More than 50 million people have joined the ranks of the social-media site LinkedIn since the networking hub released its list of overused buzzwords last year. Yet the lessons appear to still be lost on many of the site’s 187 million members, who are still sullying their online profiles with generic, less-than-compelling descriptors.
One of the best ways to recognize a word that’s not up to par is to consider the minimum ability it promises. Take analytical, one of only two new words to make the top 10 this year, ousting the equally unhelpful dynamic. Whereas dynamic promised potential employers that you would produce motion of some kind, analytical merely tells them that you will examine things closely and determine essential features. If the job entails finding the 10 differences between two cartoons depicting farm animals, you’re their guy.
At No. 10 is problem solving, and you’d be hard pressed to find a job that didn’t require this trait. Did the sandwich makers run out of chipotle mayo? You’ll grab more from the back. Boom. Problem solved. Analytical took the No. 9 spot, and at No. 8 is responsible, the other new word on the list. Again, this is one of those qualities that most potential employers would prefer to take for granted.
At No. 7 for the second year in a row is innovative. An employer will always be much more impressed by examples of how innovative you are or what you have innovated than by the word itself. As Nicole Williams, LinkedIn’s career expert, explains, digging into what gives you that quality means “you are taking the time and exerting the effort to invest in and celebrate yourself. Using a general term that applies to the masses is a form of undermining yourself.”
The same goes for Nos. 6 and 5 — track record and extensive experience, respectively. These are both terms that essentially describe what your curriculum vitae should demonstrate. They amount to no more than saying “things I’ve done” and “I’ve done a lot of things.”
The top three from last year are unchanged. In third place is effective. Much like responsible, this may only make the person who won’t be hiring you suspect that you are ineffective. At No. 2 is organizational, which can apply equally to a project manager or an entire aisle of products at Bed Bath & Beyond. And the No. 1 most overused buzzword is creative. As a general rule, if the term could also describe crayon art produced by a 5-year-old, you need to be more specific.
We realize this may be tough love for people who have used these terms, but we all need a little constructive criticism sometimes. “There’s an obvious benefit to not using buzzwords in terms of differentiating yourself for the sake of standing out in the eyes of others,” Williams said in a statement to TIME. “The real benefit of exploring your use of buzzwords is that it challenges you to take stock of all you have to offer as a professional. It’s a way of appreciating yourself.” So as you get ready for the new year, consider including a makeover of your LinkedIn profile as part of your fresh start. Certainly that’s what a creative, responsible, innovative problem solver would do.
LinkedIn’s Top 10 Overused Buzzwords:
- Extensive experience
- Track record
- Problem solving