Like most sane humans, I dread group work. Complaining, however, wastes time and energy that I could channel toward finishing that project or maybe catching up on Netflix. Besides, everyone knows that working with strangers can be hella awkward. To combat any potential disaster, check out these tips for a successful project dynamic.
Step 1: Take Charge
If you know the introvert struggle (as many of us do), speaking up in a group setting can be hard. The constant fear of spouting something stupid is enough to cause anyone to hold back. But come on, everyone gets nervous. Some people are just better at hiding their fear than others. Confidence can be faked.
Repeat after me. No, seriously, do it. Confidence can be faked. And hey, do it long enough and you’ll realize you aren’t even faking anymore.
Step 2: Find a Catch-Up Buddy
Life happens, right? Your car gets rear-ended. Your dog gets hepatitis. Your mom sends you to live with your rich aunt and uncle in Bel Air. Whatever it may be, something will inevitably pop up that’ll prevent you from attending group meetings. And that’s okay. Before you do anything, be sure to inform your group the moment you know you’ll be absent. After that, all you need is a point of contact within your group that you can rely on to catch you up. Of course, this will require making a new friend in a short amount of time (which is terrifying, but possible). The benefit to having a Catch-Up Buddy is that if you need something on the down-low–like if you, say, lost the rubric and need another copy A$AP Rocky–you can ask them without the pressure of the entire group listening.
Step 3: Contribute Your Share
This probably goes without saying, but here I am saying it. Each group has its tropes like the self-elected leader, the ghosts who never show up or the latecomer who always manages to miss the first half of the meeting, right? Well here’s another one: the Always-Physically-Present-But-Never-Says-A-Word-And-Is-Always-On-His-Phone Guy. Or girl, because equality. When work is being done, don’t hesitate to grab some of the load. Offer to compile the final product or coordinate the presentation, if there is one. Feel free to play to your strengths, but don’t be so timid you forget to help out. Otherwise, you risk having your name conveniently left off the project come the due date.
Step 4: Be Part of the Solution, Not the Problem
You know that kid who always has something negative to say about every idea put forth? Yeah, forget him. Every group project runs into bumps along the road, but it’s important not to bail the second they throw you out of whack. Maybe you can’t agree on a topic, or can’t find enough primary sources. Then grab your Catch-Up Buddy and brainstorm for a while. Take the most popular topic ideas and combine them. Make a list of pros and cons. Make a flow chart. Hell, make a pros and cons list about flow charts. The point is, if you put in the effort to help solve the problem, rather than exacerbate it, your group will take notice.
Step 5: Proofread Like the Wind, Bullseye
When putting each of the member’s individual parts together, certain things could go astray. For example, if your project is a PowerPoint, check each slide to make sure the formatting remains consistent. If it’s a paper, graze through it and check for factual errors that might dock the overall grade. Whether you were assigned this job or not, your fellow members will thank you for taking the time to do so. Really, it’s all about being a team player, and the interest of the individual is the same as the group as a whole.
I know it’s hard to work with strangers, especially with the added pressure of your grade on the line. Awkwardness is inevitable, and introversion is practically a fatal disease when it comes to this sort of thing. In the long run, working with a group makes you a better worker, one capable of communicating with and rallying a group of total strangers. Hey, you might even make some new friends–probably not, but you can still dream.