Personal branding trends that need to die

tombstone change agent.jpg

I was thrilled when people stopped branding themselves as “self-starters” or “team players.”

I rejoiced when we stopped awarding extra schmooze points if a candidate used the word “initiative” at least five times in an interview.

And when resumes stopped beginning with the objective of finding a “challenging and rewarding role in a growing company,” I believed we might be on our way to authenticity in career verbiage.

But alas, those clichés just got replaced with others – others that are even more arrogantly cryptic than their predecessors.

Personal branding trends that need to die, and soon:

1. “I’m a thought leader.”

Well now we know where all those pesky thoughts come from. What a relief.

But I’m still curious. What does this even mean? That you’re some mega-minded galactic being who sits around thinking up globe-rattling ideas all day? That others may have had thoughts, but your thoughts are the only ones that matter? That you’re a leader who does the thinking, while your subordinates do the actual doing?

And while there are people in leadership positions who exhibit all or some of these behaviors, is that real leadership?

2. “I’m a results-driven professional.”

Darn. We’re really looking for a slob who hopes to achieve nothing.

What person isn’t results-driven? What person goes about their work motivated by the possibility of having zero effect on the universe?

Your achievements should say this, not you.

3. “I’m a dynamic change agent!”

I get it. In a world of assembly-line people churning along on the conveyor belt of humanity, you’re trying to convey motion, excitement and energy. But this sounds like an obnoxious TV infomercial or a used car salesman; you’re either about to help me lose fifty pounds by next week or give me a great deal on a Ford Pinto.

4. “I elevate high-performing teams.”

The geek in me wants to like this one, as it almost sounds like you’re telekinetic or perhaps a wizard. But in the absence of actual magic, it reeks of arrogance and sounds too much like a motivational speaker at an Amway convention. Also, were they low-performing teams before you or after you? And if they were already high-performing, why are you bragging about them?

I’m all about great branding and creative communication, but I long for the day when people simply say what they’re awesome at, in clear, specific language. These currently popular “glamour words” make professional profiles read more like dating profiles; they fly in the face of the transparency we claim to want from leaders and colleagues, and are in direct opposition to the authenticity we crave.

Also, if your personal brand follows trends, is it really an effective brand?