You are sitting in an overly lit library room at 2:00 AM with 5 people you have been forced to get to know because your professor chose the groups for you. One of the members of your group is enthusiastically explaining that your team really needs to change the color scheme of your powerpoint presentation because all of his other ideas were shut down. You just want to go home and get to sleep.
You might remember this as a really lame experience. But when the time comes for you to use this as an example in an interview, you need to be able to spin it in a positive way. Sure, the heavily debated issue of which smartart template the group would use on slide 7 may not be critical for the rest of your career, and it might be true that you mailed it in on the summary page. What is important is that you avoid acting too cool for school, and you take the positives from this and any other experience you had.
Often times I have encountered people who dismiss teamwork and other projects as unimportant to their career. One individual I have consulted had a college teamwork experience where they were creating a game that incorporated engineering concepts. He proposed an idea he thought both practical and compelling, but was shot down by another person who proposed going with a more conventional idea. As a result, this team experience was a bad one for the client.
Young people do not have the luxury of throwing away experiences because they did not think they lived up to their own personal standards. The individual was an idea-person and tried to explain the story in a way that made him seem like a spurned genius. But the negativity about not getting his way would certainly be damaging in an interview situation.
Although the title of this article is “rosy recollection”, the truth is that looking back on these experiences is more than just positive spin. For all the negativity this person had about not getting his way, he still played his part in the project without further bringing his group down. This is not something many talented young people want to admit, but his ability to be an effective foot soldier was not only important for the group, but also is desirable for companies. Leadership is not just about leading but also the ability to be lead.