learned in group projects be applied in a professional development manner? Most likely, you will be working with other individuals for your entire career. Having a solid understanding of how to be a productive team member will make you stand out in the workplace. Here are some things that can be learned from group work.


1. What makes a good team member (and what doesn’t)

The basics qualities of a productive team member (being prepared, interactive and contributing quality work) are universal. These will be appreciated in any company. And all those nightmarish group experiences? It’s a guarantee you’ll never be “that person”.


2. How to appreciate diverse opinions

If you learn one thing in a group, it is that everyone thinks differently. These differing opinions are what create innovative new solutions and products, but can also create tension. Learning to work and integrate with individuals who have different thought processes will make you a stronger employee.


3. How to form connections quickly

Often in group projects, you have to achieve a relatively high level of coordination with people you’ve never met for a short period of time, then go your separate ways. This is great practice for networking and capitalizing on chance meetings.


So the next time you’re faced with a group project, remember that a little preparation and initiative goes a long way.

Mary Johns is a member of the PRSSA at LSU Professional Development Committee.


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