• Matt Black

Don't Believe the Buzz! It's Still Great to be 'Passionate,' 'Responsible' & 'Creative'

I’ve held my tongue long enough – it’s time to speak up for a few of my descriptive friends. No more “Mr. Nic…

Wait, am I allowed to use the word ‘nice’ anymore?

Due to their widespread nature, some of the most effective and important adjectives that professionals use to demonstrate their employable qualities have been written off. Cast asunder. Left for dead. But I’m here to rescue them – and to save us all from the seemingly endless supply of gurus and ninjas out to censor our vocabulary!

Here’s why “overused buzzwords” still have a place on resumes, social profiles and in everyday conversation:

They have near-universal meaning.

I’m simply not buying the fact that overuse = uselessness. That’s like saying if everybody orders pizza for dinner, your pizza won’t taste as good. (And I mean, come on… it’s pizza).

It’s all about the toppings – or in the case of our much-maligned adjectives – which words you choose and how you use them. There will be no mistaking what you mean if you say you’re ‘motivated,’ or if you have ‘extensive experience.’ Everybody understands what ‘responsibility’ is in the context of a professional workplace.

In my mind, using clear descriptors means there’s no ambiguity in what you’re saying about yourself. After all, adjectives are meant to describe or clarify a noun – not confuse them.

They do you and your experience justice.

To me, there’s nothing wrong with being ‘effective,’ or looking for ‘innovative’ ways to drive revenues. As long as you show AND tell, you’ll be just fine.

In many cases, it isn’t the word itself that lets us down – it’s the way we use it to communicate. More simply put, you have to tie the right adjectives to the corresponding results. Instead of muddying the waters and maxing out the ‘Right Click, Synonyms’ feature, say what you mean and show us how!

For example, is it more effective to tell you I try and create ‘actionable’ and ‘outside the box’ solutions for clients? Or that I’m ‘thoughtful’ and ‘practical’ in my efforts on their behalf, followed by actual results to prove it. One definitely sounds fancier – but I’m not sure everyone knows what it means, or that it truly captures what I’m trying to say.

George Bernard Shaw put it best: “the single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” Words are supposed to help your chances, not hurt them.

They cut to the chase.

Many recruiters and hiring managers know exactly what they’re looking for. Don’t believe me? Pull up 5 job postings and study them. No, I mean really study them and make note of the language and words they use. Now tell me this: how many of them are looking for “thought leaders” or “mavens?” Is there a huge market for “masters” like these?

I’m guessing there are very few… that’s because hiring managers want people who are clear as to what they’re all about and who aren’t afraid to tell it like it is.

The biggest issue I have with these types of terms is that they get in the way of themselves – in other words, they add a layer to the original intended word or meaning. And in an effort to differentiate themselves from the pack, those who have avoided the buzz-ish adjective have actually made it more difficult to understand their message and purpose. Do you “think outside the box,” or are you simply ‘innovative?’ Do you “incentivize,” or just strive to ‘motivate’ where you can? With very little time to impress or stand out, my guess is that you’ll look far more well-rounded telling people who you really are – not which clichés you fit best.

Do you use so-called “overused buzzwords,” or are you avoiding them altogether? Is there a right or wrong way to use common adjectives, if at all? Feel free to discuss in the Comments section below!


©2020 by Matt Black Ink | All rights reserved | Toronto