Monday, February 24, 2014

Quit Using These 10 Words to Describe Yourself on LinkedIn

Why? Everyone else is using them too. Check out LinkedIn's 2013 Most Overused Buzzwords list.

Words can make a huge impact.
Or not.

Even the most descriptive, most meaningful words can lose all meaning when they're used too often. That's why most corporate communications don't really say anything. Clich├ęs, hyperbole, and buzzwords may sound impressive, but over time--since everyone uses them--they begin to mean nothing.

Read the word "extensive" and you don't immediately think, "Great, a comprehensive suite of services covering a broad range of applications!" Instead you skim right over the word because you've seen it thousands of times in the same context. In a business setting, "extensive" is filler.

Here are more examples: the 10 most overused words and phrases from LinkedIn profiles in 2013 (along with my thoughts on each). Take a look and then think about removing over-used words and phrases from your website, press releases, and other company communications:

1. Responsible.
Responsible cuts two ways. You can be responsible (but hopefully isn't everyone?) or you can be responsible for (which is just a boring way of saying, hopefully, that you did something). If you're in social media marketing, don't say you're "responsible for social campaigns;" say you grew conversions by 40 percent using social channels. "Responsible" is a great example of passive language begging to become active.

Don't tell us what you're responsible for. Tell us what you've done. Achievements are always more impressive.

2. Strategic.
A strategic decision is one that is based on the big picture. Shouldn't everyone be able to make decisions based on more than what is right in front of them?

"Strategic" is a close cousin of "strategist," another buzzword that bugs me. I sometimes help manufacturing plants improve their productivity and quality. There are strategies I use to identify areas for improvement but I'm in no way a strategist. Strategists look at the present, envision something new, and develop approaches to make their vision a reality. I don't create something new; I apply my experience and a few proven methodologies to make improvements.

Very few people are strategists. Most "strategists" are actually coaches, specialists, or consultants who use what they know to help others. Ninety-nine percent of the time that's what customers need--they don't need or even want a strategist.

3. Creative.
In 2011 and 2012 "creative" was the most used word in LinkedIn profiles. It's the prime example of a word used often enough that it no longer makes an impact. If you're creative, describe what you've created--if it's cool enough everyone will recognize just how creative you are.

4. Effective.
Really? You actually produce results for the money you're paid? Wow.      

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