How to network your way into a job

graduation goals - networking towards a careerAnybody else looking forward to this moment?

A big part of studying at university is networking. We don’t only want the piece of paper once we finish our degrees, do we? We also want to have developed networks within our chosen field by the end of our degree, because this might make it a tad easier to actually get a job at the end of the day. I don’t know about you, but I definitely want a job at the end of my degree!

There are a number of ways to use networking as a tool to help you gain employment, but these are the some of the ways I’ve used networking to further my career.

Your peers at uni
Creating and using the contacts you make while at university is important. This doesn’t only apply to your university lecturers, who obviously are within your field of study, but also your university peers, who you may just bump into a number of times after uni is finished. Having a relationship with your peers can be beneficial if they find a job in the same organisation or field you are trying to break into. A good word from someone already on the inside can be the foot in the door you need, and we’ve all heard the expression, ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’.

Work experience
It’s also important to try and work in a related field while studying. For myself, I am working at an Outside School Care as an Educator, looking after children from a range of backgrounds, ages and developmental abilities. This suits me, as I’m hoping to get a job at Kids Helpline next year and, along with my work with Lifeline, this is a perfect stepping stone towards my chosen career path. I have met many like-minded individuals through work, including a number of peers who are studying psychology (like me), education and child services.

Volunteering
If you’re unable to gain a paid job in a related field to the degree you’re studying, volunteering is always an option that will enable you to gain work experience that will help you attain paid employment in future.

digital networking

Technology
A good way to create and maintain the contacts you make during your degree, work experience or by volunteering is via the social media site LinkedIn. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s basically the professional version of Facebook. People can visit your page and find out your career aspirations and desires and your tertiary qualifications. If you haven’t checked it out, do it now!

After all, we are in the technology age, and I don’t think it would surprise anyone if I say that technology is likely to have a massive impact on nearly every profession in the following years. As a psychology student who volunteers as a Telephone Crisis Supporter for Lifeline, I see evidence of this every week. Similarly, some psychology therapy sessions actually happen over webcam or the phone, due to people living in rural areas of the country.

So, being up-to-date with technology is definitely a necessity for networking with peers.

Connecting with peers during your degree and making industry contacts via work experience, volunteering and by using technology are all valuable ways of networking that will help you get job at the end of your degree.  I know they’ve definitely helped me!

The slippery slope of mummy self-doubt

Making the decision to study at university was initially easy and very exciting, but then I came to realise that I may have less time to spend with my family because of the amount of time that was required to succeed at uni. Before long, it became apparent that there were many obstacles to overcome and by far the biggest of these were the ‘guilt’ and the ‘self-doubt’ hurdles. Like so many other uni students, I have been a mother 24/7 for many years. I have been busy taking my children to school, picking them up, taking them to after-school activities and, of course, the obligatory after-school sports that they love so much.

I don’t have any regrets about balancing study with family life, but I struggled with the feeling of guilt. Before I started studying, I wondered for months whether I should devote the next three years of my life to something that I want. What would happen to all those little things at home? You know, the everyday tasks that need to be completed, like the ironing, cleaning, washing (including the dog), paying the bills and, of course, the cooking.

slippery slope of mummy self doubtEven while the guilt raged inside me, deep down I knew that I did deserve to study because it has been my lifelong dream. I realised that all those house chores will still be there when I finish studying–it is not going anywhere–and in the grand scheme of things…It doesn’t matter! As for that lost family time… My family will always be family. They love and support me in my adventures and, in the long run, completing a degree will benefit my family. With these considerations in mind, I convinced myself that with a lot of careful time management skills I would be able to spend quality time with my family as well as studying.

The next step was to overcome the self-doubt that was eating me up inside. The questions I found myself asking included:

  • Can I do it (the hard work)
  • Will I be able to do it (for three years) and
  • Can I succeed?

I have found that the best way to deal with these questions is to find what motivates me. Over the last two years of studying my degree, my motivation has come in many forms:

  • My family
    I am doing this for them!  To give them something to aspire to and, as I said earlier, to benefit the family as a whole.
  • Myself!
    I want to study for my own piece of mind and to develop my self-confidence and self-esteem. I am constantly telling myself that I can do it, that I am able to do it and that I will succeed!
  • My friends
    My friends are a wealth of motivation with their: ‘you go girl’s and their ‘you can do it’s!
  • My peers
    My fellow students have provided me with massive doses of reassurance and support as we have travelled together down our separate study paths.
  • Release of results
    I find that regular boosts of motivation also come when my assignment and exam marks come back. Yippee!

welcome to motivation

As for those chores around the house… mid-semester breaks, mid-year break and end of year breaks sort all that out! It usually only takes a couple of days and I can see the floor at home again. A few days more and I can actually see over the ironing pile, and after only one day spent in the garden, I no longer have to fear my children may be eaten alive by possible tigers, hyenas and lions roaming in the wilderness otherwise known as my backyard. The semester breaks are also great for catching up with friends over a long hot coffee (love that coffee), shopping trips (any excuse really) and long lunches (we usually have so much to say). Uni breaks are also great for family catch-ups as well, although I find that with very careful time management I really don’t miss out on anything throughout the semester; it is all a matter of planning. Just sort out the important dates and activities and study around them!

So if there is any ‘self-doubt or guilt hurdles’ in your study plans, remember why you are doing it or why you want to do it. It is either for you or your family or both, and let me tell you from experience, they are both so worth it!

-Lisa

The heat is on: stay cool and ace Semester 3 study!

For those of you living in Australasia or regions with similar climates, you’ll certainly have noticed the temperatures starting to soar. It’s not too bad but trouble is, it’s difficult to stay glued to your chair long enough to focus and get some serious study done. Add to that the extra pressure created by there being fewer weeks in Semester 3 and I certainly wouldn’t blame you if you started to second-guess your decision to take on study when everyone else is on holidays. But fret not, my dear reader, as I have a few tips to help you keep your cool (literally and figuratively!) to make sure you ace Semester 3 study this year!

keep calm and beat the heat

Location, location, location!
Let’s start by looking at the physical temperature. It’s hot, plain and simple. But before you drip sweat on your keyboard and watch the power board fry out, grab your study basics and head out somewhere with a breeze or air conditioning. If you have no trouble focusing with a bit of noise and movement around you, a café makes for a great spot to get your work done. Many cafés offer free Wi-Fi and of course you can get your coffee on at the same time to keep you awake! You can even throw in a generous slice of baked cheesecake (my all-time favourite) to reward yourself as you make progress (remember my previous post about the importance of rewards)!

cheesecake - study reward
If you’re easily distracted like me, you might prefer a quieter location such as the library (followed by a trip to a café for cheesecake once you’ve finished studying!). If you live near a uni campus you can always head there, but if you’re like me and are much too far away, you can go to the local public library to enjoy the cooler, quieter conditions. They will probably even have somewhere for you to plug in your laptop if needed.

Keeping up with the Jones’s
So now that we’ve got the environment sorted, let’s take a look at the shorter semester. There’s no denying that you’re going to need to be a bit more organised than usual if you want to keep your grades up while covering the same amount of material covered during longer semesters, especially when you consider the shorter mid-semester break with Christmas and New Year’s Eve right in the middle. It’s definitely achievable though, especially if you’re used to taking 3 or 4 subjects during a regular semester. Start by looking at your course’s study guide. Some course examiners will have already set out week to week ‘to do’ lists and goals for you. Keep to these targets (or better yet, exceed them) and you will do fine.

to do list

But what happens if you can’t keep up with the pace that has been set? You always have the option to drop out of the subject for now and take it again another semester. There’s certainly no shame in doing that, just be sure to check the official uni drop dates to ensure you don’t receive any unexpected financial or academic penalties for doing so (you usually have a couple of weeks grace period from when semester starts, within which you won’t be penalised for dropping a subject).

Semester 3 might not be the easiest semester with all that tends to be going on in our personal and work lives at this time of year but it can be a rewarding one. Class sizes are smaller which means you get to know your fellow students that bit more and, most importantly, you will be able to graduate sooner, or take fewer courses during Semesters 1 and 2). Studying during Semester 3 also means that you remain in the study zone and don’t develop unhelpful habits over the summer months. If you can make it work for you, I would definitely recommend making the most of this opportunity.

studying at uni - the heat is on

Happy learning and lots of success to everyone studying during semester 3!

How to make the most of your summer (while still having fun)!

Summer Loving Efficiency

SUmmer LOving, Grease - Sandy and DannyWhen you think about it, if Danny and Sandy spent less time over summer floundering on the beach and more time productively working towards their future, they probably wouldn’t have got caught up in all the gangs and drama they did.

I was one of the lucky students who never had to study over summer semester, so I was silly and did a Danny.  I spent my first summer off playing xBox and chilling with my ‘gang,’ but soon realised I hadn’t done myself any favours.  With hindsight in mind, here’s some options for you, so you don’t waste your four-month break.

1 – MAKE THAT PAPER
Going to university and the arduous study at home can really get in the way of consistent hours at work.  Having no money sucks, so don’t miss the opportunity to earn some hard dosh while you’ve got time during the week.

So much money! Spend wisely

Also, don’t be a giddy goat and spend everything you make.  Put some away and save towards a holiday, or just keep it as a back-up stash for next semester.

2 – GET OUT AND ABOUT
If you do happen to have money after Semester 2, get out and splash it (responsibly).  It doesn’t have to be as eccentric as going on a Contiki trip around the Greek Islands, but even a trip to Sydney or Melbourne can clear your head and serve as a reward for your hard work at uni.

Summer holidays - travel to ItalyYou might cause some jealousy among your friends with your Facebook photos, but you can always rectify that with some souvenirs.

3 – BE IMPRESSIVE
Summer is the perfect time to get ahead of your classmates and potentially impress a couple of industry professionals.  Get the feelers out early and butter someone up for a week’s work or even more at a company you want to work for.  Whether it’s an internship or volunteering, even if you don’t get paid, you’d be surprised how far making coffee for a week will take you in the long run.

Gandalf LOTR internships

Pro Tip: LinkedIn is the tinder of employment, get on that boat!

4 – DIY STUDY
Just because you aren’t enrolled in a subject over summer doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep up to scratch with your learning.  If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it, and by ‘it’ I mean the urge to study.  It’s hard to come back from four months off and it can be a real drag to get re-motivated.  The library is still open over summer, so maybe just schedule a few hours a week to hire a textbook and keep it fresh.

I have no idea what I'm doing

5 – HAVE FUN!
After grilling poor old Danny and Sandra D earlier, I do admit that you should flounder about on a beach every now and then.  You should also play a bit of xBox and spend time with friends.  The same as you would if you had uni, practice a good work/life balance and make time for everything.  If you are organised, you can fit all five of these things into four months easily, so if you haven’t already, GET ON LINKEDIN!!  You’ll thank me later.

LinkedIn is the new Tinder

Until next time,
Tom

Getting back into study? Tips for when you haven’t studied for a while

It’s a big step to make the decision to get back into study when you haven’t studied in a while… it can be overwhelming in fact. If you’re not careful, you can fall victim to the fears, trepidations and reservations that are in the back of your mind and this can cause you to panic. It can make you start to doubt yourself and question whether it’s all worthwhile, but I can assure you that it is. You may experience challenges and have some fears about studying again, but there are many ways to overcome them and yes, even beat them back into submission.

time management to reduce stress1. Time management
The first challenge that you may encounter will be the managing your time. Trying to sort out the ‘how am I going to fit everything in’, ‘when is everything due’, ‘where do I have to be and what is it that I have to do’? This can be a tough one to figure out when you haven’t studied for a while, but it is quite simple really.

Solution: have a diary, write everything in it and carry it with you everywhere or, when at home, draw up a study management timetable with all the important how, when, where and what info on it. I will be the first to admit that I can’t live without my study plan, because sometimes there is just not enough room in my head to remember everything. My study timetable is my best friend. It tells the how, where, when and what, a bit like having a good friend to guide you all day long and take the weight off your shoulders.

take the weight off your shoulders2. Not having any friends
Challenge number two is the ‘No friends’ challenge. This is the one where you think that nobody will talk to you and you will feel all alone in a large room full of people. I know that I could tell you that it’s all in your head, but you won’t believe me, so I won’t say it.

Solution: Develop a network, which is a small group of people you can talk to about your assignments and lectures and who you can swap notes with. If you take the time to look around a lecture theatre, you’ll notice that there are plenty of people in the room all probably thinking the same thing as you. Just talk to them casually and when you see them next time strike up a conversation about anything that you may have in common i.e.: classes. Before you know it, you will have a network. I have always been the oldest person in every class at uni, so naturally this challenge was a big concern for me when I first started. But when waiting outside for lectures to start, I just chatted to the other much younger students about the course or assignments (this is an easy one to get another student talking) and bingo! Now in the second year, I always have someone to talk to and have coffee with… I have a network!

3. Technology
Challenge number three is the ‘Technology’ challenge. If you haven’t studied in a while, you are more than likely scared out of your wits about this one. But fear not: it looks hard to understand but it is really very simple and you will need to be able to use it, because universities use computer technology extensively. I speak from experience when I say that it’s easier than it looks.

Solution: The USQ library has sessions at the beginning of each semester on how to use the library resources, including technology. This is an excellent place to start. But if you have some basic knowledge, don’t forget that trusty information source: Goggle. Type in what you want to know into the search bar, for example how to use features in Word, Excel or Powerpoint, and up it pops. I knew very little about computers when I first started at uni, so I decided to sit myself down one day before I started and I fiddled, fidgeted and clicked on every tab in these programs just to see what they did. Before I knew it, I had a fairly good grasp of how things worked and as for the rest, I just used a Google search or if I’m totally frustrated, I ask another student for help.

USQ learning centre4. Getting help
Challenge number four is the ‘Help’ challenge. This is the one where you have hit a snag in you studies or you have a few problems or difficulties handling things and aren’t sure where to turn for help or support.

Solution: If you’re hitting that brick wall, turn to USQ’s Learning Centre for course work-related questions, your lecturers for questions specific to your course, Student Services for those more personal problems and your Student Relationship Officer. Put plain and simple, there is always someone out there who can help… they may even be sitting next to you in a lecture. Just ask! You won’t be the first or last to need support. I have proudly used the Learning Centre for course difficulties, in particular… the dreaded statistics. They have sat with me many times and explained things in a way that I could understand. I don’t think I would have passed some of my courses if not for the assistance my lecturers have given me by setting up consultation meetings with them.

5. Expectations
Challenge number five is the ‘Expectations’ challenge. This is the challenge where you have very high expectations of yourself. You know the one, where you try to do a thousand things at once, expect perfect marks and never say ‘no’ to people and, when it doesn’t work out, you crash and burn.

Solution: Value your achievements! Don’t judge your progress solely on the marks you are given for assignments. Instead, value what you have learned during the process of your degree and certainly, under no circumstances, judge yourself on the results of other students. I personally am very guilty of this one when I spend every waking moment on course and assignments, all the while trying desperately to participate in everything that family and friends ask of me (it’s really hard to say no) and I have found that you have to find that special balance between the two.

The main goal of getting back into study after a long period of time is to learn and to add to your life experiences. So relish every moment, don’t panic and stay calm.

Work it! Applying yourself at work

So I was thinking.

Working can be seen as very similar to working out. A job and a workout have some nice similarities.

And I realised that, with semester soon to be finished, some of us might be working a little bit more, especially if we aren’t doing any subjects over Semester 3. So perhaps it would be a good idea to write a blog about how we can try and maintain that work-life balance and apply ourselves a bit more at our jobs.

Probably just like I could apply myself to working out a bit more than I have been.

For example, sometimes you don’t want to work out, but you gotta do what you gotta do. I actually haven’t been to my gym in months and this saddens me. Gym memberships aren’t cheap. And it appears as though I’m working to not work out. Ironic.

I find that work is all about balance. We don’t want to work all day, every day, with no light on the horizon such as a night out with friends or a romantic date with a special friend. Similarly, after a hectic day working on your legs, you don’t want to go back to gym early the next day. Instead, we’d prefer to have a sleep in. Relax a little. We never want to exhaust ourselves, whether at work or at the gym.

It's a balancing act

On the other hand, we do need to workout at least a little bit. We don’t want to finish the semester, with beach season on the horizon, and feel quite lacklustre about the whole thing. We need to make sure we work and have some money coming in so that we can afford the many social endeavours we have to look forward to once semester is over!

keep calm and party

For, you see, I feel as though it’s very difficult to have one without the other. I believe it is quite necessary to push ourselves at our job, so that we can go and enjoy ourselves afterwards. And we make that enjoyment all the sweeter due to the hard effort we put in earlier. That, of course, is not only true for work but for study as well.

But, sometimes it is hard to find that motivation to push ourselves at work, so I thought I’d share a few of the ways I’ve been able to do it in my own workplaces:

  • Stay happy! Everybody enjoys a fun workplace, and none of your co-workers will want to be around you if you constantly complain about your job or other things.
  • Be energetic and upbeat. I find being energetic at work makes me enjoy it more than if I’m being lacklustre.
  • Enjoy the little things. When there is something about your job that you do enjoy, make sure that you savour it and enjoy the moment.
  • Try to have a good relationship with your co-workers. Nothing is worse than working with people you can’t have a conversation with.

What are some of the ways you keep yourself motivated at work?

My top career tips

Whether you’ve just enrolled in your degree program or will graduate at the end of this semester, competition for your desired job will likely be high.  With that in mind, it’s a good idea to start planning now to snag that dream role. Here are my top tips to give you the edge that you’ll need to blast your way into a successful career:

Cultivate your online profile

You’ve probably heard a million times what not to do online (i.e. don’t make your crazy party photos public!) but it’s time you also heard what you should be doing.  Create a profile on LinkedIn or another professional career site that’s popular for your industry and country (yes, it does differ greatly).  Start a blog, or get tweeting about industry-related topics.  As a student, you might not think you have a lot to contribute, but I reckon you do.  It could be as simple as a blog reflecting on your growth following professional experience – this will help potential employers get to know you before you even meet.

social-media-logos online profiles

Develop professional networks

You’re probably familiar with the term ‘it’s who you know’ and it couldn’t be more true! Other people can be an excellent source of information on job opportunities, inside industry knowledge and personal development opportunities.  So put yourself out there and meet those already working in the industry you wish to enter.  Admittedly, this is something that I find rather difficult, but attending networking events or relevant industry talks is a great way to begin building your all-important professional network.

Set your goals

I’ve previously blogged about the importance of setting goals: they are your key to keeping motivated and making your vision become reality!

Three take-out coffee. Two cups in holder.

Get experience

Experience can help you decide if your chosen career really is right for you and, if so, help you narrow down the specific role that is of most interest to you.  It will also give you that edge when looking for full-time work after graduation, as your commitment and capabilities will be more of a known quantity.  If paid experience is difficult to find, consider volunteering.  There are many charitable organisations out there that could really benefit from your skills and it will look fabulous on your resume!

Have a CV and cover letter ready to go

Speaking of resumes, it’s good to have a generic one up-to-date to avoid the stress of putting one together from scratch at the last minute.  If your dream job became a possibility tomorrow, wouldn’t you want to submit your application right away?!

Be open for learning any time

Don’t think that the only time you can learn valuable stuff at uni is in your lecture or tutorial.  Rich possibilities exist in all sorts of places.  Perhaps it’s the manager that you got chatting to at a networking event or the long-term company secretary you met at your mate’s BBQ – each person can provide you with different pieces of the puzzle!

 Networking puzzle piece - the people you meet

Touchdown in the comfort zone

“Sometimes it’s good to step outside your comfort zone.”

It’s that broken record you’ve heard your entire life, from parents, friends, teachers, and just about anyone you’ve ever spoken to. This begs the question: what actually is ‘the comfort zone?’

get outside your comfort zone

Given my background in debating, I thought I’d break down each word:

Comfort – Recliners
Going furniture shopping with my parents used to be an arduous task, until I realised I was in a room full of beds and lounges ready to be tested.

Zone – The in-zone
I don’t watch a whole lot of grid iron, but I do know that to score points you have to throw the ball to a player who runs the ball over the end of the pitch and into the in-zone!

Somehow, I don’t think the people who are always talking about getting out their comfort zone were referring to a sofa on a football pitch, so I took another approach to try and understand this directive… examples of people leaving their comfort zones.

Weirdly, the first thing that comes to mind is the movie She’s The Man. Amanda Bynes wants to play soccer with the boys team at college, so she pretends to be a boy. While the practical legitimacy of this movie can be questioned, it does prove that the protagonist went the extra mile to achieve her dreams.

She's the Man - out of comfort zone

So, how does this apply to university life? Whether you are fresh out of school, back from holidays or just needed a change, university is the chance to reinvent yourself. I’m not saying dress up as a man/woman, but you will find so many people with similar personalities and interests who you can connect with, even as an online student. There’s Harry Potter clubs, sport teams, chocolate appreciation societies, Dungeons and Dragons, and so much more, so get out and do something!

If you are attending university next year and are looking for a way to step out of your comfort zone, I would recommend going to a toga party. There is definitely nothing more uncomfortable than wearing a bed sheet around people you have only just met, but I bet you won’t regret it!

no toga no party - college toga partiesUntil next time,
Tom

Studying with technology

I didn’t grow up with technology. As I have grown older, especially since I started studying at uni, it has been thrust upon me. I grew up in a generation where the most exciting technological innovation was colour television (1975), after having spent most of my childhood watching cartoons in black and white. I know it doesn’t sound that exciting in today’s terms, but you have to understand that, at the time, colour TV was cutting-edge stuff.

original computer

So, you must appreciate that trying to understand the digital world that we now all live in can be a little bit of struggle for me at times, although I do try my hardest. I have a confession to make. Before I started writing these blogs, I didn’t even know what a blog was and had to ask. Oh, I had a very basic understanding of computers, but I do mean very basic. I used emails and I was familiar with what a keyboard was but, unfortunately, that was the limit of my knowledge. I was not a complete fool because I was enlightened with regards to the any key.

press any key

At this point in my life, I would definitely consider myself a pre-tech geek. But when I started at uni, I had to learn… and fast! I started off with a copy of Office and sat down day after day in the weeks prior to starting uni trying to figure it all out. ‘I am going to be on top of this technology thing’, I thought. I clicked on this button and that button and even tried screaming at my computer, but I soon realised that the screaming didn’t help. It was frustrating, aggravating and somehow exhilarating, especially when I finally understood something!

When I attended my first week, I realised that simply being able to write an assignment in Word was not enough at uni. They were talking about PowerPoints, Excel, Access, Publisher, MathType, Endnote and wikis. This was a foreign language. I started to wonder whether I had gone to sleep and had woken up in another country. I had serious doubts in the first semester that I would ever get it.

googleit

By the end of Semester One, I had managed to struggle through and, to my great surprise, even did pretty well in my Excel and Access assignments. But Semester Two was just around the corner. Well, it started off again like a broken record (that’s the original MP3 or iPod, for those of you that have never heard of a record): peer reviews, statistics, more PowerPoints and Turnitin. And yet, again, to my great surprise, I made it out the other end of another semester completely unscathed, apart from the occasional caffeine overload.

Now, here I am at the end of my second year with all of the tech frustration behind me… almost! I still forget to save my assignments occasionally as I am writing them and hit the delete key without meaning to. But I now know how to find them hiding on my computer and have just recently set my computer to auto save… I wish someone had told me this was possible two years ago. PowerPoints, Turnitin, blogs, wikis, publisher, MathType, peer reviews, social media, skype and studying online… easy! It all seems so easy now.  I no longer hit the panic button, reach for a strong coffee, go into denial or wish there was another, much more tech-savvy version of me when things go wrong. I now have the answer… Google it!

coping mechanisms

Learning about technology when you didn’t grow up with it can be difficult, but it is possible. In my spare time, apart from the standard boring hobbies that people of my era have, I do enjoy playing computer games. I still don’t understand many of the technologies that are about today and I still don’t have an iPhone, but I now consider myself well on the way to being a full-blown tech geek. Here is a bit of computer humour that I can now understand:

  • Some things man was never meant to know, for everything else there is Google.
  • Failure is not an option – it comes bundled with Windows.
  • You know you’re a geek when you try to shoo a fly away from the monitor with your cursor.

If you didn’t grow up with technology either, I’d love to hear about  your experiences learning how to use tech at uni.

Handy Group Assignment Tips

group assignment hangover referenceWe’ve all been here, haven’t we? The massive group assignment that nobody really wants to take a part in, but we have to because, well… we need to pass the subject! We all know those feels. It’s difficult to trust another person with a particular section or part of the assignment because we just don’t trust that they will do it, or do a good job.

But, I think there are a number of ways to help the group assignment process go more smoothly. I recently completed a 50% group assignment where we had to give a 45-minute presentation to our peers and I think there were a number of things that helped this assignment go relatively well.

To begin with, we’ve all been friends for a number of semesters now, which made things incredibly easy. We already have each other on Facebook, so organising get-togethers wasn’t difficult at all. We all knew each other’s personalities, strengths and weaknesses. If you’re able, I definitely recommend trying to create an assignment group with people you know and, better yet, people you are friends with!

This way, people normally feel relatively guilty if they social loaf, or turn up late to group meetings or don’t do their assigned part of the paper as well as they could. And, of course, it’s easy to tell them that they’re slacking off too (in the nicest way possible of course!).

Try to organise things early. Just like with every assignment, if you leave it to the last minute, it’s going to be difficult, especially with a number of people trying to organise its completion.  For my latest group assignment, we had it completed two weeks before the presentation date, so we had plenty of time to practice our presentation beforehand.

Try and make as many group get-togethers as possible. Texting, phone calls, emails and Facebook messages can only go so far when there are more than 2 of you. And this way, you can really figure out how far the others have gone with their allocated section, as well as brainstorming how to fit each section into the final assignment.

Try to have fun. I know… that sounds crazy, huh? I always try to at least enjoy one part of the assignment if I can. Whether it’s writing the actual paper (on something I really enjoy), or doing a fabulous job of researching, or even that great feeling of presenting on the day and absolutely nailing it! I find I normally get a decent mark on the assignments I enjoy and although that’s obviously not always possible, we can at least try, can’t we?

Having fun in group assignments can be as easy as having a chilled break in the middle of a get-together, going to get a coffee or chatting with your group members about things other than the assignment. This will build team rapport, and make the group assignment just that little bit easier.

I hope these group assignment tips have been useful, and will help you brainstorm some new ways to smash out a group assignment next time you have one!