How to write a captivating bio

Words matter—and nowhere more than in the professional profile you offer on LinkedIn or on your company website. Here’s how to bring your personality and expertise to the fore.

Thanks to cellphones, people have shorter attention spans than goldfish, but they’re also more eager than ever to make connections with genuine people.

Although a résumé is helpful for job applications, a captivating bio can provide a summary of your background to introduce you to colleagues, job prospects and potential clients. It can help you to be memorable, network with your peers and, generally, stand out from the crowd.

So, the next time you’re giving a talk, writing your blurb on the company website or updating your LinkedIn profile, consider taking a few easy steps to pump up your bio:

1. Think for a moment.

Before you start, consider where the bio will appear and the appropriate tone for the audience. Also, select a first- or third-person voice, and keep it consistent.

2. Start with the basics.

Marcie Hill, author of “How to Write a Powerful Professional Bio,” advises putting your name, job title and other identifying information in the first paragraph.

Her example:

Paul Hall, also known as the “Main Money Man,” is an investment banker and radio host.

3. Highlight how you got started.

We are wired to remember stories much more than data, facts and figures. If there was a pivotal point or inspiration for your career, be sure to include it. Here are some examples:

  • “Sweeping floors and cleaning spills were among Shawn’s childhood responsibilities with Ravitz Family Markets. He rotated through every store department during his college breaks and became manager of the stores’ cash registers and other point-of-sales technology.” ~ Shawn Ravitz
  • “I bought a book called ‘Teach Yourself HTML in 24 Hours’ and dove in. … I was so excited, I worked straight through it, built a site for my company and opened for business.” ~ Lance Cummings

4. Say what you actually do.

Beware of industry jargon and confusing or vague buzzwords. Some common culprits are “leverage,” “breaking down silos,” “positioning” and “synergize.” Instead, imagine that you’re explaining your everyday responsibilities to someone you just met at a bar. Here’s a great example from the CEO of a U.K.-based social media company:

My work is split between growing the company and working with the team on all areas of product, engineering and customer happiness.

5. Say how you do it.

Do you have a big heart or a sense of humor? Are you known for your organizational skills, knack for event planning or detail-oriented nature? Why not include it? For example, my LinkedIn profile highlights my journalism background:

A former news reporter, I take a journalistic approach to marketing corporations and law firms. With an inquisitive nature and strong sense of newsworthiness, I secure high-profile media coverage that spreads the word about philanthropic activities, community programs, and company activities.

To get some perspective, ask a friend or co-worker about your professional strengths or attributes. They might provide crucial insights to inform your writing.

6. Keep it updated.

Your bio isn’t set in stone. Revisit it once a year to keep it fresh and reflect any changes.

What tips would you give others who are writing a bio? Please share in the comments below.

Elaine Andrus is a Philadelphia-based public relations professional. Connect with her on LinkedIn. A version of this article first appeared on Shonali Burke’s website.

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