This post originally appeared on the Accepted blog.
Teamwork, and its close cousin, leadership, are highly prized by graduate programs and universities. Haven’t worked in teams on any regular basis? Don’t worry! There are more ways than you may realize to prove your chops in this area. Consider the following 4 options:
1. Remember: No Man is an Island
Unless you’ve been living alone on an island for the last several years, you have undoubtedly participated in various groups. You may have been a member of a sports team or dance troupe, a member of a committee on either a volunteer or workplace basis, helped to organize an event, planned a triathlon, or been a tutor, Big Brother, or Big Sister. In each case, you were working with other people, even if it was only one other person, and had opportunities to display teamwork.
2. Put Your Listening Ears On
Teamwork and collaboration involve effective listening, so if you can discuss a time when you took the time to listen to others, patiently and skillfully, and how doing so eased tensions and increased collaboration, that will demonstrate your teamwork abilities.
3. Discuss Morale Boosting and Conflict Resolution
Talk about the steps you took to improve morale or motivate. If you helped to generate enthusiasm for a project when enthusiasm was flagging, or brainstormed an idea to strengthen a group or project, that’s also teamwork. If you were a member of a committee and figured out a way for two warring members of the committee to stop fighting and start working together, that would also constitute teamwork. Any time you took the initiative to get involved with other people (especially when they are difficult!) to find a better way to get things done, find a middle ground, brainstorm a new idea, it’s all teamwork.
4. Think Small
Effective teamwork can also be shown in very small groups. A client once wrote about her efforts to heal a serious rift in her family after her father passed away and siblings fought for control of the successful family business. An ugly succession fight was underway. The client’s ability to patiently coax cooperation in such an emotionally charged environment, including her “shuttle diplomacy” and active listening among family members, displayed skilled teamwork and leadership. Another client wrote about having organized a trip with a few friends, and how she dealt with a dispute between two of the participants whose bickering threatened to ruin the trip for everyone. Her effective listening, and creatively figuring out an activity that both of the “combatants” would not be able to resist, helped defuse the situation and save the trip from descending into a hellish situation for everyone. In both these situations, the “teams” were small but the stakes for those involved were high.
So do not feel stymied when asked for examples of how you have displayed teamwork – as you now see, you’ve been working in teams more often than you realize!
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