Show Don’t Tell: Stop Using Lazy Phrases on LinkedIn If You Want to Stand Out

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Don’t say you’re a `proven leader.’ Prove it by showing how you lead

Proven leader. Strategic thinker. Results-driven (fill in the blank). These are some of the laziest words and phrases on LinkedIn.

Users can do better by their professional profiles. Here’s how: Show, don’t tell. And using each of these worn-out LinkedIn buzz phrases, here are some ideas for exactly how you do that.

Proven leaders don’t call themselves leaders.

If you have to call yourself a leader — a proven one at that, you might not be the standout leader you think you are. Let your title and actions speak for themselves. As Shakespeare would have written, “thou dost protest too much.”

What to do instead? First, trust that your audience will infer from your title that you have a leadership position. Of course, a big deal title doesn’t prove leadership, so in your ‘About’ and ‘Experience’ sections, give examples of how you support your team and develop leaders. Nothing says leadership like championing and preparing others to shine in this way, too.

You can also write LinkedIn recommendations for colleagues and team members, because it is the right thing to do and these folks just might ask if they can return the favor. What’s better than you calling yourself a leader is having others talk up your leadership.

Strategic thinkers need to be storytellers.

If you’re a strategic thinker, the way you show that is by telling a story. In your ‘About’ section, describe what your strategic thinking looks like. Maybe you detail a time when your strategic thinking made a project run smoother, a product more successful, a budget more efficient or a team feel happier and supported. Maybe you saved — or better yet made — your company money. Spell it out. Tell a story.

And because you likely have more than just one story, make sure to provide other examples throughout your job postings in your ‘Experience’ section.

These recommendations also apply to self-described “problem solvers.”

Results-driven professionals should embrace the data.

It’s not enough to assert that you drive for results. What were your results and how did you strive to achieve them?

Again, tell a story in your ‘About’ section and provide actual data. What were you striving for? Was it a certain sales goal, a particular percentage increase in profits, shortening your time to market, reducing customer complaints by X amount, or garnering X number of positive Google reviews? What did you or your company set out to do and how did you meet or beat that?

And like the “strategic thinkers” out there, continue to provide details of your drive for results in your experience section. No need for a long narrative. Think of short, impressive bullet points.

* Implemented X strategy and increased business line sales by X percent year over year.

* Streamlined X services to save company X dollars in the first quarter.

Remember, it’s show, not tell.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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