It’s January, the month when hungry employment-seekers take on a post-holiday job hunt with a fresh sense of purpose. (Related fun fact: January 21 — i.e., today — is the most popular day of this month for LinkedIn members to update their profiles.) With millennials making up a sizable portion of America’s unemployed masses — last year, 9.1 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds was unemployed — it stands to reason that we are well represented among those looking for new opportunity come a new year. But, despite our winningest efforts, our attempts to stand out to prospective employers might be getting lost in a sea of candidates, because too many of us are using the same boring old descriptors to summarize ourselves and our expertise. “If you’re motivated about your career, passionate about doing your best work, and are highly creative, then I’ve got news for you. So is everyone else,” notes Catherine Fisher, a LinkedIn career expert. She’s referring to 2014’s top three most overused buzzwords in LinkedIn profiles. The tech company just released a list of the 10 most hackneyed work-related phrases, and the rest of the list is equally disheartening. Who hasn’t used indicators like “responsible” (no. 9) and “problem-solving” (no. 10) to summarize their best traits? As for the rest of the terms on the list, “driven” comes in at no. 4; “extensive experience” at 5; “organizational” at 6; “strategic” at 7; and “track record” at 8. But, all those words seem so apt, so descriptive, so perfectly appropriate to help you land a dream job at your dream company, right? Think again. When you’re applying for work, you’re selling everything unique about you. So, it would behoove you to take a look at all the tools in your job-hunting arsenal — your LinkedIn profile, your cover letters, and, of course, your résumé — and consider banishing those buzzwords forever (or at least for now, while everyone else is using them!).
But, Fisher warns, “Don’t go to your trusty thesaurus and replace one buzzword with another buzzword.” Instead of using the term “motivated” or another one just like it, she suggests adding concrete examples that prove your killer drive. Did you single-handedly lead a team that increased company sales by 200 percent last year? Did you create a new social-media marketing push to help your boss’s mom-and-pop shop get with the times? Or, maybe you didn’t miss a single day of work last year. All of these efforts would be helpful to highlight on your LinkedIn profile or your résumé; they go a long way in showing, not telling, the value you’ll add to a team. If possible, you should also ask your references (or your LinkedIn recommendation-providers) to offer solid examples of your workplace prowess when they’re talking to potential hiring managers. Same principles as above: Anecdotes that clearly illustrate actions you’ve taken to boost your company’s bottom line or increase team morale will help set you apart. Another way to stand out from the pack, Fisher says, is to list your skills at the top of your résumé. Identifying your skills on your LinkedIn profile makes you 13 times more likely to be viewed on that site, she adds. “Your skills are...an easy, digestible way to show what you can do. You’ll want to include a mix of high-level and niche skills to ensure you show up in search results.” LinkedIn is encouraging its members to update their profiles today, eliminating some of said buzzwords, and share them on social using the hashtag #nobuzzwords. And, please share your stories of setting yourself apart in the job hunt in the comments section below.