When people describe you in certain ways, that's great.

When you describe yourself in those ways...um, no.

The following words and terms are--for the most part--great when people use them to describe you. Resist the urge to describe yourself in these ways, though. Some are cringe-worthy, while others are perennial "favorites" on LinkedIn's lists of most overused words and phrases from LinkedIn profiles. In either case, ugh.

Take a look, and then think hard about replacing the following in your social profiles.

"Motivated"

Never take credit for things you are supposed to do, or supposed to be.

"World-class"

Usain Bolt: world-class sprinter with the Olympic medals to prove it. Serena Williams: world-class tennis player. (Oh, let's just say it: best female tennis player ever.)

But what is a world-class professional or company? Who defines "world-class"? In your case: probably just you.

"Charismatic"

At a recent conference I heard a gentleman (because it's always men who do this) describe himself not once, not twice, but three times as "charismatic."

Just because you can talk a lot doesn't mean you're charismatic. And just because some people will listen to you because they have to listen to you--like your employees--doesn't mean you're charismatic. If you exhibit some of these qualities, you just might be charismatic...but you'd also be smart enough to never describe yourself that way.

"Driven"

Maybe you're data driven. (Wow, you try to objectively think through decisions?) Or maybe you're customer driven. (Wow, you try to please the people who pay you?)

Or maybe you're just plain old driven.

No matter what the form, driven is like "motivated." Or "inspired." It's filler.

Stop using it.

"Humble."

By definition, being humble means not speaking highly of yourself.

As Stan Lee would say, 'nuf said.

"Extensive experience"

Say you have "extensive experience in Web design." Fine, but how long you've been in business indicates nothing: You could still be the worst programmer in the world.

What matters more is what you've done: how many sites you've created, how many back-end systems you've installed, how many customer-specific applications you've developed (and what kind)....

Don't tell us how long you've been doing it. Tell us what you've done.

"Authority"

Like Margaret Thatcher said, "Power is like being a lady; if you have to say you are, you aren't." Show your expertise instead.

"Presented at TEDxEast " or "Predicted 50 out of 50 states in 2012 election" (Hi, Nate!) indicates a level of authority. Unless you can prove it, "social-media marketing authority" might simply mean you spend way too much time worrying about your Klout score. (If people still worry about Klout scores.)

"Results-oriented"

Really? You focus on doing what you get paid to do?

"Funny"

Does Jerry Seinfeld say he's funny? Does Dave Chappelle? Does Louis C.K.?

Nope. They let you be the judge.

And if that's the right approach for them, it's definitely the right approach for the rest of us.

"Responsible"

"Responsible" cuts two ways. You can be responsible (but, one hopes, isn't everyone?) or you can be responsible for (which is just a boring way of saying you did something).

If you're in social-media marketing, don't say you're "responsible for social campaigns;" say you grew conversions by 30 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.

"Global provider"

The majority of businesses can sell goods or services worldwide; the ones that can't are fairly obvious.

Only use "global provider" if that capability is not assumed or obvious; otherwise, you just sound like a small company trying to appear big.

"Creative"

See particular words often enough and they no longer make an impact. Creative is one of them. (Use finding "creative" references in random LinkedIn profiles as a drinking game and everyone will lose--or win, depending on your perspective).

Creative is just one example. Others include "extensive," "effective," "proven," "influential," and "team player." Some of those terms might truly describe you, but since they are being used to describe everyone, they've lost their impact.

"Track record"

We all have a track record. It may be good, it may be bad, but we all have one. (And they're all "proven.")

I actually like what "track record" implies: You've done stuff, hopefully awesome stuff. You've gotten results, made things happen, come through in the clutch...so share a few facts and figures instead.

Describe on-time performance rates, or waste percentages, or under-budget statistics; let your track record be proved by your achievements.

"Organizational"

This word usually modifies another word: organizational development, organizational optimization, organizational behavior, organizational values, or organizational communication....

OK, let's stop there before we nod off.

"Generous."

Every person I know who is truly generous and giving actually feels they aren't nearly as generous as they should be. (On the flip side, plenty of people who rarely help someone else out think they're too generous.)

Besides: Truly generous people get a real sense of gratification from helping others...so they don't need to call attention to it.

And neither do you.

"Dynamic"

If you are "vigorously active and forceful," um, stay away.

"Guru"

People who try to be clever for the sake of being clever are anything but. Don't be a self-proclaimed "ninja," "sage," "connoisseur," "wonk," etc.

It's awesome when your customers affectionately describe you that way. But refer to yourself that way, and it's obvious you're trying way too hard to impress other people--or yourself.

"Innovative"

Most companies claim to be innovative. Most people claim to be innovative. Most are, however, not innovative. I'm definitely not. And that's OK, because innovation isn't a requirement for success. (You don't have to be new--you just have to be better.)

And if you are innovative, don't say it. Prove it. Describe the products you've developed. Describe the processes you've transformed.

Give us something real so your innovation is unspoken but evident, which is always the best kind of innovative to be.

"Curator"

Museums have curators. Libraries have curators. Tweeting links to stuff you find interesting doesn't make you a "curator" or an "authority" or a "guru."

"Ethical"

Calling attention to the fact that you act with integrity means you think the quality is somehow special. Shouldn't it be a given?

"Passionate"

I know many people disagree, but if you say you're incredibly passionate about, oh, incorporating elegant design aesthetic into everyday objects, then to me you sound over the top.

The same is true if you're passionate about developing long-term customer solutions. Try the word focus, concentration, or specialization instead.

Or try love, as in, "I love incorporating an elegant design aesthetic in everyday objects." For whatever reason, that works for me. Passion doesn't. (But maybe that's just me.)

"Unique"

Fingerprints are unique. Snowflakes are unique. You are unique--but your business probably isn't. That's fine, because customers don't care about unique; they care about "better."

Show you're better than the competition, and in the minds of your customers you will be unique--without ever having said so.

"Incredibly..."

Check out some random bios and you'll find plenty of further-modified descriptors: "Incredibly passionate," "profoundly insightful," "extremely captivating...."

Isn't it enough to be insightful or captivating? Do you have to be profoundly insightful?

If you must use over-the-top adjectives, spare us the further modification. Trust that we already get it.

"Likable"

Some people are truly likable. Some people are genuinely charming. Here are some ways to tell if you're especially likable and charming.

Note that nowhere on the list is, "I tell people I'm likable," or, "I often refer to myself as charming."

"Serial entrepreneur"

A few people start multiple, successful long-term businesses. They are serial entrepreneurs.

The rest of us start one business that fails, or does OK. We try something else, try something else...and keep on rinsing and repeating until we find a formula that works.

Those people are entrepreneurs. Be proud to be "just" an entrepreneur, because you should be.

"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 him or her?

"Strategic" is a close cousin of "strategist," another buzzword that bugs me. I sometimes help manufacturing plants improve 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.

"Collaborative"

You won't just decide what's right for me and force me to buy it? Wow.

If your process is designed to take my input and feedback, tell me how that works. Describe the process. Don't claim we'll work together--describe how we'll work together.

That's my list, clearly subjective and definitely open to criticism. More importantly, what do you think? What would you add or remove?

Published on: Feb 21, 2017
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