How could this help you?
It’s important to understand that your future employer is looking
for much more than someone who can work with a lab partner
to complete a task. While they expect you to be able to lead and
to follow appropriately, they are more interested in whether you
have the skills and ability to work collaboratively and coopera-
tively with other group members and other groups. Can you get
the slacker to pitch in? Can you get the dictator to chill? Or are
you one of those types yourself?
Think of it from the boss’s point of view. Why would you hire
someone who could disrupt an efficient, collaborative group?
The inability to work collaboratively could hurt the company’s
productivity and ultimately its bottom line. Whether fair or not,
it is important to recognize that how you are perceived by fellow
team members is really important to the company.
So, what are the interpersonal traits and collaborative skills
associated with good teamwork that companies look for? Here’s
what you can do to practice and develop these while you are still
Be on time, be prepared, and work efficiently.
Never be late to a meeting. Being on time says that you are
dependable. Make sure meetings have a specific agenda— either
write one or ask for one. “Work on project” is too vague for an
agenda item, the equivalent of “pizza with everything on it.”
“Complete the background section” is more definitive. Help the
meeting stay focused by keeping social chatting to a minimum.
Be dependable and responsible regarding the tasks you are asked,
or volunteer, to do.
Do your share of the work, but don’t go overboard.
Do productive work ahead of group-set deadlines. Also, try to propose high-quality ideas — which will require you to have a solid
understanding of core concepts involved in the project. Devote
time and effort to the project. Feel free to help other group members with encouragement, structure, and ideas (but not so many
that you squelch their creativity). With multiple members providing input, you will be surprised by how well the overall structure
of the project comes together.
Communicate effectively and often. In our discipline,
you must be able to communicate — both verbally and in writing — your procedures and your scientific data and outcomes.
If you cannot tell anyone what you did, why should anyone hire
you, let alone retain you on their team? Communication starts
prior to the first meeting. All correspondence should be polished
and complete, with limited acronyms or slang. Very few projects
can be planned and executed in a single meeting, so all members
should keep up-to-date with each other’s accomplishments. Even
small projects can take four or five meetings, in order to allow for
the necessary collaboration and input from group members. You
will also need time to edit the components of a project into one
LEFT: Kelsey Claypool and Edgar Ceballos practice their
teamwork and interpersonal skills during organic
chemistry lab at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
April/May 2015 www.acs.org/undergrad • inChemistry