LinkedIn, the social-networking site for people with business cards, has released its list of the year’s most overused professional buzzwords, culled from the profiles of its 135 million members. As one might expect, they’re terms that sound awfully nice but say almost nothing specific about a person. They’re the type of terms that are roughly the equivalent of listing “showing up to work” in your skills section. (Note: this might be rough to read if you are one of the people using these words, but we all need tough love sometimes.)
For example, dynamic is at No. 10. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, its primary meaning is “of or pertaining to force producing motion: often opposed to static.” So by using this word, you have literally told your potential employer that you are adept at not being stationary. You are the type of person who does things and moves from place to place.
At No. 9 is communication skills, and at No. 8 we have problem solving. Both of these guarantee nothing more than the person not being paralyzed by the prospect of a conversation or an empty stapler. Innovative is No. 7 and motivated is No. 6 — two more generic adjectives suggesting attributes that an employer would probably like to take for granted.
(LIST: Top 10 Buzzwords of 2011)
Track record is at No. 5. Note that it is not specified whether this track record is good or bad, though this person definitely has a track record of some kind. More important, a curriculum vitae is a track record in and of itself. Listing “track record” on a résumé is the equivalent of putting “reasons you should date me” on your OkCupid profile. Or tacking “things I need to buy” onto your shopping list.
At No. 4, we have extensive experience. (Please see above paragraph.)
At No. 3 is effective, a promise that when you are being dynamic, you’re really making the most of it. And in second place, we have organizational — which may be important if you are, say, applying to be an accountant. But in most cases, it is not the most striking skill to be championing — it’s like saying one is punctual or has neat handwriting.
And the No. one most overused professional buzzword is creative. This attribute, like many of the others, is one that is better shown than told. As LinkedIn’s connection director put it in a release, “Use language that illustrates your unique professional accomplishments and experiences. Give concrete examples of results you’ve achieved whenever possible and reference attributes that are specific to you.” And please, never use the word synergy without your tongue firmly pressed into your cheek.