You Better Believe It

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By Andris Pone
President, Coin Branding


Each of us believes we are different from everyone else.  It would be deflating like a New England football to believe otherwise – that there is essentially nothing that makes us unique, or that we have no one-of-a-kind contribution to make in this life.

Why, then, do we overwhelmingly use the same language as everyone else to describe ourselves in our bio, resume, or LinkedIn profile?

LinkedIn last week confirmed our predilection with its release of the “most overused” words on its site in 2014.  As Catherine Fisher, LinkedIn’s Director of Corporate Communications put it:

“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.  We’ve just announced our annual list of the words that make you go ‘meh’ – the most overused, underwhelming buzzwords and phrases in LinkedIn profiles of 2014 across the world.”

Here are the Top 10:
1. Motivated
2. Passionate
3. Creative
4. Driven
5. Extensive experience
6. Responsible
7. Strategic
8. Track record
9. Organizational
10. Expert

“Meh” is right.  Words like these not only mask your unique qualities, they ensure that none of the people whose attention you are trying to grab will begin to care about you in the slightest.  What can, on the other hand, seize attention and spark caring is your explanation of why you have the listed qualities.  As Simon Sinek famously put it in his TED talk, brain science supports the fact that “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

And so the question becomes, “What’s your why?”

A quick glance at the very first line of Catherine Fisher’s LinkedIn profile reveals that she is using precisely this approach:  “I learned early on in my career that what motivates me is promoting brands that I truly love.”

Then she literally asks the “why” question:  “I work for LinkedIn and I love the brand.  Why?  Because I can share my professional accomplishments, stay in touch with former colleagues, celebrate the brands I love, and constantly learn.”

Compare that with the opening lines of pretty much any other LinkedIn profile, bio or resume out there, and what you’ll find is that you “get” Catherine, and even feel a connection with her, instantly.

You’re different from other people, right?  You believe that you have a unique contribution to make in this world, correct?  Then say it like you believe it.

New comment in Globe and Mail:  Standing out from the business school crowd
Recent comment on CBC Radio One:  Uber’s Misbehaving Executives

Book:  Buy the #1 Globe and Mail bestselling Brand: It Ain’t the Logo or download a free chapter

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