Monday, July 16, 2012

10 Ways You Do NOT Want to Describe Yourself

A recent Forbes post lists some words that are great when used by other people to describe you, but you should never use to describe yourself.  Here they are, with a few subtle edits by Angela (verified by the "school of hard knocks"):


If you have to say you're an authority, you aren't.

Show your expertise instead. "Presenter at SXSW" or "Delivered TED Talk at Long Beach 2010" indicates a level of authority. Unless you can prove it, "social media marketing authority" just means you spend a ton of time on Twitter.


The vast majority of businesses can sell goods or services worldwide; the ones that can't--like restaurants--are obvious. Only use "global" if that capability is not assumed or obvious; otherwise you just sound like a really small company trying to appear really big.


Most people claim to be innovative. Most are not. That's okay, because innovation isn't a requirement for success.

If you are innovative, don't say it. Prove it. Describe the products you've developed. Describe the processes you've modified. Give us something real so your innovation is unspoken but evident... which is always the best kind of evident to be.


See particular words often enough and they no longer make an impact. "Creative" is one of them. (Go to LinkedIn and check out some profiles; "creative" will appear in the majority.)
"Creative" is just one example. Others include extensive, effective, proven, dynamic, influential, team player, collaborative... some of those terms truly may describe you, but since they're also being used to describe everyone else they've lost their impact.

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.

Say you're incredibly passionate about incorporating an elegant design aesthetic in everyday objects and--to me at least--you sound a little scary. Same if you're passionate about developing long-term customer solutions. Try focus, concentration, or specialization instead. Save the passion for your loved one.

Fingerprints are unique. Snowflakes are unique.   "Better" matters more than "unique."  Show how you're better than the competition and in the minds of customers you will be unique.

People who try to be clever for the sake of being clever are anything but. Don't be a self-proclaimed ninja, sage, connoisseur, guerilla, wonk, egghead... it's awesome when your customers affectionately describe you in that way, but when you do it it's apparent you're trying way too hard.

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 incredibly passionate?
If you must use over-the-top adjectives to describe yourself, at least spare us the further modification. Trust us; we already get it.

Good information, Forbes, but that is the easy part.  It's always simpler to know what NOT to do.

But what DO you say?

Here are a couple ideas:

"Curious."    It sounds like you will seek out solutions.

"Healthy".   Taking care of yourself is en vogue (FINALLY!).

"A Dreamer."   Sounds like you want good things for yourself and your projects.  (And yes, this could just be an Angela thing.)

Angela Broderick Bedell