In the past, I have worked at a number of employers as a Computer Programmer. In terms of the number of people these companies employed, my employers ranged in size from small to large. The Information Technology departments within these employers was directly proportional with their size, so I can safely say that I have worked in departments of varying sizes, from small to large.
In the larger departments, the employees were grouped into teams. In smaller departments, there were only a few teams, and in one case, the department was so small that there was only 1 team.
No matter what the size of the Information Technology department I was in, I was always a member of a team. Once I was given an assignment, the boundaries between working as part of a team versus working independently became harder to identify. It was up to me to determine what parts of my assignment were dependent on other team members, as opposed to those that were my responsibility. And of course, when working as part of a team, I had to be ready to help other team members whenever they were dependent on me.
I am pretty sure that this is the case in almost all other fields of employment. It is the same when one is out of work, although the “team” that a job-seeker works with is not as clearly defined.
But the important thing is to be able to work on a team. Anybody can work independently. An example of this was when I was in grade school. Back then, there was one thing I did constantly. It’s called homework. I had to do my homework, and not have someone else do it for me. Oh, I asked for help when I needed it, and I usually got it. But again, most of the time, like all of us when we were in grade school, I worked independently.
The team sports that I played in back then gave me some experience being a part of a team, but it was an experience I had some time later that gave me a valuable lesson in teamwork. For 5 years, early in my adult life, I was a member of a square dance club. I knew virtually nothing about square dancing when I got my first lesson. I discovered I liked it, and several months later, I found myself signing up for lessons at a square dance club.
In square dancing, you have a partner. You and your partner are in a square with 3 other couples. This makes for a total of 8 people in a square. In a way, you are part of a team. When you are just learning how to square dance, the best thing for you is to be in a square where the other 7 in the square know more about square dancing than you do. You will make mistakes. (That’s what all of us do when we are “just learning” something.) There will always be at least 1 person in that square who will be willing to help you, and show you the right way to perform a square dance move. There are reasons for this. One, square dancers are generally very helpful people. And two, they want to keep the square going, and not have it break down. (Also, they are practicing their square dance moves, as well as showing their teamwork.) As a result of this, I became very good at square dancing.
It has been a few years since I last went square dancing. But the lesson in teamwork that I learned from that experience is something that I have kept with me. I hope that I can display that teamwork in other areas of my life and in my job-search experience as well.
Dave Vandermey is a web developer.