How Academics Can Use Their Note-Taking Skills in Industry


PhD students often excel at note-taking due to their advanced analytical skills and keen attention to detail, honed through years of rigorous academic training. Their ability to synthesize complex information and identify key concepts allows them to capture essential points effectively during lectures, seminars, and research meetings.

Graduate School Note-Taking

When you go to graduate school, there’s one skill that you surely developed – notetaking. Note-taking can seem like a simple task that people do in an academic setting, but it can also be a valuable skill to enact in your professional life and help you pivot into a new fulfilling career.

Note-taking is not just about capturing information; it’s a multifaceted skill that contributes to learning, communication, organization, and overall professional effectiveness.

Note-Taking For Job Interviews

Before And During the Interview

Notes provide a structured way to organize thoughts, ideas, and key points before your interview. Well-organized notes can serve as a quick reference, making it easier to find and review important information when needed and take the stress off the interview process. Taking notes helps individuals retain and remember important information and will help them recall key facts from company resources like their website. The act of writing or typing engages different cognitive processes, reinforcing the learning and making it easier to recall details later.

Thematic Analysis instead of Listing Questions

There are many ways to generate questions for an interview, but don’t simply jot down questions. Create questions based on the themes you saw from company materials or from the interviewer’s professional background. How is it all connected and why does it matter? That’s thematic analysis. Thematic analysis is a method of qualitative data analysis widely used in social sciences and other fields to identify, analyze, and report patterns (themes) within a dataset. It involves systematically organizing and interpreting textual or visual information to uncover meaningful patterns and insights.

After the Interview

After the interview is completed, use your notes to your advantage. Stand out by showing that you cared enough to recall important facts in an email. Ensure that you took notes on the following:

  • The interviewer’s names
  • Key points from the interview
  • A key point that would casually be included in a thank-you note
  • A note to yourself to send a thank-you note

Combining all these elements makes for a very memorable thank-you note.

Note-Taking At Work

Notes can be used as a communication tool to share information with colleagues or team members. Clear and concise notes can facilitate effective communication, ensuring that everyone is on the same page and has access to important details. Effective note-taking encourages active listening during meetings, presentations, or discussions. It helps individuals focus on the key points and capture relevant information, fostering better understanding and engagement.

The goal of note-taking outside the direct benefits is also to help you sound and be prepared for meetings. Having all the important context at your fingertips and within your memory can be very helpful.

Will People Care That I’m Taking Notes?

From my experience – no.

Employers and co-workers are typically happy that you care enough to retain information. Taking notes is a form of active listening where you are putting your brain to work to retain and use the information again later. Additionally, when you take notes, sometimes people don’t realize you’re actually taking notes. Taking notes by hand offers a quiet alternative to the audible typing noise produced when using a keyboard.

Overall, there’s little downsides to taking notes. Flex your academic experience and use note-taking to your advantage to stand out in interviews and your current job.

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Founder – Ryan Collins PhD