Presidents have biographies (bios). Famous people have bios.
So why might you as a career changer or job seeker spend time preparing your bio?
Read this post to learn how a professional bio can help you with your career goals. Create a bio that boosts your confidence and sharpens your career communication.
What is a Professional Bio?
You may be wondering what a bio adds to your career communication. After all, you have a resume or CV. Isn’t that enough?
There are times when a bio is a better option.
For example, when you’re changing careers and seeking new opportunities, there are many situations when sending a resume is not timely or appropriate. Early on, when you are still in the research phase of your career change, it may be too soon to share a formal resume or CV.
Your bio is less formal than your resume or CV. It’s about your work achievements. It’s also about you. It complements your resume or CV by providing a “bigger-picture” perspective of your work life.
Think of your bio as a sketch or a portrait. Many details are left out. Artists choose the details that support a particular message or experience that they want the viewer to have. Different viewers may have different experiences. That’s outside of the artist’s control. But what artist’s do influence is choosing what they want to communicate and how they execute that.
In the same way, your bio tells your story. You choose the details that best represent what you want to communicate. The challenge is to do it in a way that is brief, but feels complete. You can structure the content in different ways. Typically, it is a one-page summary document written in a narrative form that gives the reader an overview of your work and your life.
An artist may work from a photograph of the person. The sketch or painting is derived from the “facts” of the photograph. Creating your bio is similar. It is derived from factual information about your work and life. If you’re writing your own bio, your goal is to select the “right” information.
How to Start Strong with Creating your Career Bio
Do you struggle with writing about yourself, even if you like to write? This is a common experience, and even more challenging during times of change.
There is no one way to create an effective bio. But that doesn’t mean that anything goes. Get off to a stronger start by answering the three questions below.
1. Who is the Primary Audience for this Professional Bio?
In any communication, the secret is to put yourself in your audience’s shoes. This helps you clarify what is most likely to be of interest to your readers. It is easier said than done. But, identifying your most important reader or group of readers provides the foundation for a professional bio that is more focused and more effective.
2. Which Elements are Most Important for My Readers?
One of the reasons that writing about ourselves is challenging that we try to generate ideas and evaluate them at the same time. One remedy is to try separating the different tasks of writing. Do you find yourself writing down your ideas and trying to edit your writing at the same time? This can slow you down and lead to frustration and feeling stuck.
Here is an approach to try. Separate writing down your ideas from editing your writing.
Begin with a list. Write down whatever highlights from your professional and personal life come to mind. Here are a few questions to jog your memory.
- What have you achieved?
- What is important to you about these accomplishments?
- What are your interests?
- What are you known for?
Make a list of your career accomplishments and personal experiences. Note down any “turning points” in your work and life.
Next, mark the information that you think is most relevant to your audience. You won’t use everything you have listed. But if you keep your audience in mind, you can feel more confident about your choices of what to include.
3. How Can I Organize the Content to Make it Interesting and Appealing?
As mentioned above, there is no one way to present the information. Before you begin, spend 10 minutes reading some bios. Select a few that you like and ask yourself what it is that makes them work for you. Use this for inspiration.
The structure of your bio should follow a logical order. Don’t make the reader work to figure out your message. Your goal is to make it easy for your readers to scan through and understand quickly. Like a story, it should be engaging and have a beginning, middle, and end. Your bio should help your readers feel as if they are “getting to know you.”
The content is important. But so too is the presentation and visual appearance. Pay attention to features such as format and white space that have an impact on readers’ experience.
You can use your professional bio to strengthen your communication. The content you include will be unique to you.
An effective bio tells readers about your professional achievements and who you are as a person. It takes time to prepare. But with this career communication tool, you can feel more confident and make better choices about what to communicate when. Once complete, you also now have content that you can readily adapt for your social media profiles.
Jennifer Bradley helps professionals get unstuck and move forward in their career and work life. She offers individual coaching and consulting, leads workshops, and writes about personal and professional transitions.