December 28, 2010
How to write a great bio, from the author of 'Bye-Bye Boring Bio'
I recently interviewed Nancy Juetten, author of "Bye-Bye Boring Bio," on what it takes to write a great bio. Professionals in transition can benefit from a well-written bio in their social media profiles (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter), the summary section of their resume and on their cover letters.
Q: For someone starting to develop their personal brand, what elements should they focus on when writing a bio?
A: Authenticity in communication has never been more important, especially since so many organizations are leanly staffed and asking team members to take on more responsibilities than ever. Skills, abilities and results matter, of course. Personal qualities that make you a pleasure to spend time with count for a lot, too. Choose words in your bio that help people quickly get to that "know, like, trust" place so the conversations can flow in a winning way. Showcase some warmth and personality with the words you choose, particularly if those characteristics are relevant for the opportunity you seek.
Q: What competitive analysis would you recommend when creating your bio?
A: Read bios of best-selling authors, experts and people frequently quoted in the media. These bios tend to be brief, compelling and packed with stunning results, sassy sound bites, succinct stories and information to help the reader believe that these people truly are the rock stars in person that they appear to be on paper.
Q: If someone is in career transition (unemployed), do they need a great bio and why?
A: After these last few years, who isn't in some stage of career transition or reinvention? My advice is to build a bridge between what you did prior to what you are now doing in a way that makes sense and lends credibility to why you are the best candidate for the opportunity at hand. Take caution with focusing too much on the past; put emphasis on the passion, commitment, training and -- most importantly -- the results you deliver. When experience in the new arena is short, reinforce your integrity and strong values related to hard work, creating impact through your contributions, and your willingness to bend and sway with circumstances to become an asset to any organization.
Q: What are things people should avoid when writing their bio?
A: Common mistakes fit into this recipe: ABC DIY
- A - Absence of proof of your claims and arrogance. Authenticity and affability count for a lot in today's marketplace.
- B - Boring, blah, blah, blah and boilerplate content. If the decision-maker is snoozing, you are losing.
- C - Content . Be mindful of offering the "just-right" amount of content, without offering too little or too much information. Brevity can be beautiful and very compelling.
- D - Differentiation or absence of differentiation. If your story reads like every other applicant, take out a new sheet of paper and find a way to set yourself apart from the rest.
- I - Starting every sentence with "I." This is a boring, unimaginative way to communicate. And, at the end of the day, the end game is to get to YES. That means framing content to showcase the "win" for the decision-maker.
- Y - Yada, yada, yada. If the words don't add value to the objective and opportunity at hand, leave them out. Less is more.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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