Students looking at rocks togetherWhile some degrees are considered a 'baseline' requirement for many careers, employers increasingly view inter-personal, team-working and communication skills as crucial when selecting new recruits. In the UKCES Employer Skills Survey 2015 'Team working' ranked second in a list of skills that are hard to find in applicants and second in a list of skills that need improving among existing staff.

Depending on your programme of study you may well be doing a considerable amount of group work on your postgraduate course at Imperial, you should take this opportunity to build upon your team working skills.

The Graduate School also run a variety of professional development courses for Master's students that can help enhance your understanding of yourself and others. You can also access units on teamwork on the Attributes and Aspirations online short course throughout your Master's. 

Advice on working with others

Working with others allows you to:

  • Tackle tasks which are too big or complex for a single individual to complete
  • Learn from others
  • Develop competencies sought by employers, such as team working, time management and leadership skills
  • Collaborate with people from diverse backgrounds, make friends and network

Working with others often requires understanding and commitment. It can involve co-operating with people with different personalities, from a variety of cultural, employment and study backgrounds.

Some groups may welcome direct and forthright opinions, while others may see that as dominating or aggressive behaviour. It is important that you gauge the mood of the group and reflect how effective you are in it. Be aware of how your communication style is received by others and be willing to adapt and compromise to achieve your collective goals.

Being part of a group will often require you to work in different ways. Some tasks may be broken down and assigned to individuals, while others may involve pooling results and sharing information. You may need to share your outcomes individually or as a group, either orally or in writing. Sometimes each member is marked individually, while other times the group is marked as a whole.

The key to working together is to do the best you can, no matter what each individual contributes. This may involve making the best use of individual talents, managing dominant personalities, and encouraging those who contribute less.

All students will need to develop effective ways of working remotely as a team, particularly part-time students who are assigned a group work project.

You may be assigned to a group by your tutor, or you may be invited to form a group based on your shared interests with other students. You will need to assign roles and responsibilities, and agree how to communicate to achieve the task at hand. You may decide to use a WhatsApp group, a shared Google Doc or other popular communication platforms.

Study groups are self-organising groups formed to pursue a shared interest and develop a certain output.

Students work together on a major project on which they are usually assessed. Study groups can be a powerful tool for learning, as they:

  • Enable students to undertake complex tasks they could not do on their own
  • Enable students to learn from each other
  • Offer the opportunity to experience team-working
  • Provide an experience similar to those found in many working life situations

Students are usually allocated to syndicate groups but there are occasions when they might be invited to form their own groups.

The group needs to clarify how it wishes to operate and how it intends to address the tasks at hand. Some groups find it helpful to schedule meetings formally, deciding who will chair them, how the tasks will be sequenced and allocated, and who will oversee the process. Other groups prefer to have a less formal arrangement.

Methods of communication need to be agreed upon and contact information exchanged.

Disagreements within a group are likely to occur, but can be a helpful way to challenge assumptions and improve the end product. As long as views are constructively expressed, members should feel free to offer opinions. However, the group ultimately needs a way to agree a course of action.

The final product needs to fit together coherently. It cannot look like several individual pieces of work glued together. Therefore, individuals have a responsibility to the group to deliver what's required, with enough time to review, edit and polish each part.

h. While study groups sometimes simply disband when the project is over, it can be helpful to discuss what was learned and achieved. Further to this, a social event, such as a coffee or a meal together, is a good way to mark the end of the project.