Damaging Job Titles

Your Clever Profile Title Could Be Ruining Your Credibility – Here’s Why

If you are a savvy business professional, you’re undoubtedly 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 the networking giant LinkedIn, or a niche site like Networking for Professionals, or an industry blog like Spin Sucks, the people you connect with are forming 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. However, reckless creativity could be placing your reputation and your business at risk by hurting your credibility.

Here’s why.

Damaging Job Titles

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 – it’s not the kind of attention you are seeking. Trendy titles don’t explain what you do. In fact, conversely, they can make prospects question what you do.

Below are a few titles that tell your audience not to take you too seriously, and some ideas for what to 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. Instead, try ‘strategist’, ‘specialist’, ‘analyst’, or ‘master’ next to the name of your field.


Expert is a word as overused as the word 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 expert, and that is 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. That’s 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 invokes images of the early days on the frontier. Yes, it means being among the first to do something but were you among 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 changes in the field, share about these accomplishments in your profile. For your title, 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 are an influencer. The key here is that others have given you the title. If you are a significant player in your field, try ‘mentor’ or [name of industry] ‘specialist’, or ‘subject-matter expert’.


I like freelancer. In fact, I used to use the title freelancer, but then I found the term 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 clients want rock bottom rates from you, the contractor, 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 and so I now use ‘consultant’, ‘project manager’, or ‘business owner’ to express more high level, strategic experience.

Here are a few titles to delete immediately… ‘whiz’, ‘ace’, ‘hotshot”, maestro’ and ‘pro’. I don’t need to tell you why.

There’s a Step 2 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 project field to show high-profile projects 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 show that you truly are an expert in your field and have the specialized training 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 awards or awards you 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 titles I recommended may seem ‘old school’. I get it. However, they communicate professionalism and expertise, and they are words that build trust with your audience.

And really, that’s the goal here, right?




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