What it means to work well on your own and as part of a team

“I work equally well on my own and as part of a team.”

This type of sentence features on so many CVs. If you haven’t used it yourself, I’m sure you’re aware of it. But what does the statement really mean? Is it simply a generic way of saying that you’re great in all working situations?

Working

Before going any further, the best way to demonstrate is to give examples and tell stories. Don’t just tell everyone you can do something. Go further. Prove it!

Before you do that, check out the following 8 ideas behind what it means to work well, no matter what your circumstances are. Work out what it means to have the ability at both ends and demonstrate how you achieved these things by using examples. Use the ideas below as a framework to your own stories.

  1. You understand different needs – Some tasks are all about YOU. The less you can bother others and interrupt their day, the better. Other tasks are joint efforts. The point is to include and to allow everyone a say. When you can comfortably assess what is required in each situation as it comes up, you’re moving towards great things.
  2. You know when to delegate – “If you want a job done well, do it yourself.” – This comment won’t win you a prize on a team effort. First, you’re (hopefully) not arrogant enough to think that you’re better than everybody else. Second, if you keep all the work to yourself on a joint task, you’re liable to burning out and not being appreciated by anyone else in the group. When you know how to work to your strengths and encourage others to work to theirs, that is a leadership quality right there.
  3. You can deal with many personalities – Working with others can be colourful at times. Rise above petty arguments, calm situations before they get heated, and happily handle difficult characters so that people want you on their side.
  4. You are self-starting when working alone and empathetic when working with others – The way you work as an individual is different to how you behave within a team. When you say you’re equally comfortable working on your own as you are with a group, that doesn’t mean you act in the same way. Far from it. It’s not about consistency, it’s about adapting to specific needs.
  5. You don’t always need your hand held – When you can be trusted to deliver without constant checking, you’re doing something right. People don’t want to have to chase you up every few minutes. They value a self-starting attitude that looks several steps ahead and predicts what people will want from a project.
  6. You stand out without relentlessly stamping your own brand on to everything – Teams may have a leader and that leader may not always be you. Can you deal with that? And when a team has no direct leader, would you rather take control or help everyone play to their strengths? If you’re an invisible leader who brings out the best in everyone without anyone noticing (perhaps not even yourself), then all the better.
  7. You acknowledge your weaknesses as well as your strengths – This helps you delegate where necessary, ask for help when needed, and show that you’re serious. Admitting you don’t know is not a weakness; acknowledging the weakness is a strength that can help you grow stronger each day. It’s easy to bluff your way through, but that doesn’t help anyone. At best, you’ll learn nothing and get away with a poor decision. At worst…well, all sorts can happen and it could impact more people than just yourself.
  8. You’re willing to engage, not argue – By accepting others and maintaining an open mind, there is no harm in questioning other people’s decisions, so long as you question your own and take on board anything that you hadn’t considered. When you realise that confirmation is a danger we all have to overcome, you’re in a much better position to fight it. You’ll be surprised at how freeing it can be to notice new things that have the power to change your view. Help others to realise that where you can. It’s difficult, but doable. Don’t let uphill struggles put you off!

After checking through this list, I’m sure you can think of some great examples from your own life to tell your story effectively. What stories are you going to tell?

4 comments

  1. I loved this post because it really breaks down all the buzzwords that we keep hearing around us all the time. Sometimes as students, we find ourselves putting these in our CV without making sure they actually apply to us.

    I’d love to see this as a series where you take some common CV jargon and explains what it all actually means.

    1. Great point! The buzzwords aren’t in themselves amazing. It’s how you demonstrate your capability around them that creates the real buzz.

      I like your idea about a possible series. What phrases stand out for you as needing attention?

      1. Well this could be a possible starting point-

        http://www.youtern.com/thesavvyintern/index.php/2014/01/09/the-most-overused-buzzwords-on-linkedin-profiles-infographic/

        I do agree with the article when it says ‘responsible’ is the most overused of them all. I find that we tend to use it for casual jobs that we don’t really enjoy. ‘Motivated’, ‘driven’ and ‘enthusiastic’ also stand out when we’re trying to show that we REALLY want this job.

  2. I agree, a series on this would be really useful and an interesting read!
    It’s always good to add situations that you have had to deal with into your CV to avoid sounding too generic and to prove that you aren’t just making a sweeping statement to make yourself sound valuable.

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