The results are in: the top most overused word in your LinkedIn profile this year was "creative."
Perhaps LinkedIn-ers were reacting to last year's list (which including snooze-worthy clunkers like "results oriented," "extensive experience," "team player"), by choosing more modern, Gen Y-sounding adjectives like those on this year's list, which includes soft skill references like "Organizational" (#2) and " Communication skills" (#9).
Or maybe, as social psychologist Matt Wallaert suggests of the list in the WSJ's blog about the Linked In findings, we use words like "dynamic" (#10) and "innovative" (#7) in our profiles because those are the kind of jobs we're looking for.
If that's true, maybe ambitious adjectives are a sign that the market is improving. Last year's words promised results, effectiveness, and ego-free "team player" affinities. They're words to get a job, any job.
This year's words tip the deck that we're looking for more—excitement, creativity, decision-making power. With the unemployment claims lower this week than they've been in more three years, maybe we've earned it.
Still, creative ambitions are no reason to bore recruiters to tears. Keep these guidelines in mind when updating your profile or resume:
1. Use examples, not buzzwords
Use an old writer's trick to keep things convincing and show, don't tell. Ironically enough, there's nothing creative about using the word "creative" to describe your work. If you use it—without provided concrete examples—you'll just look lazy. Or worse, not terribly creative at all. Back any claims of inventiveness with a list of projects to prove it.
2. Define your terms
Does "creative" actually mean problem-solving with limited resources or time? Does it mean constantly generating new ideas for others to test, or does it mean jerry-rigging others' concepts so that they work? Do the work and really describe what's special about what you do.
3. Think like an employer
Sure, you want the job of your dreams, but to get it, you'll need to seem useful, not just brilliant. "Creative" might describe the kind of job you'd like to be doing, but how does it help a hiring company understand your value in that role? Describe your experience and talents in terms an employer might appreciate—such as how you save time or money with fast, low-fi solutions, or can brainstorm your way through a problem that would have set your previous employer back months of work. Now that's getting creative!
--Cathy Vandewater, Vault.com
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