An informal guide on being the best group member you can be, and why it’s important

I’m trying to think back to group projects I had in high school. I’m pretty sure it felt like more of a luxury than a standard operating procedure for my classes. For example, I’d get into a group to review the math or English homework, maybe have a presentation with a partner for history class, or maybe even get into sections in band class (which I did for two years in high school).

In college, however, group projects have been the norm. It may be different for me as a business student, where collaboration, presentation, and projects are considered important preparation for the real world. But in general, I’ve come to understand that group projects are a big part of the collegiate academic experience as a whole. Furthermore, these projects come with a unique set of skills and frustrations for any student. Which is why, in this post, I will explain some ways that you can be a beneficial member in any group project.

The first and most important way to be a good group member is by doing the work. It seems obvious, but you would be stunned how often this doesn’t happen. Just yesterday a friend told me about how one member of their group hadn’t filled in any of their slides for a presentation less than 20 minutes before they were scheduled to present. Not hours, minutes. It should go without saying, but don’t be that person. Everyone procrastinates, but in a group project, your team members are assessed in part by your individual contribution. And you owe it to your fellow group members, whether you like them or not, to complete the work assigned to you.

This brings me to my second point. You probably won’t like every person you work with in a group project, and that’s okay. But you still have to communicate with them. Often times teams are randomly assigned by the professor, so the odds of you being best buddies with everyone on your team are low to begin with. And when you inevitably have to work with someone you may not like, it is still your job to communicate with them on all of the things you are working on and responsible for. Going into radio silence because you “don’t feel like talking to [insert group member here]” doesn’t do anyone any good. Odds are if you talk with your group mate, you’ll end up liking them a little bit.

Finally, the best way you can be a good group member is to help where you can. Even if you aren’t a designated group leader, asking how you can be useful to your team and keeping things moving forward can make a world of difference. At a minimum, you’ll get told that things are good and you don’t need to worry. But often times people will not share when they need help unless explicitly asked. This is what costs teams the most when it comes to overall success, and you can be the hero of any team by simply being the one to reach out.

Group projects can be a great way to get a deeper understanding of a subject, develop communication and management skills, and to prepare for the real world. Being able to collaborate is an incredibly useful skill, and developing it is a great use of time. By being proactive, organized, and open, you can change the dynamic of any group you enter and end up with a great result. Talk soon.

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