Learn to Collaborate (Before You Graduate) in 7 Easy Steps

It’s no secret that employers are looking for people who know how to work on a team and collaborate effectively. Unfortunately, these skills are rarely taught formally: Instead, most of us learn them through things like group projects, presentations and other stuff we dreaded in college. If you’re a student who’s stuck using flash drives and emailing files to classmates (or even worse, yourself!), you need a collaboration intervention.

Here’s an all-too-familiar scenario: Students meet for 5-10 minutes before class, talk about a project, procrastinate like crazy, then forget about the assignment until the last minute. And right before the due date, everyone frantically emails files to each other, with 1 unlucky person responsible for assembling everything into a complete project. In a business, working like this simply wont cut it. To be successful, you have to harness the knowledge of every individual and leverage social technologies to collaborate effectively among a group. Even though it may have worked in college, procrastination at work is a fast track to failure.

Luckily, you can take advantage of useful tools to break the cycle of group project fatigue – and learn how to work using the cloud. Here are some quick ways to dramatically improve your collaboration skills and prepare yourself for employment after graduation.

Seven steps to becoming a super collaborator:

1. Create a folder for your class, and put all of your content – like research papers, notes and lecture recordings – in a central location. You can also invite other students to you folder, making it easy for them to leave you feedback or upload a new version of a document.

2. Instead of carrying around a flash drive and hoping you'll remember to throw it in your bag, upload all of your files to Box. Your files will be accessible on your laptop, smartphone, tablet and at the computer lab.

3. Don’t worry about file formats or what software you have installed. With Box, file formats like Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, MP3 and PDF can be previewed and viewed directly in the browser.

4. When you need to make changes or updates to a document, use social features to have a discussion, assign tasks and respond to other people. In this example, I added a comment to the file to say what sections I’ll work on and assigned the rest of the assignment to a team member, all while tracking everything in Google calendar. That same calendar syncs with my iPhone and iPad, helping me balance my schedule.

5. Share links to files, folders and content directly without attaching giant files to an email. With Box, you can share a file (like the PowerPoint below) as a hyperlink on Facebook, Twitter, IM or your student portal.

6. If you can’t find a file from a previous class or long forgotten project, use Box’s search engine to discover content you and team members have uploaded. You can also use tags to build advanced searches to find all your notes from Biology, or even your entire spring semester.

7. Edit content directly on Box using native applications like Photoshop, iMovie, MATLAB and Excel by using Box edit. If you can edit it on your desktop, you can edit it without leaving Box. Box Edit is an official Box app in beta that you can download today.

If you'd like to explore this further, AIIM President John Mancini published a great (free!) book called “The OccupyIT Manifesto” about the challenges that businesses face and how students can prepare themselves to address them. He identifies commitment to the cloud, mobility, social technology and engagement as key areas for future workers to focus on. Using Box is one easy way to make yourself a better student while learning skills you’ll need when you join the workforce. Graduation may seem far away now, but it'll be here before you know it!

Have tips for other students or recent grads? Leave them in the comments below.