02/12/2016 03:02 EST | Updated 02/12/2017 05:12 EST

Banish Buzzwords And Elevate Your Professional Brand With These 5 Tips

Blend Images - Ariel Skelley via Getty Images
Businesswoman handing paper to co-worker

Motivated about your career? Passionate about your work? Keen to showcase your strong leadership skills? I'm afraid I have news for you: so is everyone else!

LinkedIn has announced its Top 10 Buzzwords of 2015, an annual list of the words that make you go 'meh' -- those overused, underwhelming buzzwords and phrases that appear in too many LinkedIn profiles around the world. The number one offender on Canadian profiles? Leadership.

The top 10 overused buzzwords of 2015 in Canada:

1. Leadership

2. Passionate

3. Motivated

4. Creative

5. Strategic

6. Dedicated

7. Extensive experience

8. Driven

9. Successful

10. Organizational

These are popular words that we've all used at one time or another in our résumés and LinkedIn profiles. But let's face it; we'd never actually describe ourselves this way. Imagine introducing yourself at a cocktail party as a "passionate leader dedicated to strategic organizational success"; I know I'd feel ridiculous if I tried it.

So why is it important to banish the buzzwords and rethink how we present our professional brand?

For one thing, in today's digital world, potential employers are developing a perception of you long before you get a chance to meet them. A recent Workopolis survey, 45 per cent of employers research potential hires on social media to learn more about their qualifications. At the same time, there has never been greater competition to stand out among all the candidates out there. Describing yourself with all the same words as everyone else uses cuts your chances of getting noticed by your dream employer.

So while it may seem daunting to find a way to present an authentic, positive image that stands out above the rest, banishing those empty buzzwords is the first step towards crafting a compelling professional story that can only describe one person -- you. Don't say you're a dream hire; show it!

1. Stand out from the crowd: Your summary is the first thing people look at after your profile picture. Instead of using buzzwords to describe your capabilities, use examples of your experience, focus on how you've demonstrated real leadership with specific examples and highlight those great results with hard numbers that quantify your impact.

2. A picture's worth a thousand words: Instead of saying you're 'creative', why not show people by showcasing the presentations, design work and projects that make you proudest? Savvy LinkedIn members use their profile as a professional portfolio. Remember, you've only got seven seconds to impress.

3. Share views and news: So you have 'extensive experience' and 'great communication skills'? Demonstrate it by publishing a post on LinkedIn and commenting on other members' posts. By offering your opinion on industry matters, you're demonstrating that you are engaged, and positioning yourself as a thought leader.

4. Show that you're on top of industry issues: If you want to show you are 'motivated' about succeeding in your industry, join a group. With more than 2 million different groups on LinkedIn, there are bound to be several that are relevant to your career goals and expertise. Share your thoughts on news or articles to show you care about the sector and widen your network. Members who are active in groups get 15x more profile views than members who are engaging regularly.

5. Show appreciation for a job well done: If you think someone is 'exceptional', why not say it? Spend time writing meaningful recommendations using specific examples. Not only does this show you really know them, it also means they are more likely to return the favour. And don't be afraid to ask for recommendations; they carry weight.

While many of your New Year's resolutions may have already fallen by the wayside at this point in the year, the resolution to advance your career is easier to keep than you may think. Taking the time now to junk the jargon and cultivate a robust professional brand which highlights the unique value you bring to employers and colleagues will pay dividends for your long-term career development.

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