Do you need to show other people that you’re smart?
It’s okay if you do (we all do). Especially when you’re looking for a job.
But just write about yourself in a simple, clear way when doing this, okay?
Awhile back while teaching a course for job seekers, several of the people there expressed a lot of skepticism when I was trying to get them to write their CV and LinkedIn profile in an informal yet personal tone by using simple words and short phrases.
Avoid zombie speak
Do this, I told them, and don’t be tempted to use what LI Influencer Liz Ryan calls ‘corporate zombie speak’, as in: ‘I am a results-oriented, bottom line, hard-working and motivated self-starter who meets or exceeds expectations.’ What does that even mean?
Instead, write as if you’re talking to someone, I advised. What would you say about yourself?
We went back and forth on this point. Most objections began with ‘But…’
They just didn’t seem to be buying what I was trying to sell, and I started to struggle.
Until I had a light bulb moment: ‘Oh, I think I understand now what you’re all getting at! You’re worried that if you write this way, the reader won’t think you’re smart.’
Put rather bluntly, but the nodding heads told me that I’d hit the nail on the head.
Everybody knows you’re smart
I went on reassuringly, ‘It’s okay that you feel this way. We all feel this way. You might be feeling this even more because English isn’t your first language, so you think that you need to use big words and business phrases to convince people that you’re intelligent.’ More nods.
I continued: ‘But your background, including your education and work experience, speaks for itself. You’re more than qualified. Trying to dress yourself up through using empty, clichéd phrases and complicated words won’t help you.
In fact, it does the opposite. It makes you look fake. It makes you look like you can’t think for yourself, so you have to borrow big words from others to describe yourself.’
Who’s made an impact on you?
Think of the writers, speakers, business people, etc. who’ve made the most impact on you, whether in English or your own language. Chances are they communicate in a simple, direct way that you can easily understand and relate to — that’s why you remember them.
This is especially in technical-scientific fields. If these technical whizzes could get across to readers both their professional know-how and individual personality, they’d have a winning combination that would get them the attention (from potential research partners? recruiters? business contacts?) they desire and deserve.
And so can you. Think about this idea, then try it out.
Writing about yourself in a simple, clear way is the smart thing to do.