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10 Career Buzzwords to Avoid in 2013


In 2010, LinkedIn began an annual review of member profiles to identify the most frequently used words and terms. This year’s list was compiled from an analysis of the more than 187 million user profiles now in the LinkedIn system. While we are encouraged to create profiles and other job search documents that include the right keywords for our industry, with overuse they can become buzzwords with little meaning behind them.

As a recent article on Forbes.com points out, employers really want to take things like motivated and responsible for granted. We can all agree that they are positive words to use. There’s nothing wrong, for example, in being described as a creative person. But what does this communicate to a potential employer? On its own, not much.

Take a closer look at the “Top 10 Overused Professional Buzzwords of 2012” and consider how you can improve upon each one in a way that is unique to you.

  1. Creative: Show examples of the results of your creativity by providing a link to your online portfolio or other website and describe your work process and inspiration.
  2. Organizational: This could run the gamut from people and resources to information and project tasks. What do you organize? Provide some background on the methods and tools you use and an example or two of the results you’ve achieved.
  3. Effective: Think of effectiveness as measure of success. Describe the ways in which you achieve success and tell the story of how you’ve reached assigned goals in the past. Focus on actions you’ve taken to maximize, reduce, upgrade, etc.
  4. Motivated: What is your incentive to work more effectively in pursuit of success? And how do you exhibit motivation on the job? This is another buzzword that can be communicated by examples of results you’ve achieved due to your level of motivation.
  5. Extensive Experience: Be more specific. My definition of “extensive” and yours may be very different. How many years have you worked in the field? How many projects have you completed? Quantifying your experience can help you send the message you want to send about our expertise.
  6. Track Record: Tell us about your record of achievement. It may be that you have taken on projects of increasing size and importance or have advanced through multiple positions, developing new skills along the way. How is your experience unique and relevant to your industry or the field you want to pursue?
  7. Innovative: Have you been able to offer a different perspective in past work settings? Are you involved in trying new methods or developing original techniques to improve projects? Describe how your work is breaking new ground.
  8. Responsible: Similar to “effective” listed above, it will be helpful to rephrase “responsible for” with action verbs, such as managed, administered, and maintained. Describe what you were responsible for doing and how you accomplished those tasks.
  9. Analytical: The use of data to inform decisions has gained attention across many industries in the past year (including learning analytics) so this is not a surprise addition to the buzzword list. What are your specific analytical skills and how have you applied them to your work?
  10. Problem Solving: This one could be, and often is, combined with other terms on the list. You may be an “innovative problem solver,” for example. Present examples of real-world problems you’ve solved. What was your contribution to the solution-finding process and how could you replicate the effort in a new workplace?

It’s interesting to note that the top three items on this year’s list were also the top three in 2011. Communication skills and dynamic were also included last year. The list above also reflects LinkedIn’s review of U. S. profile – there are differences by country.

In addition to your LinkedIn profile, look at how you use these terms in your resume, cover letters, and even as descriptors during a networking event or job interview. You don’t necessarily have to delete or stop using them, but if you do use them, you need to back them up with details and examples. This will take some time and effort, but the goal is to not only grab an employer’s attention, but also help you stand out from the crowd of other “creative innovators with track records of extensive experience” out there.

What changes will you make to your LinkedIn profile to better showcase your unique perspective? Share your ideas with us here.

Image credit: vial3tt3r, Flickr, CC:BY-NC

December 14th, 2012 written by Staff Writers

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