How to Thrive in Group Projects?


By Sanjeet Chowdhury

‘We’re are going to adopt a group project-based learning approach in this class in order for you to enrich your learning experience.’ How often have we heard this phrase from our professors during class? While some thrive when working on scenario-based project learning, many students shudder at the thought of having to work with other students. What complicates things further is when your teacher randomly creates a group and leaves it up to you to navigate through the class with absolute strangers.

Fret not though. We’ve got it all covered for you. Here are some simple steps that can help you to turn those strangers into team-mates and even into friends, that’ll help you breeze through the class.

  1. Introduce, connect and converse:
    As basic as this step may seem, it is one of the most important steps in laying a strong foundation for your team. Just by having a small conversation with other members of the group can help you in getting to know their levels of interest towards the class or their commitment towards taking up roles for the group project. You could also get to know some mutual friends that’ll help you to break the ice even further.
    2. Assigning roles – Right person for the right job:
    This can be the tricky part of the group project. Slackers find this to be the most opportune moment to sneak away by taking on the most insignificant tasks in the group project. Whilst, the handful few are over-burdened with doing all the project work. In such cases, it’s important to have an open conversation with the group members and those with relevant skills need to be assigned those particular tasks.
    3. Establishing a framework for completing tasks:
    The group members may have their own method of going about carrying out their assigned roles. However, in order to avoid errors such as missing deadlines, duplication of work or misrepresentation of facts, there is a need to create a framework around which the group members could carry out their responsibilities. This could be something as ordinary as creating a spreadsheet to update the status of the tasks or organizing group meetings so that all members of the group are on the same page and that the tasks are carried out smoothly.
    4. Collaborate and pool in resources:
    The essence of group projects is to share your skills with the team and when every member of the group does so, the group is able to learn and enhance their understanding of the class. One could help out their teammates with certain tasks that the other group member may some expertise in, thereby facilitating team bonding and information sharing in the group.
    5. Appreciating and giving credit:
    Everyone likes to have a pat on the back. When group members appreciate each other’s contribution to the group work, it fosters a positive working environment. By recognizing the efforts of team members, group members can bounce ideas off each other showcasing traits of cooperation and open-mindedness as well.

One can’t stress enough on the importance of establishing project objectives, developing communication channels and proper division and delegation of tasks in the group project. These aspects serve as the pillars of success in a group project. Also, at all times, group members must be respectful of others opinions and suggestions. When one is able to do so, it increases the possibility for the group to obtain a greater understanding in the class and most importantly, complete and submit the project within the due date of turning in the project.

Group projects are a great method for group members to hone their leadership skills, time-management skills and also on communication skills. So, the next time you’re in a group project, leverage these measures to get the most out of your class and the project as well.


Career Conversations: Managing a Freelance Career For Creatives

On March 27th we were happy to host a 3 person panel for Career Conversations: Managing a Freelance Career For Creatives.  Our speakers have freelance experience in music production, photography and videography with freelance careers of various lengths. The panelists, Kevin Guest, Contemporary A Cappella, Arranger, Producer, Recording Engineer, Educator; Sonya Highfield, Commercial & Fine Art Photographer, (Photographer/Business Coach for Artists) and  Ellen Daoust, NU Alum 2013, Freelance Videographer and Video Editor, were in agreement on the main activities that contribute to a successful freelance career.


 The main points were:

Set professional and financial goals for yourself and your business

Challenge yourself to move out of your comfort zone

Determine what it costs you to maintain your life- housing, utilities, supplies for your business etc. and price your work based on what you need for income

Track your income and expenses, including the payments owed you that you were unable to collect

Consult with an accountant regarding taxes

Develop a contract for your work and be sure to present it to your clients to sign

Create a web page to showcase your work

Know the market for your work in your area and determine the best way to promote yourself- maybe you need to be on all social media platforms and maybe just one or two will work best

Tap your network and ask for advice about the things you don’t know

Attend conferences and other events in your field to meet other professionals and to become known by them

To view the panel yourself click the link.

Taming the Beast: Optimizing your Resume for ATS

Taming the Beast: Optimizing your Resume for ATS

By Amanda Cornwall, Ph.D.

Many students that I work with, especially those studying engineering or computer science, express a measure of terror when it comes to applicant tracking systems (ATS) and the job search process. They know that ATS systems are often the first “eyes” on their resume, but they are not sure what the eyes of the ATS may be scrutinizing. In fact, over 90% of employers use an applicant tracking systems to perform initial resume screenings, and over 75% of submitted resumes do not make it through to be seen by a human. How can you make your resume effective for all the audiences that will judge it, both sentient and algorithmic? A resume must be properly formatted and optimized for ATS, but it needs to be attractive and impressive to living, breathing beings as well.

There are at least 175 different ATS systems on the market today, and each will have different specifications. However, there are some best practices to follow in optimizing your resume to satisfy them. Here are some tips to help you tame the ATS beast while keeping your resume fit for human consumption.

USE KEYWORDS FROM THE JOB DESCRIPTION. Use them lavishly! Don’t be afraid to repeat the keywords verbatim up to three times in the resume, and echo the critical phrasing from the job description. A clever exercise to try: as you prepare your resume, put the text of the job description/job ad(s) that interest you into a word cloud, which will provide you with a visualization of the most often used words in the job description. To optimize your resume, first, identify the keywords, then, incorporate the keywords and phrases into your descriptions of your professional accomplishments.

If you use acronyms, spell out the acronym the first time you use it, and then give the acronym. For example, for the acronym that is currently on our minds, put it this way: Applicant Tracking System (ATS).

Don’t get fancy with your formatting! Avoid graphic elements in your resume such as icons, tables, logos, images, shading, or borders. Do not put information in headers and footers. Out of confusion, the ATS will regurgitate resumes with formatting it cannot recognize.

Use standard section headings such as Education, Experience, Skills, and so on. In your work experience, put the jobs in this order:

Company Name, Date

Although a .pdf is often the best choice when sharing your resume with others, the ATS cannot always cope with a .pdf, so send the file in a Word document or in rich text format. If you have a choice, upload the file itself rather than copy-and-pasting into fields. When you give your resume a filename, use your name and a keyword or two in the file name, such as BeyonceKnowlesRockstar.doc instead of the generic “resume.doc.”

Some experts recommend saving your Word document in a “Text Only” format, and then open it again in Word and fix any formatting issues.

Do not try any fancy tricks, such as embedding the job description in its entirety or hiding keywords in white text… the ATS systems are smart enough now to see through these maneuvers.

Do your research- even as I write this, trends and practices are shifting. Visit business-focused websites and journals from time to time to keep abreast of the latest ATM wisdom.

Finally, NETWORK. While networking will not pole-vault you entirely over of the ATS pit of despair, it can help. A strong ATS-optimized resume coupled with steadfast networking efforts combine to form the best approach to the job search.

For more info and personalized advice, visit Career Development. Attend a workshop, webinar, or employer event, come in for a drop-in appointment, or schedule a 1:1 advising session.

Onward, job seekers—may you vanquish the beast!