One of the most common concerns I hear when talking to people about writing their bio is this: "I don't have a college degree, will that work against me?"
My answer has always been no, it won't. We will a): not mention or apologize for it; and b): make sure your experience tells your story.
That's why I was interested to come across this article: "Why Google doesn't care about hiring top college graduates".
Some of the article's conclusions, from Laszlo Bock, Google's head of people operations:
On the other hand:
Read the entire article, Why Google doesn't care about hiring top college graduates, here.
So, if you're worried about how your education will impact how you write your bio - don't. If it's good enough for Google, you're good to go!
1. You're how old?
Age is a funny thing, it can work for or against you. Mostly against, so unless you're the youngest Pulitzer prize winner in history, or the oldest living snowboarder, don't mention it. Readers will be able to tell from other informaton you provide approximately how old you are. That's good enough.
2. Do what feels good - kinda.
Go with your gut when writing your bio, regardless of what anyone else tells you to do, including me. However, your gut is one thing - spelling errors and poor grammar are something else altogether. Always have a second set of eyes proofread your bio.
3. Just say no!
Okay, Ladies, this one's mostly for you. Just say no to:
4. Share something personal.
Consider including at least one thing in your bio that "humanizes" you. Share your sense of humor, for instance, or admit to a vulnerability. It's very likely to be the one thing people remember the most, I guarantee it.
This is one of my all-time favorites: "My friends and I organized a neighborhood revue when we were about 10. Unfortunately, our parents found out it was topless and shut us down."
5. "Should I even mention that?"
I get this question a lot. People ask if they should mention, for instance:
6. Ten years is usually enough.
On a similar theme, you don't need to go back more than 10 years with your work history, unless there's a really good reason.
7. Don't sweat it, just write it.
It's easy to feel 'bio paralysis'. Where do I start, what do I say? Just start, don't worry about the order, get it down on paper. You'll be surprise how easy it is from there. (Especially if you use my e-book.)
8. Family can be awkward.
For example: "Jim and his wife Julie have five children -- three from Julie's previous marriage to Harold, one from Jim's previous marriage to Anita, and one of their own."
Huh? TMI. But extended and blended family can be tricky. My suggestion: "The Harris family consists of three sons and two daughters ranging in age from 2 to 17. They also have two dogs, one cat and a cockatoo."
9. Don't fear the punctuation police.
Hmm, should I use a comma or a period? A colon or a semi-colon? Honestly, it really doesn't matter that much. If in doubt use a period and start over. Short sentences are best.
10. Leave your reader something to ask.
Don't try to include everything. That's what resumes and biographies are for. Think of it this way, give people enough information to start a conversation with you, eg, "I see you lived in the UK for 12 years. My father is from Manchester."
11. "But there's nothing particularly interesting about me."
Boy, if I had a dime for every time I've heard that, I'd be a rich lady. And it's never proven to be true. I dare you to be my first uninteresting bio. Go ahead, try me. If you send it, I'll post it and we'll let people vote on it!
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:
Of all the questions I'm asked about how to write a good bio, this one is near the top of the list: "How should I format my bio?"
There is no one right or wrong way to format a bio, but there are several easy guidelines to follow to ensure your bio looks professional, and is inviting to read.
One of the many reasons I like writing bios or reviewing bios is that I get to 'meet' so many interesting people, and I'm often humbled by the great work or great contributions they are making to their communities and, often, their country.
This bio is a perfect example. My thanks to Brian Knoedl for asking me to review it for him. It was a pleasure, and I wish him and TextFace great success in their quest to "take on a generation dying to communicate."
Brian Knoedl is the Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Arkansas-based TextFace, a business that was born in 2011 to “take on a generation dying to communicate”. TextFace uses the internet and social media platforms to spread much-needed light on the reality and consequences of distracted drivers on America’s roads and highways. The company uses, among other methods, an innovative and proprietary “caught on camera” approach to create teachable moments for both the public and law enforcement agencies, not only in the local community, but around the country as well.
Known to his colleagues simply as “The Boss”, Brian’s work history and experience make him not only “the right man for the job”, but possibly “the perfect man for the job”. Former experience includes:
“We’ve found the courts are having difficulty at times enforcing the law,” he says, “while the video we shoot -- and teach officers to shoot -- is 100% prosecutable.” In addition, Brian and his colleagues provide education and training to law enforcement on vehicle selection, video production techniques, profiling, automobile safety and recovery issues, even the often-underestimated cost and effect of distracted driving on insurance companies and employers.
A father of four, all of whom drive or soon will, Brian’s passion to see families protected from all forms of distracted driving is personal as well as professional. “There is still a huge lack of awareness and understanding about the dangers and consequences of distracted driving,” he says.
“We want to change that through education and awareness-building among the public, and well as partnering with the law enforcement community to help build their knowledge and skill set, before too many more lives are needlessly lost.”
Well done, Brian, and best of luck to you and everyone at TextFace.
I recently helped a good friend of mine write a bio, which seemed like a daunting task to her because she had been out of the job market for 11 years while she raised her three children.
I assured her this was not uncommon, and that we could still write a good bio for her by concentrating on many of the activities and responsibilities she had as a mother, wife, neighbor and friend.
Like so many of the people I help write bios, she underestimated her own talents and abilities, and of course it's difficult for many of us to 'toot our own horn'. (That's why many people ask me to write their bios for them. They can't be objective, but I can!)
Because she is a friend and I knew her, I knew where to start:
Q: You ran a jewellry business for a few years, didn't you? And you won sales awards for that, correct?
Q: You used your design skills over the years to help several friends redecorate their houses, didn't you?"
q: You have organized countless soccer and golf and volleyball events on behalf of not only your own kids and family, but others, correct?"
Q: You are currently helping a family member get a small business off the ground by helping with Quickbooks, aren't you?"
You can guess her answer.
Once we established that she did indeed have marketable skills and 'job' experience, we had the foundation for a good bio. Her skills may differ from yours, but I would bet $10 that you have a lot of valuable experience regardless of the fact that it was not gained in the 'official' job market.
Start by making a list. Don't be shy and don't worry about bragging. Ask a friend to help. Then here's a fun tip: write your bio using someone else's name! You'll be amazed at how much easier it is to write about yourself by doing it this way.
Here is a part of the bio we eventually came up with for my friend:
"During this time she also worked in a part-time or independent capacity as a Jewelry Sales Associate (for which she won numerous sales achievement awards); and Interior Design Consultant. In addition, she is proficient with QuickBooks and job cost projections."
If you are re-entering the job market and need help with writing your bio, I am happy to help, or you can try it yourself using my downloadable e-book, "How To Write A Great Bio." It costs just $17.95, and for an additional $5, I will review it for you.
Either way, best of luck on writing your own great bio!
Author, How To Write A Great Bio
I came across a very good 30-minute video on LinkedIn the other day entitled "How to get hired by an influencer."
The article made several very good points about writing resumes and bios that actually increase your chances of getting hired in this very competitive job market. There was particular advice for people who may be overqualified for the jobs they are applying for, and for those over 40 whose age may (but not necessarily) work against them. I highly recommend listening if you fall into any of these categories.
Here are a few samples of what the video covered:
If you feel your age works against you, focus on these three attributes: your curiousity, your ability to face and overcome adversity, your passion for the company you are applying with.
Experience doesn't matter as much as it used to. Today's employees must be 'smart athletes', 'agile thinkers' and understand they job they are doing today is not the job they will be doing a year from now.
CEO's have had to devise clever questions to get people off their 'scripts'. This is in an attempt to get around the facade people present so they can get a sense of what the person is really like, and how self-aware the candidate is.
Question for candidates: As a job seeker, how do you present a polished appearance while giving someone a truthful sense of who you are? (My answer - write a great bio.) Bios are about who you are and what you believe in. Resumes are about what you've accomplished professionally. Both are important, but a really good bio will give an interviewer the framework they need to ask non-standard questions, and give you the chance to answer questions outside the box as well.
Cover letters - do you always need one. Maybe not, but a great cover letter is still a good idea. If you don't need it, fine, you still have it available.
Overqualified for the job you are applying for? That's not unusual anymore. Review your bio and resume. Minimize the importance of job titles in favor or your experience, passion, curiousity and desire to make a contribution to the company. Emphasize your willingness to learn and your ability to get along well with others. Employers want to know you'll get along well with your co-workers even if you don't necessarily like them.
Are handwritten notes passe? No. It's still a good idea to deliver a hand-written note within 12-24 hours of your interview.
Job seekers face many challenges in today's job market, but there are ways to stand out above the crowd, even if you're overqualified or over 40. Again, I highly recommend you listen to this video about How to get hired by an Influencer if you're looking for a new job.
And of course I'm here to help if you need to write a great bio!
That's question I'm often asked when either writing or reviewing bios. Many talented, successful people feel unsure of whether or not they should mention that they don't have a degree. Here's what Chuck Blakeman, author of "Making Money is Killing Your Business", has to say on the topic:
"Learning is not education. Millions of higher degree recipients make less during their careers than people who dropped out of high school. And millions who never finished high school make huge impacts and a lot of money.
We miss cause and effect all the time. As an example, people love to say, “College graduates make a million dollars more in their lifetime than non-college graduates.”Is it because they went to school, or because they are motivated to do anything that will make them successful? I think it’s the latter."
Read Chuck's entire blog post here.
Well said, Chuck, thanks for sharing your thoughts with my readers!
If you have questions like this that pertain to writing your own great bio, please contact me. I'll answer your question here.
Most people are so relieved to finally get their bio written, they tend to post it and forget it. Does that sound like you?
How often should you update your bio? The answer varies with the person, of course, but a general rule is whenever something noteworthy happens, or at least once a year. Chances are good that something has changed in that time, and your bio should reflect that.
Did you get a promotion? A new certification? Join a board or other professional organization? Has something happened to your company (not necessarily you)? All of these events merit an update to your personal or professional bio. The good news is that you are not starting all over! You have already written a great bio, keeping it updated is a piece of cake!
One client came to me and asked for my help in updating his bio. I asked him how long it had been since he wrote it to begin with. "A few years," he said. "It says my kids are 8 and 10, and they're in college now."
On a related note, many people don't update their bios because they don't have access to their website, whether it's their own or their company's. That's a whole different hurdle that we can discuss at a later date. For now, when was the last time your bio was updated? If more than a year, go forth and update!
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.