Whether you’ve been invited to speak at an upcoming conference, gotten the green light from a hard-to-reach publisher, or secured a coveted spot on your company’s “About Us” page, the professional bio will be a critical component of how you appear to the public. Unfortunately, many people are completely at sea when it comes to writing about themselves. Their worries reach a fever pitch when they realize that this important summary of achievements must be, at the same time, impressive but humble, thorough and concise, confident yet respectful… the list goes on!
But writing your professional bio doesn’t have to be a daunting task if you follow the 5 Must-Haves of the Professional Bio. Each detailed step includes excerpts from bios across a wide range of industries, highlighting how to successfully apply each tactic.
Step 1: Establish your Credentials
Start with a strong title that shows you’re invaluable to your employer, but keep it vague enough to leave readers unsure as to what it is you actually do. Remember: while it may be clear to you that your title is arbitrary and essentially a ploy on the part of upper management to sidestep a raise, your audience will view it as a legitimate representation of your role in the company.
Here are several professionals that use the flexible nature of job titles to elevate their worth in the public eye:
Blaire Thompson, Director of Knowledge Infrastructure
Ron Harrison, Junior Manager of Senior Services
Angie Watkins, Deputy Liaison of Inter-Departmental Affairs
Ted O’Connor, Chief Consulting Officer, Assurance and Implementation
Step 2: Consider your Responsibilities
These days, our attention spans are being stretched thinner than ever before. That’s why an effective bio doesn’t read like a laundry list of duties and responsibilities, or overwhelm its audience with tedious details. Instead, the successful professional demonstrates how he or she performed those tasks better than anybody else could.
Fortunately for the reluctant writers out there, a sprinkling of powerful verbiage is oftentimes all you’ll need to turn an average bio into a compelling case in your favor. Here are some basic guidelines:
A. When discussing how you grew into your current position, you should never just rise — rise quickly. Or better yet, launch, catapult, springboard, jettison, or surge into a role.
B. It’s good to be at the forefront of a new technology, but it’s even better when that technology is innovative, intelligent, ground-breaking, or at the very least, multi-billion dollar.
C. To avoid coming off as stodgy or lacking in entrepreneurial spirit, it’s vital to convey that you don’t merely do the job well. If you are not revolutionizing how things are done in your industry, you should at least be defining or redefining them.
A note on style: the default for writing about oneself is in the 3rd person. This makes the description more objective, as if someone else is making these claims on your behalf.
Step 3: Channel Today’s Popular Language
Modern language is constantly changing, so it’s helpful to demonstrate a knowledge of fashionable buzzwords. The most respected and sought-after professionals are the ones with a finger on the pulse of shifting trends, and the language they use reflects that high level of expertise.
In this example, note how a veteran marketing consultant zeroes in on what’s relevant in his industry today:
Johnson customizes, brands, and tailors a first-rate product that is customized, branded, and tailored to fit your business needs. He prides himself on leaving no element un-customized, unbranded, or untailored, so you don’t have to.
Here, skillful wording is taken to a higher level with the repetition of key terms. This reassures the reader that Johnson has more than just a superficial understanding of what these words mean.
Step 4: Add a Personal Touch
Now that you’ve outlined your stellar credentials and experience using today’s trendiest terminology, it’s important to add a personal touch to your professional bio. Many people forget this crucial step, ending up with a summary that makes them seem more like a highly-trained robot than an individual with hobbies, passions, and a 30-year mortgage.
Balance your professional accomplishments with some warmth and personality, like this successful brand manager has done:
During his 16 year tenure at the Omninomnomnom Group, Derrick has grown grayer, fatter, and more accepting of his mortal lot. His extensive experience in global retail branding has made Derrick more tolerant of minorities and less inclined to slap his female friends on the rear. It has also made Derrick’s divorces more amicable and remote.
You can also give your bio a bit of flair by including a personal quality or attribute that makes you unique. Here’s how one accounting professional capitalizes on two traits that demonstrate her extreme diligence:
Leslie’s criminal record is cleaner than what you’d expect from someone who’s been in the business for more than two decades, and she has been seen flossing her teeth in the women’s bathroom after lunch.
As you can see, it doesn’t take a full page or even a paragraph to explain how you stand out from your peers. Just a sentence or two about your personal life goes a long way in making you sound human!
Step 5: Choose the Right Photo
Finally, put your best face forward with a high-quality photo. Keep in mind that this is the image people will associate with your personal and professional accomplishments, so you may consider hiring a photographer or investing in Photoshop. For those on a tighter budget, free applications such as Instagram and Paint can do in a pinch.
A few things to remember as you’re preparing your photo:
DO opt for professional attire that fits well and has been freshly laundered.
DO choose a photo that suggests the confidence and competence of a seasoned professional.
DON’T dress in the clothes you would normally wear to work. This includes aprons, polo shirts, helmets, pasties, scrubs, name tags, hair nets, and other articles typical of a variety of jobs.
DON’T update this photo to reflect the weight gain and hair loss that will inevitably occur with time.
I hope you found this information helpful as you think about your own career trajectory and craft a professional bio. Content is updated regularly, so stay tuned for more useful tips, including articles on Body Language to Use When Making Empty Promises and How to Build a Corporate Empire in 3 Easy Steps.