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Frances Cole Jones offers the following advice on how to gain a professional edge:

- Don't work in a goat's stomach: Make sure your workspace is organized. Displaying too many photos of family, friends and pets might signal you're more preoccupied with your life outside the office. Meanwhile, a disproportionate amount of clutter sends the message that you're out of control.

- Be a renaissance man: Broaden your mind and learn a little about a lot so you can connect with a spectrum of people, from your CEO to your valet.

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- Take a "mental fast-food fast": Just as you might reassess your diet, consider how you spend your time and weigh the opportunity costs of your daily activities. Could you be pursuing something better than watching reality-show reruns?

- Know how to finish the phrase "Stick a fork in me...": Know the grammatical difference between "done" and "finished," and "further" versus "farther." Know your grammar, period. The distinctions may seem minute, but it's your attention to this kind of detail that could impress your boss.

- Brain barter: Take a step back from your standard approach to networking and consider the skills and expertise you can swap. Bartering your know-how allows you to gauge your own talent and leverage other people's.

- Have a thick face: Be tough, but still retain "face." In negotiations, put in the effort for your own end, if not for what's actually being offered. Attend interviews or submit bids to practise your answers, float your ideas and find out what your competition's up to.

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About the Author

Wency Leung is a general assignment reporter for the Life section. Before joining The Globe in early 2010, she has worked as a reporter in Vancouver, Prague, and Phnom Penh. More

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