“Ugh!! The worst!”
…says every person ever when talking about writing professional bios.
We’ve been rewriting our bios in anticipation of launching our new website, so I’ve been having this conversation a lot. Writing about yourself, succinctly, clearly, while walking that fine line between sounding like a total narcissist egomaniac or someone who’s amounted to nothing thus far in their sad life…it’s really hard.
The problem with most professional bios? People write lists of accomplishments that make great tools for an insomniac trying to lull herself into dreamland. Who needs to read another bio that reads like a long line of credentials? I know I don’t. (isn’t that what LinkedIn is for?)
When I read your bio, I want to know:
What are you passionate about?
What do you do when you’re not at work that makes you interesting?
(Because I like working with fun, warm-hearted humans.)
And, most of all:
What’s in it for me?
What’s magic about this person that I can learn from?
Righto, you say, but how the f*^& do I write that?
First get clear on your skills, passions, and purpose.
Why should people care about you? What will you do for them?
Not sure? Ask around:
“Hey best friend/colleague/beloved client/barista, what do I do better than anyone else?”
Listen carefully to the feelings words they use.
Your friend might say, “you make gorgeous clothing!” You’ll turn to them and ask “I know, but how do you feel when you wear my clothing?” Their answer of “I feel like a total badass who can take over the world” is the kind of juice you want for your bio.
The point is, don’t just list out where you’ve worked and what degrees you have obtained. Tell your reader what ninja skills you possess and how those skills will make their life more awesome.
Kate worked at Big Impressive, LLC where she learned how to write business plans.
Kate shepherds ideas from napkin sketches to robust balance sheets and inspires owners to exceed their own expectations.
Start with a one sentence story or a metaphor.
Start with a problem and the aspiration — then introduce yourself because you’re going to solve it.
Describe the change you make and the value you create.
Live in the present-tense.
Use jargon (especially if you work in an industry with a lot of it)
Hide behind credentials.
Write in the passive voice.
Here’s an exercise you can use, from my friend Anna. This works great with groups, or even just a buddy. Helps to keep you honest to have to talk about yourself in front of a friend!
First write 7 words. Just words, not phrases, that describe yourself as a human in the world….not just your work.
They can be all kinds of words… “sharkey” “nutmeg” “pine tree” and “athletic” all count. So do “sproingy” “stirrup wearing” and “anti-establishment.”
Then you both read them aloud (oh shit…participation!)
Next, expand your list to 14 words, stealing or modifying based on what you heard from the other person.
Then you read them aloud again.
Finally, write 3-4 sentences in the first person describing yourself using some of those words. Skip all the “studied at…” and “has worked with” and “Seeks to inspire…” language that we’ve all read a million times.
The first person part is important. You can translate to 3rd person later if you need to. The point is to describe who you are, rather than what you do. These sentences then become the foundation for the rest of your bio. Sprinkle in your credentials, add in who you serve, and finish off with the change you create in the world.