Avoid Language That Positions Your Past as Target Practice

In career management, we frequently hear seekers use negative, self-labeling words. Many of these choices can have a dulling impact on the listener, especially at a time when seekers need to differentiate themselves as being exceptional. These negative terms are akin to taking target practice on yourself.

Here’s a review of the stale terms that seekers commonly use as they attempt to land new roles; alongside suggestions for more helpful language choices:

I was downsized: An organization may have been merged, divested, redesigned, outsourced or automated resulting in the separation of employees. But never will any human be physically “downsized.” Wouldn’t it be better to declare a personalized, future-oriented target? An example might be: “I have targeted (next role) within (organization)." Affirming a chosen career path positions you as that rare find—someone who is working with a defined plan. This gives an interested organization the opportunity to size up its future plans against you as the seeker’s declared targets.

I lost my job: Really? How do you lose or misplace a job? Being released from a job is not a sin. Instead of emphasizing loss, try affirming a clearly chosen future such as: “I am pursuing work as (role) with (organization).” Affirmative statements will spark curious inquiry about your forward-moving direction and shift the focus from loss to potential gain.

They offered me outplacement: Professional outplacement can provide useful support, but these services are best used as a wisely supportive, silent partner. Describing your career status using this terminology suggests being on the receiving end of change. In fact, Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the term “outplacement” as “the process of easing unwanted or unneeded executives out of a company by providing company-paid assistance.” Rather than talking about outplacement, try leading with language that is reflective of a person who has assessed and defined a healthy career path. This, in turn, will prompt listeners to ask questions focused on your future.

When self-marketing, a clear, proactive and targeted statement will certainly get you further than: “I lost my job when the firm downsized and so they provided outplacement.” Keep the focus on the work you want with the firm(s) you have targeted.

Try affirming your future rather than shooting self-inflicted arrows at your past. Your aim will pay much greater dividends.

*Image by renjithkrishnan@freedititalphotos.net