A recent article in the Wall Street Journal online says, "The New Resume: It's 140 Characters", and goes on to talk about how some job recruiters are turning to Twitter to recruit new employees.
The article continues: "Twitter is becoming the new job board. It is also becoming the new résumé. Fed up with traditional recruiting sites and floods of irrelevant résumés, some recruiters are turning to the social network to post jobs, hunt for candidates and research applicants. Job seekers, in turn, are trying to summarize their CVs in 140 characters or six-second videos."
Wow. Talk about a challenge. But not surprising in this age of instant communication and information overload.
I'm often asked to write a bio based on someone's resume. My first step is usually to strip the document down to bare bones, then use that basic information to write the bio. A 4-page resume becomes a 4-paragraph bio in a matter of minutes. (Well, sometimes it takes a lot longer, but you get the idea.)
I also recommend crafting a bio of 100 words or less, which truly concentrates the mind. I may now also suggest that writing a Twitter bio of 140 characters or less is a good idea, just in case a prospective job opening on Twitter comes along.
I decided to give it a try myself: Jill Townsend is a professional copywriter & author of How to Write a Great Bio. She helps clients write well, write fast and write for impact.
That took about 15 minutes, and it wasn't easy.
Bottom line: to be prepared for any occasion, make sure you have on hand:
- Resume (one page or less)
- Bio (4-5 paragraphs, max)
- Twitter bio (140 characters or less)
If you really want to be ahead of the curve, try making a six-second video! I'm not that brave - yet.
When people choose my 'Let Jill Write It" bio option, they often send me a copy of their CV to use as background information. While these are generally well-written, many make a common 'mistake' that actually distracts from the document's effectiveness.
They over-format. Lines, boxes, shading, indents (often more than one level), multiple fonts or multiple sizes of the same font, miniscule margins. The CV ends up looking like a busy freeway at rush hour, and the reader doesn't know where to start, or is put off right away due to the sheer volume of 'data' they're presented with.
So if you are looking to update your bio, CV or resume, follow these simple rules:
- One page only. No job needs more than 3-4 concise, well-constructed bullet points. Don't go back more than 15 years unless there is a good reason to.
- Choose one font style, and 2 font sizes.
- Use bold and italic sparingly.
- Give your document a file name that includes your name, eg Jill_Townsend_Resume.doc. Employers received hundreds if not thousands of resumes. Don't make them search for yours by naming it "New_Bio.doc" or "My_Resume.doc"
- There is no reason to use color or shading. It's distracting.
- If you have to minimize your margins in order to accommodate your content, go back and edit your content. Margins provide valuable 'white space' that makes your document easy to read.
- Is your font size easy to read? Fonts vary, but I like 10 pt. Tahoma or 12 pt. Times Roman. Verdana and Arial are also good choices. The default for most Word (.doc) documents is Calibri or Cambria, both of which are fine. Comic Sans is not!
- Don't use big words when little ones will do.
- Expect your potential employer to look at your Facebook and LinkedIn profiles as well. Do they complement your CV?
Over-formatting your bio or CV is not the end of the world, but it does weaken your message. The good news: focusing on content rather than presentation makes the process of writing or updating your bio or CV much easier, much faster and much more effective.
There are many ways to write a good bio. It can first or third person, depending on the audience. It can be one paragraph, or two, or three, four or five. (I generally don't advise going longer than five when writing a bio.)
But my favorite part is always the same... it's what I call "the good stuff at the end". The personal stuff. The one or two things you share about yourself that 'humanizes' you, and often puts everything that's come before in greater context.
For instance, you might tell me in your bio you are the VP of a company that makes travel accessories for left-handed people. (I'm making this particular one up, but I'll bet they're out there!) Or you might tell me you manage an assisted living facility, or are a top real estate agent, or are a teacher, or firefighter.
But it's what you tell me, your bio reader, at the end that brings your bio full circle, and makes your story stand out.
Here are a few recent (real life, I promise) examples of bios I have written or reviewed in recent weeks, with "the good stuff at the end". Whether or not you read anything else in their bios, you learn something important and unique about these people.
- Warren has been married over 40 years and has five sons, one daughter, 13 grandchildren, and eight brothers and sisters. He enjoys working out, burning CD’s/DVD’s for resale after church services, and hosting large family gatherings.
- Dan enjoys a plethora of hobbies ranging from weightlifting, baking from scratch, refinishing furniture, or simply being a tourist in his home city. His mantra, “Life isn’t a dress rehearsal. Just do it!”
- June and her husband, William, an M.D., have been married for 32 years and have five children. Son Bruce served five years in the Marine Corps and all the girls played college basketball. The family has lived in Burdville since the early 1980’s. June, a graduate of Iowa State University, loves cooking, working for the Church, weddings, women’s basketball and spending time with her family.
- Having grown up around general aviation I developed a passion for all things that fly. My wife and I currently own a 1949 Cessna 170 that we use on family trips to Florida, and lots of flying taking in the local sights. I also own an antique truck that I enjoy working on and driving.
- Born and raised in Manila, Philippines, Edna moved to United States in 2001 to join her family. In her spare time, she enjoys staying fit, gardening, traveling, cooking, bowling, badminton and table tennis.
- Hobbies and interests include traveling, cooking, hosting dinner parties for friends and family, and sitting on a patio with great cocktails and conversation. He is not married and has no children, but holds firm to the idea of such. “Laughter is my medicine,” Jimmy says, and his many friends describe him as “full of life, laughter and love -- the kind of person you always want to sit next to.”
- I grew up in a Christian home in Greenville with loving parents and numerous siblings. In our home, attending church and Sunday school was expected, not optional. We had no cable, no computer, and no video games. We adjusted our TV antennae by applying a piece of aluminum foil around the tip.
- Brenda has also served as a Focused Monitoring Parent for the Georgia Department of Education, Division for Special Education Services, for over two years. She volunteers as a support parent for the organization, Parent to Parent, where she speaks with mothers on early intervention for children who have been diagnosed with autism. As the parent of a 16-year old autistic son herself, she is uniquely qualified to understand these parents’ challenges, and help them find the resources they need to help their children lead productive and fulfilling lives.
- Kay and her husband Mark, have four sons, two daughters, two grandchildren and one pet, Peaches, the family’s Lhasa Opso. Kayenjoys ballroom dancing, the outdoors, reading Zane Grey and experimenting in the kitchen with cooking styles and ingredients.
Do you see what I mean? Pretty cool, huh? So if you need to write your bio, or want to update the bio you have, remember to add "the good stuff at the end".
Need to write a bio? Most of do at some point or another in our business or personal lives. I help hundreds of people each year write their bio, and want to alert you in this post about a few very common mistakes I see when I review or edit a bio.
Surprisingly, however, I am not going to talk about content here. Most of you do a great job, either using my ebook, How To Write A Great Bio, to help, or figuring it out yourself. Well done!
No, the mistakes I am talking about here are much more basic, and luckily very easy to fix.
Imagine this. I am an employer who has asked numerous job candidates for their bio. Or their resume, or a photograph of themselves or their product(s).
Here's what I get from you: mybio.doc, or myresume.doc, or headshot.jpg, or headhighres.jpg, or even worse...img9856.jpg.
Name your files appropriately before you send them off! This employer is going to get potentially 100's of files, and yours can easily get lost in the pile if no one takes the time (and why should they?) to rename the files you send. And after all that work you did to write a great bio or resume!
My bio should be titled Jill-Townsend-Bio.doc. And my photo should be named Jill-Townsend.jpg Get it?
(This is a good habit to get into no matter what you are sending, or who you are sending it to, by the way, especially since search engines index photos and files as well as web content.)
Don't sabotage an otherwise well-written bio by hiding its identity from potential readers. It's an easy fix!
People who write for a living, like me, have learned certain 'secrets' over time that help streamline the writing process and minimize that old enemy - writer's block.
The one I recommend to anyone who finds themself with a writing project in front of them, like writing a bio, is to understand and learn to use "transitions". Transition are words or phrases that get you from one paragraph to the next, and make the writing process much less stressful.
Think of transitions as puzzle pieces. The right puzzle piece links at least two other pieces together, making them 'fit', and work together as part of a whole. Transitions do the same by linking one paragraph to the next. The 'secret' is this: don't worry about linking your paragraphs together as you write. Don't worry if the paragraph about your education should come before the paragraph about your current job. Just write them (the paragraphs) and leave the 'transitions' for later.
Doing this helps eliminate the pressure we feel as we write to "start at the beginning and finish at the end", a true recipe for inducing writer's block. In reality, writing your bio, or anything else for that matter, can be accomplished by writing in "chunks" (paragraphs, or even sentences) and then linking those chunks together -- using transitions -- at the end.
Here are some examples of transitions (in bold) I have used in writing bios, or when reviewing bios for others:
Prior to joining XYZ Company, Bob served as...
Bob's industry experience is extensive, and includes times spent as...
Recognized by colleagues and clients alike for his... Bob
A lifelong student, Bob attended (Name of School), where he received (Degree) and actively pursue continuing education opportunities in his industry. (Don't mention the year of the Degree, it doesn't matter, and can work against you by 'dating' you.)
After moving to City/State, Bob...
Active in his community, Bob (describe volunteer activites, etc.)
A supporter of... Bob
A proponent of... Bob
Outside the office, Bob enjoys...
When not at work, Bob enjoys...
You get the idea, and now you know the 'secret'. Use transitions like those above (but there are 1,000's!) to help you write your next document, whether it's a great personal or professional bio, a business document or a personal letter.
I read an interesting article this week about the new trend in 'encore careers' -- babyboomers reinventing themselves as they head into retirement.
The title of the article was: "Encore careers expert: More boomers, older workers seeking jobs with social purpose."
As the article explained, Boomers are "leading a push into so-called encore careers -- paid work that combines personal meaning with social purpose -- in their 50s and 60s."
The trend is attributed to longer lifespans, layoffs, shifting cultural attitudes and financial realities. In answer to the question "How big a barrier is age discrimination?" author Dave Carpenter advised: "I always encourage people to think about what they can do to make sure their skills are current and that they are presenting properly."
This led me, not surprisingly, to think of how a Boomer looking to write a personal bio for an encore career might go about it. Here is my advice:
- Follow all the standard rules: spelling, grammar, formatting (ie make it look as good as it sounds).
- Place emphasis on your experience and your passion, rather than your actual job experience. It's great that you were a director or manager at a hospital, but how does that translate into your encore career? Perhaps you have an in-depth understanding of how to get surplus medical or dental equipment and supplies to third world countries, for instance.
Regardless of what encore career you choose, chances are good you will need to write a bio for this career just as you did your previous career.
Good luck! I would love to hear from you about your encore career.
My recent post on how to write a good bio if you'd been out of work for a while prompted one of my readers to send me a link to a good article on a similar topic entitled, "How to Get a Job if You're Over 50".
Their advice: "Stop worrying about the "age issue" and start addressing the real reasons why you may not be landing opportunities." The one that caught my eye was this:
"Your resume is old fashioned and untargeted.
If you're worried about age discrimination, don't start your resume with, "Over 25 years of experience in ______." Don't purposely hide experience in a "functional" resume that mashes up your skills without detailing when and where you gained them. The solution? Focus on your most recent and relevant 10 years of work history and make a strong case for your candidacy."
I agree, and have often said so when advising people on how to write a bio that will help them get a job at any age.
Whether you need to write a good bio, or resume, to help you get a job if you're over 50, I recommend you read this interesting and informative article.
And remember, I'm always here to help you write your own great bio.
If the title of this blog resonates with you, you're not alone. One of the questions I get asked frequently is how to write a good bio when you have been out of work for a while -- sometimes a long while.
It's a good question, and one that doesn't have an easy answer. The circumstances behind the time off will be different for everyone. Some will have left the job force voluntarily -- to travel, go to school, have a family, take a break. Some will have been laid off, or fired.
Regardless, here is my advice on how to write a good bio if you've been out of work for whatever amount of time.
Be honest. Explain the history of your unemployment, briefly and simply. Do not feel the need to go into detail. A prospective employer can ask for more information later if they choose.
Example: I left my previous position in 2009 to (insert reason here). Have a family. Go back to school. Care for an elderly relative. Travel the world.
Example: I was laid off from my previous position in 2009 because (insert reason here). Downsizing. New management. Relocation issues.
Again, be concise. Don't apologize or over explain.
A good bio is an honest representation of who you are today, and how you got to that point. Adversity does not equate to negativity, by any means. All of us have faced adversity in our lives and our jobs and (hopefully) learned from our experience. A good employer will recognize that, even reward it.
So, if you've been out of work for a while and are wondering how to write your bio, keep these simple tips in mind to help you get started.
Although the majority of people who visit my website, www.writeagreatbio.com, are looking for help in writing a short bio, more and more have expressed interest in writing a biography. My distinction between the two is simple: a bio is short, usually 3-5 paragraphs, and is intended for use on your company website, or as part of your resume package, or simply to introduce yourself to your customers or colleagues.
Writing a biography, on the other hand, is a different story. A biography is longer, and is often intended for publication. Maybe as a gift to your children and grandchildren, maybe as a gift to yourself! Length varies, but generally from 10-100 pages, and includes photos, possibly even audio and video. (If you can fill 100 pages, I would like to know you!)
The internet has made publishing your biography much easier and more affordable, and I'm always looking for companies to recommend to help you. I found one recently that I recommend if you are looking to publish your biography, or any other type of ebook: lulu.com. I came across this company recently and find their technology to be super easy to use, even fun.
If you need help with writing your bio, or biography, I would love to hear from you. Everyone has a story - what's yours?
I'm often asked about the 'tone' a bio should take -- friendly, funny, formal, informal? The answer is... a little bit of all the above is fine if it feels right to you -- after all, you are writing a bio about yourself, and if you can incorporate a little of the personable with the professional, that's great.
I recently came across a really good example of how to write a bio about yourself on LinkedIn. Peggy Richardson and I recently collaborated on a project about writing ebooks. Her bio follows:
Books and eBooks, blogging, podcasting, and chocolate. And shoes.
Here's the short version:
- I create and edit books and eBooks for myself and others.
- I offer a series of day-long workshops about eBooks: how to create them, and how to make money from them.
- I do some one-on-one consulting, but I prefer to steer people into my workshops, as I find they often get more out of working in a group of other Authors (peer mentoring is one of my personal missions).
Here's the long and boring version:
I've been editing since 1994, but I studied it formally around 2000 – 2001 at SFU, and have never looked back. I work entirely in non-fiction, especially business, self-help, and lifestyle topics. I prefer to work with renegade entrepreneurs who are as passionate about communication as I am.
I've had good success as a consultant on so-called "problem projects", because I can give clear and objective feedback, and spot obstacles very quickly. My marketing and business experience is especially valuable at times like this.
Over the last few years, I've become more and more involved with online content management, especially using open-source applications like WordPress. I often act as a WordPress coach to entrepreneurs of all types, helping to get their web presence back on track. Most of the speaking I now do relates to eBooks, WordPress, and how I market them using social media. (And other cool stuff, like affiliate marketing.)
Specialties: book editing (for content and style, as well as copy editing), book cover design, typesetting and design for both print books and ebooks, book marketing, book and eBook affiliate marketing, social media book marketing.
End of bio, back to Jill...
Well done, Peggy. Anyone who reads this kind of "bio about yourself" would come away with a very good understanding not only of who you are as a person, but who you are and what you do as a professional.
So, if you're writing a bio about yourself, and if Peggy's personable yet professional tone feels right for you -- go for it!