The collaboration model for entry-level jobs

Lunch counter

Collaboration is one of today’s must-have skills.  Yet the collaborative model that students typically are taught in schools is, unfortunately, far different from way students will collaborate on their first, entry-level jobs.

Typically the model of collaboration teachers use is based on a boardroom meeting model: All participants getting together decide what’s to be done and divvy up the project’s components. That’s the model corporate CEOs talk about and the model educators experience in their school jobs.

Secondary students and secondary school graduates get rarely are hired for entry-level jobs that involve face-to-face meetings around a conference table. Those boardroom collaborations are rare even for first post-college jobs.

Collaboration in entry-level jobs is much more likely to be about the guy who worked the night shift leaving a message for the guy who works the morning shift: This happened; we took this action; this remains to be done; we notified the boss.

Collaboration in entry-level jobs has three key components:

  • Each worker knows how the work system is organized.
  • Each worker does their own work competently.
  • Each worker notifies her supervisor (and/or the next shift staff) of problems that arose on her shift that may affect their work.

That formula is less like project-based learning than it is like 19th century schooling: Here’s the assignment; do the assignment well; tell your teacher if you can’t complete the assignment on time.

That basic entry-level collaboration model isn’t limited to burger joints and corporate mail rooms.

In a New York Times story, Jon Mooallen writes that Brigham Young University is the place film makers seek entry-level film crew members because BYU students are “committed to a specialty and to collaboration.”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not knocking face-to-face collaboration or project-based learning. However, the simple fact of business life is that people rarely get into the boardroom unless they’ve proved they can work well in the mail room.

Photo Lunch by Carin