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!
A friend told me about three great videos, the first of which you can see here: http://vimeo.com/27244727. What intrigued me as much as the videos was the way the film makers managed to capture their journey in just a few words, in essence a bio. Just 48 words, and yet you know what you need to know. Good job, Guys!
"3 guys, 44 days, 11 countries, 18 flights, 38 thousand miles, an exploding volcano, 2 cameras and almost a terabyte of footage... all to turn 3 ambitious linear concepts based on movement, learning and food...into 3 beautiful and hopefully compelling short films...
= a trip of a lifetime."
A client of mine recently brought this video to my attention, and once again I'm reminded of the importance of making sure your bio does its job: to let people know who you are and what is important to you... whether you're an eagle or a duck, or something in between!
When companies or clients are considering who to hire, your bio is a great vehicle for helping them make a decision based on how you "fit" into their company culture. Don't waste this opportunity by having anything less than a great bio.
I have a number of dental clients. Recent research by Sesame Communications, a dental industry pioneer in online patient connection systems, found that, as much as dentists love to show off "before and after" dentistry, patients aren't really interested, especially in the "gross and icky" before pictures. In fact, the number one thing patients look at on a dental web page is information "about the dentist". The second thing is "about the staff".
I suspect this is true of almost all small business websites. People are more interested in you as a person than the service or product you provide, at least initially. So don't make the mistake many do of having a "Coming soon" or "Under construction" message on your About Us/Me page. It only takes a few minutes to write a great bio.
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:
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!
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?
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.
One of the reasons I like the bio business so much is that it gives me the opportunity to 'meet' so many interesting people, from so many different walks of life. Some are just starting out, some are near the end of their careers, most are somewhere in between. Over the past few weeks I have either written or reviewed bios for a/an:
The common thread in all of these bios or documents is this: how do I write about myself without sounding 1) arrogant, or 2) boring?
Those are questions I hear a lot. It's tough for most of us to write a bio about ourselves to begin with, much less if the reaction we are trying to evoke is: "Wow, he/she sounds like a really interesting (or experienced, or knowledgeable, or trustworthy, or you name it) kind of person."
That's why if someone asks me to write their bio, and they're feeling nervous about the outcome, I offer to send them 2 or 3 other bios I've written for people in similar positions, or similar fields. I ask them to let me know how they felt about that person after reading their bio, and if they would be confident about their own bio if it read and 'felt' the same way.
The answer is always yes. I've never had someone come back and say the person in the bio sounded arrogant or boring, and I've written or reviewed over 1,000 bios.
If you are holding back on writing, or revising your own bio, please keep that in mind. What you may perceive as negative -- lack of formal education or previous experience are common examples -- is equally as much a positive factor in the context of your life and your story.
Everyone has a good bio in them, I know it. If you need help, please contact me, or buy my e-book and see how easy the process can be. (I offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee, so you literally have nothing to lose.) Some people prefer I write their bio for them, which is fine, too.
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.
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:
An otherwise great bio often lacks one important element: search engine optimization. (Ie, the incorporation of keywords and phrases that search engines use to rank a web page in their search listings.)
Many people are familiar with SEO in relation to a company's website or other online marketing efforts, but have not considered it an important element in writing their own bio. The best way to explain how this is done is to see it in action. The following is an excellent example of a bio that has been "SEO'd". It comes from the website of a client and colleague of mine, Fred Gleeck, www.fredgleeck.com.
Fred Gleeck is an information marketer. In addition to working on his own info products, he helps others sell their information products as well. Fred has been perfecting his information marketing techniques over the last 24+ years. If you want to learn how to sell information products on the internet, he is the right person to consult with.
The information marketing business is changing. Fred knows and understands the information marketing secrets that few others use or know. He uses them himself in his own business and then passes that knowledge along to others in his seminars and workshops on creating information products.
Selling information products for himself and for his coaching clients is his ONLY business.
He is the author of over 15 books and helps others who sell info products to create their own books, ebooks, audio and video programs.
If you want to create your own information products, you should contact Fred. He teaches a range of topics within the field of selling information products. They include, but are certainly not limited to:
Are you in any doubt that Fred is in the information marketing business? (The words above in bold and italic are also links to other pages on Fred's site, another good SEO technique to use when you write a bio.) Probably not, and neither is Google. By the strategic use of words and phrases that describe what he does when writing his bio, Fred has not only given readers a comprehensive list of his products and services, but he has incorporated SEO into his bio as well, which has the added advantage of helping anyone who is seachring for information on information marketing find him.
What about you? If you are a female bodybuilding instructor, or a voice-over artist, or a marriage therapist, have you "SEO'd" yourself when writing your bio? If not, give it a shot! Google will love -- and find! -- you.
CNN recently ran a good article on email etiquette, highlighting a few issues I discuss in my "How to Write a Great Bio" e-book, and also bringing up a few new ones. My favorites:
People often ask me if bios have become more important than resumes, or even if the resume is truly a thing of the past now that potential employers have a myriad of online and digital ways to find out who you are and what you do.
My answer is no, the resume is not 'dead'. In fact, it still has a vital role to play in building a balanced and detailed picture of you for potential employers and clients.
My suggestion is to use a bio with your resume. Let the bio tell your personal story and the resume tell your knowledge and skill story. (Both should be well-written and professional, of course.)
Keep the bio to a half page or less and the resume to 2 pages at the most -- with reasonable margins and readable type.
Do that and be prepared to stand out in a crowd!
Watch out for small words that can actually reduce the impact of your bio. For instance, I recently reviewed a bio in which the writer described himself as "very experienced". I took out the "very". It's redundant in this example, as is highly in "highly educated" or reputable in "reputable law firm". (I assume you're reputable, don't put doubt in my mind by feeling you have to reassure me.)
The use of these words is often an attempt to stress a point, but they're almost always unnecessary.
I reviewed a bio today for a very successful businessman who wanted to know how to explain to potential investors in his business that he didn't have a college education.
"Don't," I said, "you've obviously done very well without it. If they want to know more they can ask when they meet you in person."
The same goes for any one of a number of potentially 'sensitive' subjects - time out of the work force to raise a family is another good example, or to recover from an injury or illness. You can certainly mention it, but don't feel the need to justify or explain it. Don't induce doubt that might not otherwise be there.
Focus and concentrate on what you have done or can do when writing your bio, that's what counts.
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.