Business celebrities:

C-List: ‘regular’ entrepreneurs and the investors, employees, shareholders, lenders, mentors, advisors, and partners that surround them, as well as basically everything other than B and A.

B-List: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Larry and Sergei, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Ellison, Reid Hoffman, Biz Stone, etc. (The Changemakers)

A-List: ‘creativity’, ‘flexibility’, ‘team player’, ‘problem solver’, ‘rockstar’, ‘motivated’, ‘self-starter’ (The Buzzwords)

Does this seem strange? In case you think something else comes above the A-List, what do you know that is more widely known, circulated, referenced, (mis)used, recycled, emulated, and imitated in the world of business?

Buzzwords are like the summer blockbuster movies of business – they say little, take up an inordinate amount of time and attention, and they make most people happy enough. They’re also unoriginal and mean practically nothing. How much does the phrase ‘problem solver’ really mean to you any more?

You, the executive in charge, the manager, the writer, or the recruiter, probably use many of these buzzwords. Take notice of them and look for ways around – find the details instead. Avoid giving people brownie points for buzzwords and start producing, and expecting, something new. The quality of your environment will improve.

Some ideas for getting specific on job postings.

Explore instead of rockstar: an engineer who can demonstrate unique personal innovations to database design, a researcher, assimilator, and learner, someone who can always tell us the top ten things that have happened in databases in the last six months, someone who experiments, someone who codes in their free time, someone with a history of perfectionism and a penchant for creating art through code.

Explore instead of creative: someone who documents new ideas on a daily basis, someone who could do a live fast-paced brainstorm with a new group at interview, someone who could give us five original ideas around a theme we provide you in two days, complete with initial feasibility considerations. Someone who will be expected to create new ideas related to our current project on a daily basis (as opposed to creating ideas in any direction). Here’s a problem (x) – e-mail us ten ideas with your resume!

Recruiters and job seekers are painfully bad at assessing the precise degree of a quality each other is talking about when a buzzword gets in the way. Dispense with buzzwords in your thoughts and start saying something that speaks.


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