TIME Careers & Workplace

6 Body Language Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making

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How to make sure you’re always sending the right message to your colleagues

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

You’ve got a pretty mean poker face. You wouldn’t have made it this far in your career if you hadn’t become the master of stifling an ill-timed laugh or shaping your blank stare into something a little more musing.

But science has shown that’s not enough. Princeton University researchers have demonstrated that we subconsciously rely on body language more than facial expression for identifying emotions. This supports the oft-cited statistic produced by Dr. Albert Mehrabian, noted pioneer of nonverbal communication, that body language accounts for 55% of the messages you communicate.

Maybe you’ve heard a few maxims from HR professionals—“Don’t cross your arms,” or “maintain good eye contact”—but you don’t know exactly why these moves are so important in your work relationships. Well, it’s time you found out!

Here are the six body language moves that can seriously sabotage collaboration—and how to make sure you’re always sending the right message to your colleagues.

1. Pointing Your Feet Away From Others

Dr. Carol Kinsey Gorman suggests that while you’ll usually focus on the face you’re making as well as your upper body, you often ignore your feet—which are often just as telling of your emotional intentions.

You might think that sounds absurd: Who would notice something as trivial as where your feet are pointing? But foot-positioning is a signal that we all register subconsciously in social situations. For example, maybe your body is facing the person you’re talking to, but your feet—or even just one foot—are pointing away from him or her. This is an obvious signal that you’ve already checked out of the conversation.

So, next time you’re trying to look fully engaged, make sure that both of your feet are pointed at the person you’re speaking with.

2. Crossing Your Legs, Arms, or Feet

Unsurprisingly, physically closing yourself off suggests to others that you’re also mentally closed off. Crossed arms, for example, are often perceived as a signal of distance, insecurity, anxiety, defensiveness, or stubbornness.

If you want to encourage open communication and participation, you have to first signal that you’re open and engaged. Standing at the front of a room giving a speech? Focus on your body language and resist the urge to cross your arms or legs while taking questions.

That said, while crossing your arms isn’t good in a group setting, it does have its neurological benefits. Research completed by Ron Friedman and Andrew J. Elliott found that individuals are 30% more likely to stay on a difficult task if their arms are crossed. So, feel free to cross your arms while you think—in the privacy of your own cubicle.

3. Striking a Power Pose

Power posing—or puffing up your chest and stretching out your limbs to make yourself seem larger—is great way to pump yourself up, whether before a job interview or prior to public speaking.

But, doing this in public is equally as likely to stifle collaboration as closing yourself off. Connson Locke and Cameron Anderson recently published a study that showed that leaders who demonstrate a powerful demeanor inadvertently stifle participation. Locke and Anderson found that the more powerful a demeanor the leader displayed, the less likely followers were to participate in joint discussions.

So, if you want to hear what your team thinks, lean in toward others while they’re speaking, especially if you’re seated or at a table, which signals that you’re interested and invested in the conversation. Resist the urge to strike an alpha pose: If Superman would do it, save it for when you’re flying solo.

4. Looking Uninterested (or Too Intently)

Yes, it’s obvious that ignoring people will make them feel, well, ignored. You’d never do that. You may multitask, but—oh wait—yes, reading emails while listening to someone is the same as flat-out ignoring him or her.

The thing is, it just doesn’t look like you’re invested in the conversation. Remember that 55% of communication we talked about earlier? Even if you’re listening, you’re sending the message that you’re not interested. So, put down your laptop, phone, or any other distractions, and make eye contact with your colleagues.

Just don’t go so far as to overdo the eye contact. In a recent study, psychologists Julia Minson and Frances Chen demonstrated that people are less likely to be persuaded to agree with you when you make eye contact—it triggers a primal reaction, and people feel like you’re trying to dominate them. Experts suggest that making eye contact about 60% of the time is optimal.

5. Forgetting to Nod

Nodding is almost universally perceived as a sign of encouragement and acceptance. Robotics researchers seeking to facilitate smooth human-robot interaction have identified head nodding and tilting as essential components of successful dialogue.

If nodding can humanize a robot, imagine what it can do for you!

While leadership experts may advise against nodding (as it detracts from your leonine image), it’s an essential tool for encouraging collaboration. Particularly when asking a shy employee to contribute, nod or tilt your head to establish agreement and encouragement.

6. Failing to Mirror

Limbic synchrony, or “mirroring,” naturally occurs in conversations when you feel connected and engaged. Mirroring is as it sounds—it means reflecting the gestures and postures of the person you’re engaging with. On the flip side, a failure to mirror the body language of your team members subconsciously communicates disengagement and dissent.

For example, if you notice a notoriously hard to engage co-worker is resting his chin in his palm while he listens, you might do the same. Look to see if your teammates are taking notes, or if a potential client uses a lot of hand gestures when she speaks (or none at all). Mirroring these actions will make others feel more comfortable with you.

Additionally, scientists at Stanford University found that “matching” gestures between team members was indicative of increased creativity and problem-solving. Scientists tasked a pair with brainstorming and found that the more a team’s movements were synchronized, the more creative the ideas the pair came up with.

Sometimes, it can feel like you’re just not clicking with your team. Practicing the techniques above can help you be more successful with future collaborations.

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Here’s How You Can Answer ‘Is There Anything Else You’d Like Us to Know?’

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Either make the final point about your skills, or really spell out how your experiences make you an excellent candidate for the position

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

Sometimes you can tell when you’re making a really good impression during an interview. But, let’s not get cocky. We both know that as you’re wrapping up, full of confidence and eager to move forward in the process, you’ll get hit with something out of the blue, like, “Is there anything else you’d like us to know?”

“Only that you should hire me—immediately!” is, unfortunately, not usually what interviewers are looking for. So, what are they seeking when they toss this your way? A couple things, actually.

Really—Is There Anything Else?

Good news! Interviewers aren’t actually out to get you with trick questions—or at least most of them aren’t. Usually, they really are interested in what you think your strengths are or how you handle failure. Given that, your interviewer very likely just wants to give you a chance to mention anything that he or she has neglected to ask you. After all, most hiring managers are not expert interviewers. They’re experts at whatever their actual job is.

This means that you should take this question as an invitation to mention anything relevant that you didn’t get a chance to. Try starting with, “We’ve definitely covered a lot already, but I do want to mention my experience with…” This last thing might be a relevant experience that’s a bit older or a skill that you’ve honed that was never brought up in conversation. If this goes into a longer discussion, that’s great. If not, conclude with something like, “And, of course, I just want to reiterate how excited I am about the position.”

Can You Summarize Your Qualifications for Me?

Okay, your interviewers might not be consciously thinking this when they ask you if there’s anything else you want to share, but they’ll definitely appreciate it. Plus, summarizing your qualifications for your interviewer means you won’t have to be that person who says, “Nope, there’s nothing else to know.”

Begin your response with, “I think we’ve covered most of it, but just to summarize, it sounds like you’re looking for someone who can really hit the ground running. And with my previous experience [enumerate experience here], I think I’d be a great fit.” The key here is to not go into to much detail since, ideally, you’ve covered it all already. After you’ve made your case for being a good fit, finish up by pointing out your enthusiasm for the company—this is a great way to wrap up an interview, and it just never hurts.

Whether you do have something else to bring up or not, use the “Is there anything else you’d like us to know?” question as your invitation to finish strong. Either make that final point about your skills, or really spell out how your experiences make you an excellent candidate for the position. Whatever you do, don’t let this opportunity go to waste.

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How You Can Turn a Job Rejection Into Another Job Offer

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Every opportunity is a networking opportunity, and every job interview can lead to a job

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

Having managed a fellowship program, I know what it’s like to meet an applicant and think she’s awesome—but not quite as qualified as someone else. Often, I would go out of my way to help these candidates—pointing them toward other resources or, if they really impressed me, introducing them to the manager of another program or someone at Career Services.

Turns out, this can happen in the real world, as well.

Many would say that, when you interview for a job and find out you don’t get it, that’s the end of the story. But think about it: If you’ve made it to the final rounds of an interview process, you’ve clearly impressed the hiring manager. And, having spent several hours discussing your work experience, skills, and goals, you’ve built a professional (albeit new) relationship. So, why not use this person as a tool in your ongoing job hunt?

Recently, I did just that. After a great (but not so great that it landed me the job) interview process, I networked with my interviewer and asked him to connect me to other positions. And it worked.

Read on for my story and the steps to take if you want to try this approach for yourself.

Step 1: Rock the Interview Process

Every stage of the hiring process is an opportunity to make your best impression. For starters, I stepped out of my comfort zone and wrote a more creative cover letter than I ever had before. (I referred to this article while I wrote it!) I wanted to get noticed—and I did.

My application skipped past the job I was applying for and was sent to the CEO. He said he’d like to talk to me about a different position—designing and running the program I’d applied to write for.

I took copious notes during my phone interview, after which I was asked to submit a proposal for how I’d run the new initiative. I’d been burned by such an assignment a few weeks prior: I’d been asked to come up with solutions to fix a program as part of a hiring process—and the person interviewing me took my ideas and cut off all communication. But this ask felt a lot more legitimate, and I decided the opportunity was worth the risk. I couched it in a way that made sure I was still the piece that made the proposal work together, but made it enough of a window into my thinking that he could tell that I could hit the ground running and do something special.

I submitted the proposal, made it to the final round, and then, I didn’t get the job. It could have ended there—but it didn’t.

Step 2: Look for Positive Reinforcement

Here’s where got me thinking: You always hear that your network is a critical piece of your job search, because your network is made up of people who believe in you. So, what happens when you win someone over, make her believe in you, but simply aren’t applying for the right post at the right time? What happens when she thinks you’re talented, but that you just couldn’t do a specific job as well as someone else?

Over the course of this hiring process, he got to know me better than someone I’d meet an event and follow up with over coffee. He had insight into my critical thinking, people skills, writing ability, and strict adherence to deadlines.

I knew this CEO believed in me, because he told me so. He told me he loved my cover letter, because it showed passion. When I submitted my proposal, he praised me for being the first applicant to turn it in (despite being the last one to interview and therefore having the least amount of time). When he reviewed the proposal, he said I had great ideas. Even when sharing that I didn’t get the job, he took the time to tell me that he had no doubt I could do it, but I had lost out to a firm who already had an entire staff in place. He even ended my rejection email wishing me success and saying, “I hope our paths cross again.”

So, I knew he was a fan of my candidacy.

To be clear, if you follow up with someone who hasn’t told you he believes in you, you’re wasting your time as well as his—and can easily cross into nuisance territory. It would be downright awkward to try to call upon an interviewer as a trusted connection if you never established a connection beyond setting a date and time for the interview.

But if you did have that connection? Proceed.

Step 3: Follow Up

So, I had just received an email that told me I did great, but didn’t get the position. I had three options: I could not respond; I could write, “Thank you for letting me know,” and leave it at that; or I could ask if he knew of any additional opportunities. Part of what inspired me to go with the third option is that I’d originally applied for a lower-level role.

So here’s what I wrote:

Thank you for your email and kind words. I enjoyed learning more about [company], and should there be a more appropriately suited writing or editing opportunity in future (including freelance and/or part-time), I hope you’ll keep me in mind.

It was brief. It was proportionate to the connection. And, best of all, it worked.

Four minutes later, the CEO emailed me back that he’d be happy to make an introduction to the firm he’d given the contract to. The next thing I knew, the co-founder of that firm emailed to say that I’d been referred by my new contact. She requested writing samples and said that she’d love to have me join her team.

Basically, the CEO had done the legwork for me. He vouched for my candidacy, and I ended up landing the job he referred me for.

Even better, that job gave me my start in the sector, and opened the door for additional paid writing and editing opportunities down the road—which I plan to tell him when we meet for coffee this week.

The moral of the story is that every opportunity is a networking opportunity, and every job interview can lead to a job—even if it’s not the one you applied for. So put your best foot forward, and if you know someone is in your corner, ask him to help.

Oh, and regardless? Always say, “thank you.”

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Here’s What You Really Need to Advance Your Career

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“Mentors give you perspective while sponsors give you opportunities”

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

If you want to advance your career, having a mentor isn’t enough anymore. Don’t get me wrong—mentors are wonderful. They help you gain critical skills, navigate you through challenges at work, and offer a sounding board when you’re at a crossroads in your career. But if you aspire to climb higher in this modern and competitive climate, you’ll need a sponsor as well.

In the article, “Why You Need a Sponsor—Not a Mentor—to Fast-Track Your Career,” for Business Insider, author Jenna Goudreau says, “Four recent studies clearly show that sponsorship—not mentorship—is how power is transferred in the workplace.”

As a general manager in the medical devices industry once described to me, “A sponsor is someone who will use his or her internal political and social capital to move your career forward within an organization. Behind closed doors, he or she will argue your case.” Millette Granville, Director of Diversity and Inclusion with Delhaize America described a sponsor as “an influential spokesperson for what you are capable of doing.”

But what’s the difference between a mentor and a sponsor? Heather Foust-Cummings, a vice president with Catalyst Research Center for Equity in Business Leadership, explained it this way: “A mentor will talk with you, but a sponsor will talk about you.”

My friend and Twitter buddy Cate Huston explains it this way: “Mentors give you perspective while sponsors give you opportunities.”

Mentors help you “skill up,” whereas sponsors help you move up. Having the support of a sponsor is like having a safety net, allowing you to confidently take risks like asking for a stretch assignment or a promotion. They provide a protective bubble and can shield you from organizational change like reorganizations or layoffs. And they bring your name up in those high-level talent development discussions that take place behind closed doors. If your career is moving forward, chances are there’s a sponsor behind the scenes, pulling strings on your behalf.

So, how do you get a sponsor? Well, the catch is, that’s not how it typically works—you don’t get to choose the sponsor; the sponsor almost always chooses you.

In a series of reports on sponsorship, Catalyst reported, “There is no ‘silver bullet’ for attracting the attention of a high-level sponsor”—and that’s certainly true. However, through my 15 years of experience coaching emerging leaders to advance their careers, I have recognized that there are certain behaviors that can swing the odds in your favor and make it more likely that a sponsor will choose and advocate for you.

Here are six steps you can take to attract the attention of an influential sponsor:

1. Perform

Great performance must come first. You can’t expect a sponsor to advocate for you and put his or her own reputation on the line to speak up on your behalf if you’re not going above and beyond in your role.

2. Know Who the Good Sponsors Are

This can be tricky, but see if you can identify the leaders in your organization who have a track record of being talent developers and talent scouts. For example, listen for leaders who publicly praise subordinates, back them up on contentious issues, and offer challenging assignments to up-and-comers who have not yet proven themselves. That’s who you want on your side.

3. Raise Your Hand for Exposure Opportunities

You can’t expect a sponsor to put his or her reputation on the line when he or she doesn’t know the quality of your work and what you’re capable of. So, look for a special project working directly for one of the potential sponsors you identified in the previous step, or try to join special task forces or committees he or she serves on. Your goal here is for the sponsor to see you in action and directly experience the quality of work you can deliver.

4. Make Your Value Visible

Whatever you do, don’t be the best-kept secret in the organization! Once you achieve something noteworthy, make your achievements visible to your leaders.

For example, if you bump into a potential sponsor the cafeteria line, ask how he or she is doing. Chances are he or she will ask you the same, so have a ready-to-share sound bite about a recent accomplishment, so you can respond, “I’m doing well. I just heard I’ve been nominated for engineer of the year!”

And re-write your elevator speech so that every time you introduce yourself, you’ll be showcasing your leadership skills and the value you add to your organization. (Here’s how.)

5. Have Clear Career Goals

You must have clarity about your career goals! There’s little chance a sponsor is going to know what opportunities to match you with if you don’t even know what you want for yourself.

6. Share Your Career Goals With Your Leaders

This is the clincher. If you are a demonstrated high performer and have clear career goals, sharing those goals with your manager, your mentors, and leaders can often be enough to enlist their sponsorship.

A final word of advice comes from Granville, who says, “Sponsorship can come to you in different ways. You never know who is watching you, so be ‘sponsor-ready’ at all times.”

So what are you waiting for? Use these six items as a checklist to determine what action to take, and go grab the attention of an influential sponsor!

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What to Do When Your Boss Catches You in a Lie

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Strive for open, honest communication in your employee-manager relationship

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

Everyone can pretty much agree that lying isn’t a good practice, especially when it comes to lying to your boss.

But occasionally, it can seem necessary—like when you say you need to take a long lunch for a dentist appointment, when you’re really meeting a friend for, well, a long lunch.

It can also happen in a moment of panic—like when your boss suddenly asks if you’ve contacted that client you said you would, and you immediately say yes, even though it’s definitely still an unchecked task on your to-do list.

Initially, those lies seem pretty innocuous. As long as you’re careful and cover your tracks (and bump that client call to the top of your to-do list), your boss should never find out.

Right?

Except it doesn’t always work that way. There are times, no matter how careful you are, when your boss will catch you in a lie. He or she will, for example, happen to walk by your tucked-away table at the restaurant (“This doesn’t look like the dentist’s office”) or receive an email from that client you promised to call, stating that no one has contacted her in weeks. And all of a sudden, you’re caught red-handed.

So in those situations, to avoid gaining a reputation of being a deceptive, untrustworthy employee (or, um, getting fired), how can you recover? Here are the steps to take.

Step #1: Avoid Extending the Lie

When your boss catches you in a lie, it’s going to be tempting to try to get yourself out of the awkward situation by lying again. For example, in the client call situation, when your boss confronts you about not actually contacting the client, you may say, “Well, you’re right, I didn’t get to speak to the client because, you see, I did call, but her secretary said she was in a meeting and wouldn’t be available for the rest of the day.”

But if you’re caught in an ever deeper hole (e.g., your boss finds out that the client actually wasn’t in a meeting that day—or doesn’t even have a secretary), things will get exponentially worse.

Step #2: Start With an Apology

Instead, start with an apology. A simple “I’m sorry I wasn’t honest about that” will work—just make sure it’s genuine and conveys your remorse.

Step #3: Offer an Explanation

Then, explain what your thought process was. Most of the time, there’s something not-so-malicious behind the lie.

For example, maybe you wanted to take a long lunch because you were meeting a friend you hadn’t seen in a long time and wanted to make sure you had plenty of time to catch up.

Or, in the case of the client call, maybe you were simply anxious about getting in touch with the client because you know she’s unhappy with the company, and you were unsure about how to handle it.

Will either explanation excuse you 100% from a lie? No. But it adds a human element to the situation and will allow your boss to see the issue from your eyes. And while he or she may still not be very happy about it, he or she will better understand where you were coming from, which can help aid the reconciliation process.

Step #4: Explain Your Immediate Plans

If there’s an issue that needs to be addressed immediately, make sure your boss knows what you plan on doing and in what time frame. You could, for example, say, “I’d like to discuss the approach I should take on the client call. Once I have your advice, I will call her this afternoon and send you a follow-up email to let you know how it went.”

In those couple sentences, you’ve assured your boss how you’re going to remedy the situation and offered him or her assurance that it will get done—because you’ve committed to that follow-up email.

Step #5: …And What You’ll Do Next Time

Then, make sure your boss knows how you’ll approach this kind of situation in the future: “If I’m unsure about another client situation in the future, I’ll make sure to come to you for guidance immediately.”

Or, “If I’d like to take a long lunch, I’ll clear it with you first and make sure I come in early or stay late to make sure the rest of my work for the day gets completed.” You’ll show your boss that you’re dedicated to your work—and you’ll avoid problems in the future.

Of course, it’s best to avoid lying to your boss in the first place. Strive for open, honest communication in your employee-manager relationship, and you should feel comfortable talking to your boss about anything—which will eliminate the need for most lies in the first place.

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This Is the Absolute Perfect Way to Describe Yourself

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Know these four points and you're well on your way

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It’s been scientifically proven that talking about yourself makes your brain happy. Then why is it always so hard to write a professional bio for yourself?

That blinking cursor can be a nemesis when you have lots to share but you don’t know where to begin and you don’t want to bore anyone away by saying too much.

Don’t sweat it! You can write a bio that sends the right message and sounds like the true “you.” Here are four things to keep in mind.

1. Know Your Audience

When you’re writing your bio, you’re likely thinking about, well, you. But a better starting point is to think about who will be reading it.

Imagine a specific individual who will read your bio, and write for her. For instance, let’s say you’re on an alumni panel for your college. Student attendees will want to know what they should be doing now to get the career you have. In this case, your bio should reflect less of your day-to-day work responsibilities and more of the past campus activities and classes that helped you get the job.

The same applies for the bio on your company’s website. If you’ve been asked to write your own, think of a client who will visit the office. What should he know about potentially working on a project with you?

When you approach the process from the standpoint of what people will want to know about you—not how to condense your life story into two paragraphs—things tend to get a whole lot easier.

2. Know Yourself

Your bio shouldn’t be a laundry list of accomplishments; that’s what your resume is for. Instead, use it to show the person behind the accolades. You are more than your job role (especially if you have a trendy startup title; I’m looking at you ninjas and rock stars), so think about the strengths that make you good at what you do.

For example, in all of my jobs since college, I’ve been responsible for writing PowerPoint decks and documents to persuade others about ideas. “Strategy” has been in my job titles, but since that word has so many different meanings, I decided to focus on “story” when I talk about what I do. While “story” is also a general term, I’ve found that it connects better with the kind of help my clients and potential clients are seeking. The person who is thinking “my company’s story needs some work” is exactly who I want to reach.

Knowing yourself also means knowing your voice. Be authentic. Write about what you know best and write the way that you talk. If your bio readers ever meet you in person, they should feel as if they already knew you. One note of caution though: unless you are a comedian on the side, avoid using humor in your writing. If you can confuse tone when reading text messages, missing tone when reading a joke can be just as bad. (See Key & Peele for Exhibit A.)

3. Know Your Limits

Just as your resume is best when it fits on just one page, the person requesting your bio will also require a certain length. Whether it is two sentences, two paragraphs, or 200 words, respect the limit and challenge yourself to write just 50% of what is asked.

Why? Two reasons.

First, because your bio will be listed alongside others. If yours is noticeably shorter than the others but still packs a punch, it is more likely to get read (and remembered). Not to mention that event organizers may chop your bio down arbitrarily if you don’t follow their rules.

Second, because everything needs a second draft. Don’t just throw something together and send it off. Write it, sleep on it, then come back to it and ask: “Would I want to meet me?” Your bio should sound as close to your voice as possible (note: ask your organizer if it is appropriate to write in the first person) and leave room for intrigue. And when you catch yourself listing your fifth award, cut it short and write “Ask me about being a Rhodes Scholar” (if you’ve been one, of course!).

4. Know Your Clichés

When you spend nearly a third of your life at work, it’s easy to forget that the rest of the world doesn’t speak your industry’s language.

Use your bio to share facts and impact in plain English. Instead of saying you “managed multiplatform brand extensions to increase reach among P12-17,” say that you helped a brand reach a bigger audience of teenagers by being an effective project manager.

To be safe, before sending your bio to publish, double check to make sure none of your copy sounds like you wrote it in Corporate Ipsum, Startup Ipsum, or Social Good Ipsum.

If you’re still having trouble after trying these tips, give the Twitter Bio Generator a spin. You may not be a “Future teen idol” or “Freelance bacon nerd,” but you can get some good inspiration (or pretend to be one and get folks interested that way!).

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4 Things Networking Can Help You Do (Besides Get a Job)

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Networking will benefit you no matter what stage of your career you’re in

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

How many times have you been told how important networking is? Plenty, I’m sure. So, at this point, you know that who you know can be the difference between you getting that new gig or not.

But, if that’s not motivation enough for you to go out and meet new people, here are four more ways networking can help you, beyond just growing your network in preparation for you next big career opportunity.

1. Gather Info on the Industry

Whether you’re changing industries or furthering your knowledge of your current one, networking and conducting informational interviews are a great way to figure out what’s going on in your field of interest.

Ask people you meet or sit down with about their recent challenges and accomplishments or about trends they’re seeing in their work. In particular, if something big has recently happened in your industry, see what your conversation partner thinks of the impact it might have on the field as a whole. You’ll get a much broader perspective if you expand the conversation beyond your own friends and officemates.

2. Learn From the Wins (and Mistakes) of Others

Sometimes it can be difficult to get people talking, even if you’re meeting one-on-one and not at some large awkward networking event. If this is happening to you, try asking the person you’re networking with about his or her successes and failures. Of course, you don’t want to say, “Tell me about a time you failed”—so try asking if, looking back on his career, if there’s anything he would do differently, or if there’s anything she would definitely recommend to people just starting out in the field.

Don’t feel weird asking about personal experiences. There’s plenty to be learned from the achievements and mistakes of others, and people love to talk about themselves.

3. Get Free Career Advice

Another bonus of networking is the chance to get some free career advice. Chatting with more experienced professionals in your industry of interest gives you the chance to ask them what they think of the career moves you’ve been mulling over.

Aside from getting good advice (here’s how to know if it’s not), it’s also a great way to show people your admiration. You wouldn’t be asking for advice if you didn’t respect their opinions, right?

4. Bounce Ideas Off People

You can also take the advice seeking a step further and bounce ideas off of people you meet through networking. Maybe you have an ambitious work-related project that you want to pitch to your boss or a presentation you’re thinking about submitting to an upcoming conference. Seeing what other industry professionals have to say can help you refine your argument and think through weak points.

This is also a great way to show off your skills a bit. Sharing some of your ideas gives you an opportunity to talk about your expertise and the issues that you care about. It’s usually easier to talk about your ideas than it is to talk about yourself, so if you feel weird tooting your own horn, this can be a good strategy.

Bottom line: There’s no excuse to not be networking. You stand to benefit from it no matter what stage of your career you’re in. And, if none of these four reasons appeal to you, consider this final perk of networking: helping people. Maybe you won’t directly benefit this time around, but helping someone else out has its own intrinsic value.

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How to Show Off Your Promotions On Your Resume

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Moving up at a company shows that you’re a high performer, you achieve results, and you’re a loyal and dedicated employee

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

I think we’d all agree that there’s nothing bad about getting promoted or landing a better position at your company.

Except, well, figuring out how to list it on your resume.

When you’ve moved from a position at Company A to a new position at Company B, fleshing out your “Experience” section is pretty straightforward. But if you’ve moved up in your department or switched roles within your organization, there are a couple options.

The good news? If you can show your advancement right, you’ll get a gold star in the eyes of a hiring manager. Read on for a super-quick guide for how to showcase your experience in the best possible light—and land that next big thing.

If the Jobs Were Similar in Nature

If two or more of your jobs were very similar in nature (e.g., you were promoted from associate editor to editor, but your overall job duties pretty much stayed the same), stack the job titles together under the company header, like this:

The Walt Disney Company, Los Angeles, CA

Editor (January 2012-Present)

Associate Editor (January 2011-January 2012)

  • Bullet 1
  • Bullet 2
  • Bullet 3

The bullets you include should describe your most high-level and impressive accomplishments during your tenure at both of these roles combined—not each individually. Remember our #1 resume tip: “Think of your resume not as a comprehensive list of your career history, but as a marketing document selling you as the perfect person for the job.” In other words, even if your duties slightly shifted when you changed positions, it’s more important to highlight your best work than to spell out all of your job duties in those early days.

You can also include a bullet that expands upon the accomplishments that led to your promotion (for example, “Promoted within 12 months for exceptional client relations and leadership skills”). This makes it clear to the hiring manager that your move wasn’t just a matter of happenstance (or someone else leaving)—you earned it.

If the Jobs Were Pretty Different

On the other hand, if the jobs you’ve held at your company were in different roles (e.g., you moved from marketing coordinator to associate editor), list the company once but break out the job titles, treating them like two different positions:

The Walt Disney Company, Los Angeles, CA

Associate Editor (January 2012-Present)

  • Bullet 1
  • Bullet 2
  • Bullet 3

Marketing Coordinator (May 2011-January 2012)

  • Bullet 1
  • Bullet 2
  • Bullet 3

Again, for each position, you’ll want to describe your biggest accomplishments and experience that most relates to the positions you’re applying for. And if the new role was a step up, rather than a lateral move, be sure to make that clear, saying something like: “Promoted within company because of demonstrated project leadership skills.”

You’ll also want to use this format if you’re applying in an online system, where you’re asked to include a description of your experience for each role. In this case, you may have to input the company’s information each time—but that’s OK. Even if it’s repetitive, the hiring manager will see that you’ve moved up within the same company (and be impressed).

Moving up at a company shows that you’re a high performer, you achieve results, and you’re a loyal and dedicated employee. Make sure your resume tells that story—and you’re bound to land an interview.

More from The Muse:

TIME Careers & Workplace

The Most Important Thing You’re Not Doing at Work (and How to Get Started)

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Make a weekly appointment to go over your notes

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

“Write this down—it’s going to be on the final exam,” said no boss ever.

Note-taking is an unsung challenge of moving from school to the workplace—we’re in a completely new environment, with totally different reasons for note-taking and different needs for how we’ll use our notes later on, yet most of us are relying on the methods we used in our high school history class.

And while it’s rare that anyone will lose a job for not taking notes on something, the small, ongoing effect of bad notes (or skipping notes completely) can really hurt your career. How many times have you had to email your boss, a colleague, or a client asking a question about something she talked about in a meeting the other day because you forgot it? That’s hurting that relationship—not to mention everyone’s productivity. (Side note: Here are a few more things that bosses really don’t like.)

On the flip side, taking notes is an incredible way to show respect to people. It shows you’re listening and that you think what they are saying is important. Your notes serve as your guide to doing your job better, too; you can easily refer to the important information you need to succeed whenever you need it, without delay.

And a secret bonus, taking notes actually makes you smarter. When you have a collection of thorough, thoughtful notes all in one place (that you actually revisit from time to time), you start to see connections between things you otherwise wouldn’t have seen and have information that other people don’t retain. This is how you’ll get great ideas, form new connections, and become the kind of innovator and leader who makes things really happen on your team.

All in all, taking notes is a really subtle, but powerful, way to make yourself more successful—but very few of us get any guidance on how to transition our note-taking style to work at work. That’s why today I want to share with you a quick-start guide to taking amazing notes in your professional life.

1. Know When to Take Notes at Work

Not every situation at work calls for note-taking, but there are certainly times when I would highly recommend pulling out your pen and paper. In general, my advice is always to err on the side of taking notes and just decide later whether or not you need to keep them, but here are some of the key times when you’ll want to jot some things down:

One-on-One Meetings

Whether you’re the boss or the employee, taking notes shows you’re taking the time seriously. It’s also a good time to make note of personal details like your manager’s spouse’s name, which is good stuff to remember to help you form a more meaningful relationship with people at work.

Big Conversations

It’s easy to get so wrapped up in what’s going on during a big brainstorming or problem-solving session that you actually don’t retain anything when you walk out of the room. Make a point to take notes, even if you’re participating a lot, to ensure you hold on to critical information.

Client Meetings

Bringing a notebook is always a good idea so you can record every detail a client or customer needs. Better to have too much information and pare it down later than to miss out on something really important.

Meetings With Your Mentors or Contacts

Even a simple coffee meeting should be recorded. Show the person you value his or her time and expertise by writing it down; plus, if this is a rare meeting, you’ll want to make sure you remember everything since you might not get time with this person again soon. You can also use your notes to follow up in a more meaningful way—like sending a valuable link or article related to something you discussed in your meeting.

2. Find a Note-Taking Style You Love

There are no rules when it comes to how you take your notes. There’s no proof that any style works any better than another style—the best kind of notes are the ones that will make sense to you later, whatever they look like.

Here are a few of the most popular note-taking styles that you can try out to find what works for you.

Lists

This is the most traditional kind of note-taking. You start at the top of the page with the main meeting topic, and then continue your list down with sub-heads as other topics come up.

Leave space between sub-heads as you go, since the meeting may circle back to a topic (or you may have questions or new ideas you want to record), and you will want to have space to add information without making your list sloppy or confusing.

You can also create headings for things like action items, to-dos, decisions made, and any important resources or tools you need to hold onto, so you can have a really actionable list to refer to later on.

Mind Maps

If you’re a visual thinker, try a mind map. Start by writing the topic of the meeting at the center of the page. From there, draw branches out to every key topic discussed.

For example, you might write “Kickstarter launch” at the center of your page, and then draw branches out for topics like “press outreach” and “launch day timeline.” Continue drawing branches out for subtopics (getting increasingly detailed), and at the end you’ll have a visual representation of the meeting’s most important points.

A Trail of Breadcrumbs

This is the most intensive form of note-taking, but it’s incredibly effective. When you employ this strategy, take notes as if you are going to give them to someone who wasn’t there in the meeting.

Write down every topic as it comes up, and then record every point raised related to that topic. You don’t have to write every word that’s said; use short phrases, and pay special attention to things like specific tools or resources.

This is a great strategy for people who get anxious during meetings, since it’s keeps your hands busy. As long as you make eye contact from time to time, no one will mind you taking such thorough notes.

3. Organize Your Notes So You Can Revisit Them Later (and Become Amazing)

One of the biggest struggles people have with note-taking is keeping their notes organized in a way that they can actually revisit in a valuable way later. Note-taking on its own isn’t enough to improve retention or understanding—you have to actually revisit your notes and cement the information in your mind in order to make it valuable.

This means that if your notes are all over the place or completely disorganized, you might as well not be taking them at all. Here are some of the best ways to keep your notes organized and to make the time you spend with them truly valuable for moving your career forward.

Always Keep Your Notes in the Same Place

The easiest way to keep your notes organized is to keep them in one place. No more typing some things into a Google doc and keeping a random pile of sticky notes on your desk. While there are many options for this, paper is ideal so that you’re not keeping a screen in between you and the person you’re meeting with.Plus, actually writing things out with your hand helps with retention.

So, invest in a notebook—one that you love, that you’ll take with you everywhere, and that has the versatility you need for the many situations you’ll need to take notes in.

Keep the Same Format

Above, we went over three of the top note-taking styles that work well for professional settings. Find the style that works for you and stick with it; this will make skimming over your notes later much easier.

Whichever style you choose, write critical information at the top of every page—the date, meeting attendees, and meeting topic on every page of notes that relates to that meeting—so it’s easy to track.

Make a Weekly Appointment to Go Over Your Notes

It’s hard to find time to revisit your notes, even if you want to, with the constant stream of things that demand your attention and are a higher priority every week. So set a recurring meeting on your calendar to go over your notes once a week. Even 15 minutes is enough time to look at what you recorded.

When you go over your notes, write down any questions you have or any open issues that still need to be resolved. This is also a good time to prepare for any upcoming meetings you have. Write down questions you want to make sure get answered or any important information you think you’ll need to have on-hand.
How much more could you accomplish if you always had the right answer at your fingertips? Consistency is the key to success; the more small, good habits (like great note-taking) that you can develop, the more you’ll be able to grow every single day. This week, try taking notes in every meeting and see if it makes it any easier to have good ideas fast or to get more done.

More from the Muse:

TIME Careers & Workplace

7 Things To Remove From Your Resume Right Now

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Be brutally objective and cut the fat

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

We all talk a fair game about what needs to be on your resume, but there’s also plenty of stuff that should be removed. The fluff. The blabber. The full-on oddities. And even some of the details you think are important.

Here’s the thing: If you want a shot at grabbing your target audience and showing them what you’re made of, every section of your resume needs to be thoughtfully constructed, and every word carefully placed.

So, let’s all get out our big red markers; we’re going to start marking that baby up. Here are seven things that you absolutely must drop-kick from your resume.

1. An Objective

The vast majority of objectives say nothing. Oh, so you’re seeking a challenging position with a growing corporation that will allow you to make a positive contribution, are you? How groundbreaking.

Instead

Craft an executive summary or “Who I Am” section that showcases your overarching value proposition (or, as I call it, your “So what?”) and speaks directly to the stuff you know the target audience is going to care the most about. This is your chance to make it clear you’re a strong fit.

2. Weird or Potentially Polarizing Interests

Do you practice witchcraft, preside over your local gun club, or spend endless hours practicing your extraordinary mime routine? Terrific. But unless you are applying for jobs that will specifically value these interests (or they’re flat-out amazing conversation starters), leave them off. Decision makers will judge the heck out of you if they spot hobbies that fly in the face of their own personal beliefs or seem odd.

Instead

Include interests only if you feel they support your overall professional message and brand. If you’re a dietician who maintains a recipe blog for fun, yes. If you’re an accountant who enjoys photographing people’s feet, absolutely not.

3. Third-Person Voice

The fastest way to sound like a pompous goof is to construct your resume in the third person—à la “John raised more than $70,000 for the organization.” Every single time I read a resume in which the author does this, all I can think of is someone sitting around in a smoking jacket, with a pipe, pontificating on and on about himself. Don’t do it.

Instead

When you write a resume, your name and contact information are at the top of the page. For this reason alone, the receiver will most assuredly deduce that the document he or she is receiving was, indeed, from you. So write the resume in the first person, minus the pronouns (e.g., “Raised more than $70,000”).

4. An Email Address From Your Current Employer

Nothing says, “I job search on company time” quite like using your current work email address on a resume. Unless you own the company, it’s poor form to run your job search through your company’s email system.

Instead

Easy–use your personal email for all job search business. And, ideally, your own time.

5. Unnecessarily Big Words

Why “utilize” when you can “use?” Why “append” when you can “add?” It’s not “analogous;” it’s really just “similar.” Using non-conversational words doesn’t make you look smart; it makes you look like someone who spends too much time in a thesaurus.

Instead

Run the “would I ever say this in real life?” test on every phrase and sentence in your resume. If you find words or statements that don’t read like something you’d say? Change ’em up.

6. Tiny, Unimportant Jobs From 15+ Years Ago

Your resume is not an autobiography of every job you’ve held since you graduated; it’s a marketing document. So, unless something you did more than 12-15 years ago is vital for your target audience to know about, you don’t need to list the entry-level job or internship you held in 1994. It’s totally OK to leave some of the life history off.

Instead

For each former job, think about what you did or achieved that will be required (or will hold significant value) in your next role. Showcase only that stuff. If your first job out of college does nothing to support this overall message? It’s probably not needed.

7. Lies

If you’d like me to, I’ll launch into the story about the field engineer I worked with who was this close to landing a great job—until the employer conducted a degree verification and discovered that, while he’d taken courses at that university, he didn’t graduate. The kicker? He didn’t even need a degree to qualify for that job. But because he got caught in a lie, he didn’t get it.

Instead

Strategize. (In this case, I would have suggested that this engineer load his education section with professional development courses and certifications, which would have made an equally great impact.) Whatever you do, do not lie.

Editing a resume can be tough. People tend to be quite attached to the things they’ve done or accomplished professionally, and passionate about their outside interests. But the bottom line is this: You need to have everything working for you on your resume. Be brutally objective, cut the fat, and for goodness’ sake, leave off all details of your vast collection of clown figures.

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