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Career Advice

This Is the One Skill That Could Set You Apart

Posted by Heather Huhman

Last Updated June 26, 2016

In any profession, you are going to have a lot of information thrown your way -- in meetings, through emails, and during presentations. Fortunately, laptops and tablets have applications that make it easy to type up every detail.

However, what if you’ve been doing it all wrong? Is it useful to record all of the information being shared if you’re not going to retain key ideas?

A 2016 study from Post-It found that 80 percent of employees say they want note taking training to improve this skill, and here’s why:

Handwriting Notes is Important for Your Career


Handwriting notes is a great way to not only record new concepts, but also retain them.

It starts with school and carries over into your career. Students who take notes on laptops perform worse on conceptual questions than students who take notes longhand, according to studies. The theory is those who take notes on a laptop tend to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words. Without that processing, you’re not really learning at all.

Additionally, laptops and tablets can be distracting. While useful tools, they make it so easy to click over to Facebook or Twitter, causing you to miss key information. This applies whether you’re in school or a business meeting.

Learning to take notes by hand is a skill you can take with you as you advance in your career. It will benefit you, no matter if you’re an intern or an executive.

Learning Through Note Taking

According to the Post-It study, 51 percent of employees and 64 percent of executives admit they’ve forgotten the purpose of a meeting while in it. Employees have also forgotten a person’s name they heard in a meeting, a new idea or concept, and an individual task they were assigned.

Handwriting notes, whether in class or a meeting, is the best way to learn the information, so it is important to develop a system so you do not miss key information. Use symbols or visual cues to call attention to key ideas. While you might decide to use shorthand, staying organized is essential for reviewing your notes later. The more habits like these you form, the better you’ll become at learning through note taking.

Taking Notes At Work

Being a skilled note-taker can improve your job performance in a number of ways. More than half of entrepreneurs write down new ideas by hand, as well as brainstorm solutions to business challenges using written notes, according to the Post-It study. Additionally, 56 percent of employees and 79 percent of execs feel that you’re not fully paying attention during a meeting if you’re not taking notes.

There are methods you can implement to become a more effective note taker in meetings. For example, throughout your notes, draw attention to important deadlines and points of contact. Additionally, use symbols to identify action items to ensure you don’t miss key take-aways.

When the meeting is over, summarize your notes in an email to attendees to highlight important details and next steps. Providing recaps to your team will showcase your attention to detail, and ensure everyone is held accountable for what was discussed.

Taking Notes When Researching Employers

Note taking isn’t just important in your current job. It can be beneficial in the job search as well. It is important to take good notes while researching employers.

You can organize your notes in a number of ways. Make a list of places to learn about the company such as their website, blogs, social media, and company reviews. Create a checklist to make sure you learn all of the important details such as: employee culture, products and services, etc. Use what you’ve learned to write a pros and cons list to determine if this is the employer for you.

By handwriting all of this research, you will retain the information and be able to speak to it intelligently when it comes to your interview.

Taking Notes During An Interview

It’s important to bring a notepad to an interview to jot down key information during an interview. Prepare your notes before the interview by writing three questions you want to ask your interviewer about the position or the company. Ideally, these questions will come from the research you did ahead of time.

During the interview, jot things you won’t want to forget later such as names and positions, key responsibilities mentioned, and key characteristics that make someone good at that job. Since an interview should be more focused on the conversation, don’t worry about being thorough. You don’t need to remember every detail, but when you leave the interviewer, it might be useful to step aside and jot down a summary of any additional information you don’t want to forget.

No matter where you are in your career, whether you are job seeking or happily employed, being a skilled note-taker is essential. Practice makes perfect, so get started by finding the best methods for you.

What are some other tips for taking notes throughout your career? Share in the comments!