The mission is not easy. We want to find the perfect word or words to describe our skill set. Then we are told certain words attract the attention of recruiters or customers. That combination of factors turns us into a bunch of same-sounding robots spewing similar messages. Suddenly we’re all “innovative forward thinkers who are results-focused team players.” Are you really a “thought leader” and do you really approach problems from “outside the box?” Here are some of my least favorite and some approaches to do better.
Innovator: Within one sentence of writing this on your resume or LinkedIn profile, you better let us know HOW you have truly innovated something! Too often, as with all these least favorite examples, the words are just thrown out there hoping something will stick. People who innovate have done something most people have not. “Lead the effort to develop new product now on the shelves with sales of $2.6 million.” Say what you have innovated, or don’t use the word. An innovator is someone who can point to unique accomplishments, not someone who occasionally comes up with a good idea at a meeting.
Thought Leader: In order for this title to truly work for you you’ll have to demonstrate how people in your field look to you for new ideas, approaches or direction. How is that measured? Are you called upon to speak to large professional groups in your field? Have you written recognized leading books or papers that others utilize? Have your ideas been incorporated in the actions of colleagues, or even better, by competitors? Now we’re talking thought leader!
President or CEO: This one might surprise you, but hear me out. Have you see a profile or quote from someone with a title like that and thought, “President of What?” If you have a one person operation, are you really the CEO? I guess you are, a swell as chief cook and bottle washer. When someone asks I say I am the Principal of my company, though I guess I could call myself President if I wanted. Make sure your title accurately reflects the scope of your work – not a grand name with little behind it.
Bottom line: spend more time thinking through the words you use to describe your work instead of just throwing out words that sound good but really mean nothing.