Want Your LinkedIn Profile to Stand Out in 2021? Don't Include These 10 Overused Words

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Aja Frost
Aja Frost



Now that social selling is a legitimate way of growing your pipeline, it’s crucial your LinkedIn profile makes a good impression.

The first major mistake salespeople make is targeting the wrong audience. But if your profile is tailored toward prospects, rather than recruiters, there’s another big pothole you need to avoid.

It’s easy to fall back on well-used terms like “experienced,” “strategic,” and “excellent.” However, these words will make buyers’ eyes glaze over. They’re so worn out they’re essentially meaningless.

At the beginning of every year, LinkedIn releases the top words people around the globe are using to describe themselves. If these are on your profile, you'll sound just like everyone else -- probably not what you're going for.

Here’s the 2018 list (from most-used to least), along with our suggestions for more convincing swaps.

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1) Specialize

What it means: To concentrate in a specific area.

This is the most-used descriptor for the second year in a row. And it's not a great one -- unless you’re a Jack (or Jill) of all trades, you specialize in something. Announcing that fact to the world doesn’t make you seem more qualified: You’re stating the obvious.

The fix: Describe what you specialize in. That’s what you (and the people reading your profile) care about, anyway.

For example, if you’ve worked in B2B SaaS sales for most of your career, you might write, “I’m a senior Account Executive with seven years of experience in B2B SaaS.”

2) Experienced

What it means: You’re well-versed in a particular industry, market, product category, or role.

Like “specialized,” labeling yourself as “experienced” doesn’t do much to make you sound impressive. Experience is a function of your maturity in the job and exposure to different circumstances -- meaning it should be apparent from your work history.

The fix: Pinpoint what makes you experienced. Have you worked in real estate for the past 10 years? Do you know the ins and outs of startup sales after having been on the ground floor at your past two companies? Are you adept at navigating complex buying processes due to your time selling enterprise-wide technology solutions?

Once you’ve identified your areas of experience, describe them in your summary.

3) Skilled

What it means: You've got the knowledge, training, and experience to successfully do a task or group of tasks.

"Skilled" is a new addition to the list in 2018. Having skills is undeniably a good thing, but there are better ways to demonstrate your capabilities than "XYZ professional skilled at ABC things."

The fix: List what you can do, and, if it's relevant, how long you've been doing it. To give you an idea, you might write, "For the past three years, I've been helping clients identify and fix 'leaky' stages of their sales process."

4) Leadership

What it means: To officially or unofficially guide a group of people.

Leadership was also the #2 most popular word in 2017. And I get why so many users -- especially salespeople -- rely on it to describe their impact on the team. Whether you’re a front-line sales rep or a manager, you probably exhibit leadership in some way. Salespeople can motivate other reps to hit or beat their targets, as well as share best practices and useful techniques. Managers are clearly leaders: They’re responsible for helping their team meet quota month after month (or quarter after quarter). 

However, just because you're leading doesn't mean that's the best way to describe it. 

The fix: Highlight the specific impact you’ve had on your peers or reports. The more quantified, the better.

To give you an idea, you could say, “I organized a weekly session with the other SDRs on my team to discuss our highest-performing email templates.”

5) Passionate

What it means: You’re excited about your work. Money isn’t the sole (or even the main) reason you do what you do.

This adjective is overused and doesn’t say anything special about you. In addition, salary is a big incentive for many salespeople -- and there’s nothing wrong with that.

The fix: Talk about why you’re passionate and/or what you appreciate. Maybe you love selling healthcare equipment to hospitals because you know how many lives that equipment saves, or you’re enthusiastic about providing restaurants with inventory management software because your mom owns her own restaurant.

6) Expert

What it means: You outperform your peers at a specific ability, topic, or niche.

Since many people claim to be experts when they’re not, saying you’re an expert usually backfires. Prospects will automatically be more skeptical when they read this.

The fix: Delete “expert” wherever it appears as an adjective. Your sentences will normally read just as well without it -- if you’d previously written you were an “expert salesperson,” now it would say “salesperson.”

If you’ve used “expert” as a noun (e.g., “home security expert”), write about your typical results instead. To give you an idea, you might say, “My clients typically see a 60% reduction in crime.”

7) Motivated

What it means: You're highly driven.

"Motivated" made the buzzwords list for the first time this year. It's overused, yes, but that's not the only problem. Being motivated is one of those traits you want to show, not tell.

The fix: I'd recommend cutting "motivated" from your profile altogether. But if you want to highlight your work ethic and dedication, pull out a few experiences where you've gone above and beyond. For example, you could add, "I've completed 10 ultra-marathons. Most people (including my family members) think I'm crazy, but I love to set targets that push me out of my comfort zone and help me grow. I bring this  philosophy with me to work, figuratively going the distance for my clients."

8) Creative

What it means: You find out-of-the-box, sometimes unusual ways to accomplish your goals.

Creativity is a desirable trait, but it’s one of those things people have to take your word for unless they’ve worked with you directly. And in that case, you don’t need to promote your creative abilities -- they’ll already be familiar with them.

The fix: Call out a creative strategy or game plan you’ve used. Suppose a prospect was struggling to get foot traffic to their store, so you advised offering free classes to draw in random pedestrians. Citing these examples of creativity help buyers understand the value of working with you.

9) Strategic

What it means: You make intelligent, carefully plotted decisions.

“Strategic” is a buzzword. Ideally, every step you do or do not take at work would have reasoning behind it.

The fix: Share your decision making process. Writing about how your customers achieved a 20% growth in revenue after you analyzed their customer retention framework and found a major opportunity is five times more compelling than calling yourself strategic.

10) Focused

What it means: You zero in on your goals and pursue them relentlessly, ignoring less important projects until you’re done.

This tired adjective will prompt major eye-rolls. If you want to stand out, cut it from your profile.

The fix: Prioritization is an important skill. Although “focused” isn’t the best word to show you can prioritize, you shouldn’t exclude the concept from your profile.

Instead of calling yourself focused, come up with a time you met (or exceeded) an ambitious goal. For instance, perhaps you brought on five top-performing salespeople in one month by spending one-third of your time on hiring and recruiting.

You need to put aggressive goals at the top of your to-do list to be successful, so details like these will prove you’re focused.

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