The Top 10 Buzzwords of 2011
The French are "dynamic," Indians are "effective," Italians are "problem solvers," and people from Singapore have a "great track record" -- at least by their own accounts. The professional network LinkedIn just released the most popular buzzwords on users' profiles for the past year, and reveals the different qualities that various nationalities are emphasizing to employers, and the qualities that Americans also are highlighting this year, compared to 2010.
The most popular word that American professionals used to describe themselves in 2011 was "creative," which didn't even make the top 10 last year. Perhaps this is due to the death of Steve Jobs, whose many eulogies reminded Americans of the power of outside-the-box thinking. Or maybe it's because of the steady growth of tech companies like Zappos, Groupon, Facebook and Google, which are known to seek out employees with technical skills sprinkled with quirk and imagination.
The phrases new to the list this year seem to be a little more concrete than the terms of 2010. Users ditched "entrepreneurial," "problem solver," "fast paced," "team player," and "results oriented" in favor of "organizational," "effective," "communication skills," and "extensive experience."
This could indicate growing frustration among job seekers or unsatisfied jobholders, who are still struggling to find good work three years after the so-called recovery began. "No more lofty abstractions this year," it seems to say. "It's time to get to the grit of why you should hire me."
Or the new words could simply reflect LinkedIn's changing user base, which grew from 85 million globally at the time of the last analysis to 135 million at the time of this one.
More tech-savvy and younger professionals were probably overrepresented in last year's sample, since LinkedIn was a newer website. The early adopter crowd may simply be more likely to call themselves "fast paced" or "entrepreneurial."
Whatever the reasons, LinkedIn's connection director, Nicole Williams, advises users to steer clear of common phrasings. Professionals should try to differentiate themselves from the pack, she says, and tired buzzwords are unlikely to leave an impression on an employer who is sifting through thousands of profiles in the hunt for a new hire.
"Use language that illustrates your unique professional accomplishments and experiences," she says. "Give concrete examples of results you've achieved whenever possible and reference attributes that are specific to you."
"Unique" may end up being one of the buzzwords of 2012.
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Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.
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