Your Clever Title Could Be Ruining Your Credibility - Here's Why
If you're a savvy business professional, you're no doubt taking advantage of the internet to create awareness about your business and you, as a professional, in your field. Whether you're connecting with people on LinkedIn, or on niche sites like Networking for Professionals, the people you connect with are forming an opinions about you. The question for you is... "Should they take you seriously?"
In the crowded online networking space, it seems everyone is unleashing their creative side to grab their share of attention. But reckless creativity could be placing your reputation and your business at risk by hurting your credibility.
Optimize your profile title with keywords
Have you been told to do that?
I have, and I've advised clients to do just that.
It's good advice, but the key to highlighting your expertise in your business profile title begins with using words that will paint a clear picture of the value you offer. Don't turn to words that simply grab attention - that's not the kind of attention you are seeking.
Trendy titles don't explain what you do. In fact, they may cause prospects to actually question what you can provide.
Here are a few titles that could be inadvertently telling your audience not to take you seriously, as well as some ideas for what you could use instead.
A 'guru' is defined as a personal spiritual teacher. Is that you? More than likely, you want to express your expertise in a field, so instead try 'strategist', 'specialist', 'analyst', or 'master' next to the name of your field.
'Expert' is a word as overused as the term 'awesome'. The truth is very few people are truly 'experts' at their craft. If you have the education or documented experience to back up the title of expert, and that's how others refer to you, then definitely, use that title. But if you want to prove you have extensive industry experience, try 'advisor', 'consultant', 'project manager', or 'authority'.
There's something mystical about the word 'maven'. I actually had to look it up when I first saw it, and that's probably not what you want your prospective contacts to have to do. 'Maven' is a synonym for 'expert', so instead try 'senior level' or 'executive level'.
The word 'pioneer' makes you think about the early days on the frontier. Yes, it means the first to do something - but are you really the first? You better be certain because people will call you out on it. If you've been in a field for a long time and have contributed to significant changes in your industry, share these accomplishments in your profile. For your title, maybe try 'founder', 'developer' or 'subject-matter expert'.
'Influencer' is a popular term today. To me, Richard Branson is an influencer, and not because he says so, but because I say so. If others are influenced by you, then you're an influencer - the key here being that others have to have given you thst title. If you're a significant player in your field, try 'mentor' or '[name of industry] specialist', or even 'subject-matter expert'.
I like 'freelancer'. In fact, I used to use the title 'freelancer', but then I found 'freelancer' sends a specific message: contract work, short-term, project based, temporary. There are many successful sites, like Upwork, that match freelancers with contract jobs. However, one of the biggest complaints I hear about these sites is the jobs available are all offering rock bottom rates, regardless of your expertise. Perhaps having the word 'free' in the title is damaging. I turned away from freelancer because my business model calls for long-term clients, so I now use 'consultant', 'project manager', or 'business owner' to express more high level, strategic experience.
And here are a few additional titles that you need to delete immediately... 'whiz', 'ace', 'hotshot', 'maestro' and 'pro'. If I need to tell you why, probably not worth you reading any further.
There's a step two to this: Prove it.
Whatever title you use, build a robust professional profile that supports it. LinkedIn specifically provides many opportunities to showcase your expertise.
Here are a few ideas.
Influence: Use the 'Projects' field to show high-profile initiatives you've worked on and link to other leaders on the project. Publish thought-provoking articles on LinkedIn. Ask for recommendations from your contacts and grow a strong industry network.
Expert: Use the 'Certifications' field to demonstrate that you truly are an expert in your field, along with the specialized training and experience to prove it. Publish articles that share your strategies and success stories. Create downloads such as eBooks and guides.
Pioneer: Use the 'Publications' field to show all the white papers, case studies and other industry reports you've written or co-written to show you are one of the founders of your industry. Or try the patents field to show you've been a significant contributor to your industry.
Guru and Maven: Use the 'Honors and Awards' field to showcase industry accolades or recognition you've helped gain for clients. Use the 'Projects' field to share how you were a significant resource or lead for a project.
In closing, I get that there are different generations making up the workforce and society is constantly evolving. To some, the alternate titles I've recommended here may seem 'old school', I get it. However, they communicate professionalism and expertise, and they're words that build trust with your audience.
And really, that's the actual goal here - right?
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