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:
Good luck! I would love to hear from you about your encore career.
If you need to write your bio or resume, keep the one key 'trigger' word I write about below in mind.
I was helping a young client of mine write her resume last week, and I told her there was one particular phrase I always suggest including somewhere in the document: well-adjusted.
Why? Because in the many years I've written or reviewed bios and resumes, on top of the years I was responsible for hiring employees, I can tell you without hesitation this is the kind of 'trigger' word a potential employer wants to see. It alludes to the fact that you have the ability to get along well with others, which is a key consideration for any employer when hiring new staff.
When I asked a former employer many years ago why he chose me over all the other people he interviewed, he said it was because I listed one of my strengths as "the ability to get along well with others, even those I don't particularly like."
Another reason I know this is a good trigger word -- many years ago I worked for a company in the UK that gave one-day training seminars on a variety of business topics. We tried again and again to make a new seminar we introduced on Customer Service a winner, but attendance was dismal. It was only when we changed the title to "How to Get Along with Difficult People" that the seminar took off, and became one of our most popular courses of all time. (The graphic, above, Mr. One Man Band, is one of the office cartoon 'characters' we used in our brochure to illustrate the various types of difficult people you'll find in most, if not all, offices.)
There are other good trigger words to use as well, words that have been proven over time to add interest or 'power' to any document. Google 'power words' and see what comes up. I also have a list of power words in my free e-book, "15 Common writing Mistakes Even Good Writers Make!"
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.
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!
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.
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:
Jill Townsend is the author of "How to Write a Great Bio", an e-book with tips on writing a good bio fast, and with confidence.