How do you write a professional bio on yourself? I’m struggling with coming up with a bio that sounds confident but not braggy, approachable but also serious. Plus I’m a creative, so it should sound…creative. It’s enough to make me to avoid my LinkedIn account.
— Tania D.
What is a short professional bio?
A short professional bio is a brief summary of who are you are as a professional. It should show you in the best possible light and highlight your achievements but not feel like you’re giving a hard sell. Ideally, it feels honest, professional and intriguing. You want to leave them wanting more, not bored or feeling like you’re arrogant.
Why do I need a professional bio?
Having a professional bio is important for networking events, social websites like LinkedIn, your website, marketing material or basically any time you want to convey what you do succinctly. Once you have one, keep it handy. You can copy and paste, saving yourself a lot of time thinking up unique bios. However, do make sure to keep it up-to-date. If you pivot, have new achievements to highlight or even just more experience, remember to update.
5 Tip for Writing a Better Professional Bio
While you can hire a copywriter, most people write their bios themselves. It doesn’t need to be long or flashy, in fact to the point generally works best. Start by brainstorming the highlights of your experience and career. Then you can get to work. Here are points to help you craft a better professional bio.
1. Accomplished people have short bios. Yours should be, too.
Here’s an example of a bio for the artist, Maya Lin:
“As an undergraduate at Yale, Maya Lin won a national competition to design the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (1982) in Washington, D.C. Since then, she has designed memorials and landscape sculpture across the United States, including a multi-site project along the Columbia River in Washington and Oregon tracing the path of the explorers Lewis and Clark. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and received the National Medal of the Arts in 2009.”
See how it highlights her achievements without feeling like it’s overtly bragging or going into too much detail about any specific project? The reader would come away with a good idea of her background and know if they want to continue the dialogue. That’s what you want — a bio should tell someone reading it if you’re a person they want to talk to.
2. Use the journalist’s tool: the inverted pyramid.
Give the important facts first to grab your reader’s interest. Start with your greatest accomplishments and drill down from there. Sometimes your greatest accomplishment is obvious — an award, a big contract, solving an impossible problem. Often it’s less obvious though. It might be your longevity in a career most people burn out in within a few years or educational experience.
Whatever it is, it should be relevant and interesting to your target market.
3. Identify your audience.
Keep in mind who will read your work bio. Is your reader a corporate executive or a potential client? Or is your bio listed on a professional ad page? In each case, your bio should reflect what you want the specific audience to know about you.
You don’t need to re-write your bio for each audience but edit it. For instance, at a mom’s networking meeting, include something about your family life in your bio. For an alumni networking event, add information on your studies and any contact you still have with the school. For industry-specific event, feel free to use the jargon that marks you as an insider (and no one outside the industry understands).
4. Use the third person; avoid the passive.
Your professional bio should read as an objective statement about yourself. Instead of writing, “I initiated and managed an extensive rebrand of Company X,” you should write, “ Jill Jones initiated and managed an extensive rebrand of Company X.”
Avoid the passive voice when possible, since you want your professional life to sound vibrant and active. Write, “Jones became Creative Director of Company X in 2010” instead of “Jones was promoted to Creative Director of Company X in 2010.” That sounds like you took charge in a dynamic way.
5. After you’ve written your bio, write an “elevator pitch.”
It’s useful to have a one-liner that states your purpose, much like what start-up entrepreneurs do when pitching their big idea. State who you are and what your goal is. For example, “Jones is an accomplished creative director seeking agency work in digital or print platforms.”
Having a work bio is becoming more important in the digital age where people “meet” you via the words on a website. In essence, keep in short, start with the most important facts, write with your audience in mind, use the active tense, and after that, make sure you have a short personal elevator pitch to tell people orally which highlights the most important aspects. The main goals of any bio are that it promotes you and describes your personal brand.
Barbara is a writer and educator with a PhD from the University of Chicago. For the last 13 years, she’s taught writing and research at Parsons School of Design and Barnard College including white papers, design documents, grant-writing, academic research papers. She also writes marketing and web content for various Silicon Valley technology companies.