Constructing a bio that's not over the top but isn't ho-hum either can send even the most seasoned professional into a tailspin. You don't want to sound like a braggart, and yet you don't want people to challenge your qualifications or credibility either. In other words, writing a bio is both an art and a science. Hopefully these suggestions will help you find just the right blend of interesting, intriguing, promotional, and truthful.
Consider your audience. Who will read your bio and what do you want them to remember about you? If you're presenting at a conference or event, consider the attendees' interests and be sure to highlight the information about you that will get noticed and build credibility. Is your target audience contemporary, traditional, creative, or conservative? You will want you bio's style to appeal to their style as well. It is also important to use the right key words to help establish and solidify your message. If you're updating social profiles (LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, and Facebook), gear your message toward the people you want to reach on each platform.
Look to others for inspiration. Starting from a blank sheet of paper can be intimidating. Search and find the LinkedIn summaries of other colleagues, or take a look at the speaker bios from another event. Pay attention to author/blogger bios on prominent sites. One word of caution about doing this; if everyone in your industry is writing long, seemingly boring bios, you may not want to buck the trend. However, if you want to get some creative ideas to jazz your bio up a bit, try reading the bios of marketing professionals, celebrities, start-up founders, authors, or other big names. These bios are often professionally crafted or the people writing them have creative writing skills. No two people are alike, it is therefore not advisable to lift someone else's information.
Pull out the best information. Before you start agonizing over every word, jot down the answers to these questions:
- What are your two to three most important qualifications?
- What makes you tick? (What inspires/motivates you?)
- What problems are you good at solving and who benefits?
- What got you where you are today?
- What words have others used to describe you?
- What key words do you want to be associated with?
Brainstorming all these answers can help you decide what is important for you to include and focus in on. You may decide not to use all of this information, but perhaps thinking the answers through will offer greater insight. Remember to list the information that most of your audience will feel is most important first.
The long and short versions. You don't need to include your entire work history. Most people will never read your full bio if it is too long. There is a fine line here between divulging too much information and establishing trust by providing enough information for people to feel they know you. So what is the ideal length? There is a growing trend toward shorter bios; two sentences is about right. Some online bios limit the number of characters you can use(such as Twitter). In these instances, you may need to shorten your two sentences using the most valuable key words. You can and should have a longer version, but no longer than a single paragraph.
What now? Now it is time to go spread the word by updating your profiles. You may have online profiles from the social media tools you use. If you don't have a Google profile, now would be a good time to create one. It is a great way to own some digital terrain. By adding the words "I," "me," and "my," you can personalize your bio even more, rather than using the third person. Use this version to update your LinkedIn Summary. Don't forget to include the bio in your about section on Facebook. When you use the same wording consistently, it improves your ability to build an online presence.
Taking your bio one step further. Do you have an About.me page? Or what about a page on Vizify.com, Rebelmouse.com, or Flavors.me? These virtual place holders give you a Web presence and the opportunity to promote and educate visitors on who you are. These sites also provide links so that visitors can learn even more about you.
Hannah Morgan is a speaker and author providing no-nonsense career advice; she guides job seekers and helps them navigate today's treacherous job search terrain. Hannah shares information about the latest trends, such as reputation management, social networking strategies, and other effective search techniques on her blog, Career Sherpa.