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Be true to your personal brand – there is nothing wrong with words like ‘creative’ and ‘innovative’

You just need to back it up!

I have been lucky enough to have done a lot of building and energising of teams as part of transformation programmes in my career and I have read a lot of résumés in my time.

While I won’t call them out here out of courtesy (you probably have five in your personal inbox anyway), I’m surprised by some of the recent articles I’ve read suggesting ways to improve your résumé by avoiding specific words; I’ve been seeing a load of articles telling us about “words that no employer wants to read on your résumé” or “worthless words you should never include”. It’s true I’ve read some poor ones over the years, but I’ve never been offended by the use of any particular word.

Despite the crucial importance of networking and the subsequent increasing use of platforms such as LinkedIn to submit profiles for jobs, for now, you do still need a formal résumé if you are on a job hunt and to get in for that crucial first meeting.

With everyone seemingly time-poor and with decreasing attention spans, getting your résumé right is clearly crucial and, in my experience, the best candidates have invested a lot of time perfecting their résumé and have taken advice on structure and content. However, if they turn to the multitude of blogs I reference above, then they will be continually told to focus on words they should NOT (and note how many of them love to capitalise that one!) have on their LinkedIn profile and résumé. According to those authors (to assist in getting to the heart of the solution, I’ve read all 304 of them so you don’t have to), it seems that you are out of luck in getting a job if your résumé contains any of the following words:

• Expert

• Outstanding

• Exceptional

• Strategic

• Highly skilled

• Excellent

• Organised

• Good communicator

• Creative

• Innovative

• Team player

• Hardworking

• Experienced

• Loyal

• Dependable

The rationale of most of these articles is very similar — that these words are used so often, they have lost most or all their meaning. The thinking from the career experts on this is that words that once set you apart are now just meaningless clichés and buzzwords. They argue that, since people are increasingly using them, they mean nothing as they don’t allow people to be adequately compared to each other.

I disagree on this, as I‘m quite keen to work with dependable people who are good communicators, organised and have the ability to work hard. I think the missing link is actually evidencing why you have the right to use these words. Rather than describing yourself as an expert, instead demonstrate your expertise through practical and tangible examples. Giving a little inch to some of these experts, using phrases like “I was responsible for…” should always be qualified by a demonstrable achievement to make it come alive, and be clear on what the candidate personally contributed.

Many of the blogs I reference here also warn that you shouldn’t include something unless you were personally responsible for it – I also think this is missing a huge aspect of the important of team working and collaboration for any modern business team. I like to see where someone has led stuff, of course, but I also like to see where you have taken a role in a collective that delivered a significant result, such as exceeding the original goals of the project or creating a great result in relation to the bottom line of any business. Anyone who’s ever been responsible for leading a programme of a significant size will know they did not personally deliver it on their own by any means, so talking like they did is more of a negative, in my view. Language such as being “part of an outstanding team that delivered X” is a critical asset; by all means talk about what you personally delivered but recognise the collective as well.

The ability to provide great evidence of your contribution is important to conveying your personal brand, but the overriding moral of all of this for me is to just listen to your personal brand. Who are you? What do you stand for? How would you describe yourself, and why you are different? How do you interact with others to get the job done?

When thinking about your own personal brand, it is very useful to focus on summarising it in a single sentence – you’ll be amazed how often you’ll be asked to (quickly) summarise yourself. Be ready for this, and learn it like a script. Start here when writing your resume and online profiles and flow the rest of your examples from there. If you are having difficulty in writing this yourself, ask former colleagues and acquaintances how they would describe you and ask them what you are particularly good at – and guess what? If they say you are ‘creative’, go for it – write down what makes you special, don’t worry about the experts who suggest you should delete it from your résume. If you are experienced, show how much more you have of that thing than someone else, if you are strategic – what was the game-changing initiative you came up with, delivered and tracked an ROI from? Don’t be afraid to say you are creative, ideas are the most important thing in the business. However, don’t feel you need to show you are an expert at everything — we can all improve in some areas!

In summary, my advice is to always be true to yourself: who you are, what you believe in, and exactly what you feel you bring to the party in all aspects of your professional (and personal) life.

Thanks for reading – leave a comment or you can find me on Social Media @drgoevans

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