Skills Series: Skill #2 – Teamwork skills are Essential at the Modern Workplace

Our second blog in the series on the key skills that employers seek is about teamwork.  Most of the projects/tasks at the workplace, be it in the field of business, science, communication, arts, etc., are carried out nowadays by teams. Based on employers’ surveys, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) has concluded that employers search for candidates who have the teamwork skills defined as the capacity to “Build collaborative relationships with colleagues and customers representing diverse cultures, races, ages, genders, religions, lifestyles, and viewpoints. The individual is able to work within a team structure, and can negotiate and manage conflict.”   What do you need to do to make sure that you are ready to be a productive and successful team member at your future workplace? How would you market your teamwork readiness to your potential employer?
The teamwork at the workplace is a complex process. Given current demographic, technological, social trends, team members should deal with a number of challenges to keep their teams productive and stay competitive. For example, at a modern workplace, you may have to work in teams of various size and structure with people of different educational backgrounds and experiences, twice or three times older than you. Your team may be scattered around the globe in different time zones. Such diverse team composition requires many new competences including intercultural and intergenerational communication skills, creativity, adaptability as well as other essential ingredients of successful teamwork, e.g. strong listening skills, responsibility, and time-management skills.
The good news is that AU students have no shortage of excellent teamwork opportunities as an integral part of their AU experience through academic studies, internships, and extra-curricular activities while building upon the diversity of AU faculty and staff, student body, and resources in DC and beyond. You may have already worked in teams while preparing for group projects and class presentations, practicing for, and playing team sports, planning events and raising funds for your fraternities/sororities or student clubs, working part-time or interning.   Through these experiences, you have most likely started building the important teamwork competencies. Make sure that you take time to reflect on these competencies and your experiences and identify ways to grow.
Related: How to distinguish the best workplace harassment lawyer?
Academic Work:
  • Putting a lot of effort into mastering your academic major will help you build the knowledge base to work productively as a team member at your future workplace. Even if you are not planning or unsure about working in the field of your major, you will still have an opportunity to develop your intellectual capacity and transferrable skills that will help you be a productive team member (consult career guides to learn about transferrable skills related to each AU major)
    • To excel in your major/minor, build relations with your professors, attend professors’ office hours, utilize ASAC, pursue research/internship opportunities, attend conferences, professional events, panels on, and off campus.
  • Some AU majors include more teamwork-based courses while others are more lecture-based and independent research. Both approaches can prepare you well for future teamwork. For example, lectures provide an opportunity to practice your listening and comprehension skills and analyze the professor’s arguments and logic – the ability that helps develop synergies within the team.
  • Interacting with highly accessible and diverse AU faculty will expand your comfort levels in communicating with professionals of different age groups, education, cultures, etc. Meet with professors during office hours, attend faculty led panels, etc. Look for opportunities to work as a teacher assistant, research assistant.
  • Many major/minors in humanities, STEM, as well as creative majors specifically focus on fostering creativity, thinking out of the box, and communication skills.
  • Language courses, courses on intercultural communication, as well as studying abroad expose AU students to different cultures and help build intercultural competencies. When you are abroad, look for opportunities to experience or learn about work-related values and cultural preferences. Reflect on how different/similar they may be to your preferences.
  • Interacting with your peers during group work for your classes teaches a lot about team dynamics, managing conflicts, time-management skills, as well as diversity. Utilize AU advantage as an institution with high shares of students from other countries, states, religions, lifestyles, and viewpoints backgrounds. Reflect on your experiences in successful and failed group work. What lessons can you use at the workplace?
Internship/Part-time Job
  • Doing an internship, whether for credit or not, will give you an opportunity to participate directly in a team or observe a team at work.
  • Utilize the advantages of the AU location by interning during the academic year in DC and exposing yourself to various workplaces and teams: a federal agency, not-for profit organization, international organization, professional association, art/entertainment organization, etc.
  • Given the fact that DC has a diverse workforce comprised of people from different parts of the U.S. and the world, you have excellent opportunities to expand your intercultural competencies.
  • At the workplace, continue to be a student, which means to study, through observation and reflection, how productive and non-productive teams operate, to practice good listening, negotiation, and conflict management skills whenever possible.
Extra-Curricular/Campus Life/ Volunteering:
  • As mentioned above, the diverse AU student body provides a lot of opportunities to learn how to interact with people different from you.
  • Increase your intercultural competences by attend AU intercultural events organized through ISSS and CDI.
  • Expand your experience in teamwork by engaging in student clubs, playing team sports, and participating in volunteering projects. Talk to the Center for Community Engagement and Service.
  • Look for self-development opportunities: particularly as they pertain to improving your teamwork skills in the areas of oral communication, time-management, conflict-management, etc. You will find many workshops on campus, which teach these skills. Check regularly Today@AU and the events calendar.
 How to market your teamwork experience and skills in your application materials and at the job interview? Start by preparing a list of specific examples illustrating your experience in teamwork and in building teamwork competencies through your academic studies, internship, work, sports, extracurricular activities, etc.
  • In your application materials (resume and cover letters), use relevant action verbs and keywords e.g.: collaborate with, worked in x number member team, partner with, interact, communicate, liaise, or serve as a liaison, facilitate, organize, coordinate, etc.
  • Be prepared to market your teamwork skills at the job interview. The employer may ask questions directly: e.g., Do you enjoy working with a team or independently? Describe yourself as a team member? The employer will also use behavior questions to learn about your teamwork competencies. Such questions usually start with: “Tell me about the time when…. “ “Give me an example when….. “ Ask your career advisor about typical interview questions, check Career Center books on job interviews, research on-line. Practice giving narratives that highlight your specific experiences. Don’t forget to talk about your experience with diversity, managing and negotiating conflicts.
  • Also, make sure to read carefully the job description and explore the employer’s website to understand any special teamwork characteristics required or desired by the specific employer.
  • Attend #Ineedajob workshops on resume/cover letters and interviews, offered regularly by the Career Center. Check AU CareerWeb and the events calendar.
  • Consult Career Center website resources on resumes and cover letters. Practice and record your mock interview utilizing Interviewstream.
  • Schedule an appointment with your career advisor to have your application materials reviewed and prepare for a job interview.