One of the toughest parts about transitioning from school to the “real” world is your ability to be a team player. Everyone remembers group projects in school, and very few think fondly of those experiences. I would argue that the issue with these group projects, and the reason that we learn so little from them, is that none of the group members are very invested in the project itself. What you are left with is a team full of people who aren’t interested in the project and have no compelling stake in the outcome. What kind of learning environment is that?
If you’re like me and your experience with working as a (dedicated) team towards a real goal is limited to sports, it can be quite challenging to make the necessary changes. What I’ve discovered along the way is that all of the best teammates and leaders share two traits: agreeableness and self-awareness. The first trait, agreeableness, is one of the big five personality traits and is often associated with dependability and cooperation. The second trait, self-awareness, is what I would argue is the most important factor at play.
In this context, self-awareness doesn’t mean that you have to take a deep introspective dive and learn about who you are. It means that playing as part of a team means that you have to understand your strengths and weaknesses and be ok with the notion that you can’t do it all. For example, I don’t think that I am the best photographer in the world. So if I was working on a project that needed a photographer, I’d ask for help! People have a hard time putting their pride away and are willing to let a project fail because they couldn’t ask for help.
To wrap it up, I really don’t blame people for not being able to be a team player. But it’s going to be really hard for you to get a job if you can’t learn to play with others.
Mike Doute is a senior majoring in public relations. When he's not doing social media for the College of Technology, you can find him writing about craft beer on his blog.