How to Write a Professional Bio
Professional biographies are used for many purposes professionally and can be a great tool to stand out with your clients or hiring managers. Having that professional bio ready when you need it is key to advancing your career. The following is everything you need to know about building a professional bio and how to use it.
What a Professional Bio is
It is important to first understand what a professional bio is before making one. A bio is a short and concise description of your professional life. It can be used to introduce you as a professional to a number of different people at different points in your career.
A professional bio should only include relevant information about your skills and abilities. It is a good idea to use a standard format for all of your bios so they are easier to maintain, especially if you have multiple Bios on different platforms.
The Difference Between a Resume and a Professional Bio
A professional bio is not a resume. A resume is a marketing piece that positions you as a qualified candidate for a particular job or opportunity. Resumes are often 1 - 3 pages and they contain a higher level of detail on all of your experiences.
Alternatively, a professional bio is concise and used to give the reader an overview of who you are instead of what you do. Depending on the purpose of the bio, it can be a few paragraphs to a glossier brochure, 1-page document.
Building Your Professional Bio
Now that you have a clear idea of what a professional bio is, you can start building yours. The first step to building an effective professional bio is understanding how you will use it and why. From there, you write the content to achieve your goals. The following tips will help you to write the best professional bio possible for your goals.
The first factor to consider is your tone. What kind of personality do you want people to associate with you? For example, if you are known for your tenacity and strong work ethic, speak like a Brooklyn Dodger.
However, if you are more laid back and have a sense of humor, show that off in the bio. The tone should be as much as who you are as what you do.
Your professional bio should reflect your personal brand. You will not typically include details about your family life here. Instead, you will include your professional title and take many of the details from your resume to write the best bios.
Short and Concise
Professional bios should be short and concise, but that does not mean they should be generic. Rather than regurgitating your resume in paragraph format, think about the most important information you want to communicate.
The goal of a professional bio is to make you stand out as a professional. This is not the place for modesty. A good rule of thumb is 1 - 2 paragraphs on average, with 5 sentences as a maximum.
An effective bio will meet the word count requirements of where it will be used. So, make sure that you keep in mind not just who will read it - but where it will be used as well. This means that you will probably want to write short bios and long bios to use.
Use Keywords Strategically
Another factor to consider when writing your professional bio is keywords. These are words that do all of the work in communicating what you do without needing to go into great detail.
You need to keep your target audience in mind when writing a bio with keywords. While it may seem like a no brainer, using keywords strategically is different than using buzzwords. For example, "word-of-mouth marketing" is a term meant to make you sound more professional or technical than you are. A better term would be "networking."
Keep in mind that you want to write a professional bio that uses enough keywords so people will find your professional bio when searching for them. However, writing a bio with too many keywords can make it sound contrived or even spammy.
Maximize Your Reach
Remember, a good professional bio is only as effective as the audience it reaches. When building your professional bio, think about who you want to read it and where they will find it.
Thinking about where you will put your professional bio can also make an impact on what you create. Some platforms will have character limits or require more details because of their goals. So, writing a short, medium, and longer version will be key.
You will also want to write a version of your professional bio that is more designed than your resume. You will use this designed bio for potential clients, trade shows, speaking engagements, and other professional networking settings. You will write the content of this bio and design it consistently with your personal and company brand standards. It should show your expertise like a resume, but it should be more visually appealing than the traditional resume.
One of the most important pieces of your professional bio is to establish credibility. Credibility is achieved by showing what you've done, any experience that backs it up, and how long you have been doing it.
You will write this portion of your professional bio should not be generalized or broad; rather, make sure you highlight your most relevant experiences in the strongest terms possible. For example, use first-person language to describe your experience instead of writing "I have done this."
You will also want a bio that uses the third person. This bio will be used most commonly for your introduction. An example of a short bio in third person is:
"John Smith went to Columbia University. John specializes in digital marketing."
You will want to make sure that you use your professional title in this third person bio as well.
Be Warm and Personable
The final key factor in writing a professional bio is whether or not you are able to be warm and personable. People are drawn to those who are genuine, so it's important for your professional bio to reflect that.
Putting this into words is hard, but the best rule is to not use any language in your professional bio that makes you sound like a robot. Keep it conversational and fun while still sounding informed and engaging.
You can showcase your expertise and build a bio that engages with your audience on a personal level. You will write this bio with your audience in mind. The way to do this is to remember that this is your own bio. People connect with people, so you need to keep true to your voice in your bio.
Call to Action
At the end of your professional bio, it should have a call to action. This should be an indication that you are looking for new opportunities or asking someone to contact you about something in particular.
This could be anything from "Get a Free Consult" to "Contact me to see how I can help." It will depend on who is reading and how you will use the bio.
What to Avoid in Your Professional Bio
There are also many things to avoid in building your professional biography. The following are a round-up of the things to avoid in writing your professional bio.
Avoid the Basics
We know you are proud of your job or business, but listing what everyone else is "proud" of does not make you stand out from the crowd.
For example, being a lawyer is common. Being a lawyer who has worked to defend the rights of the indigent is not as common. Thus, you should focus on the aspects of what you do or who you are that make your services or experiences unique.
You may think you sound smart by including words that are out of date or that are trendy right now. But, it really makes you look less professional and like you are trying too hard.
Don't come off as a one-hit-wonder or worse. Instead, stick to evergreen language to ensure that your professional bio can connect with the people you want to overtime.
The jargon of your industry may be important if that is your audience. But, even the people in your industry may have different knowledge levels. So, the best practice for a professional biography is to contain the content and level of detail that minimizes the jargon. Instead, it resonates with the reader at every level. This will showcase your communication skills and invite people to contact you to learn more.
Spelling, punctuation, and grammar are extremely important. Your professional bio is usually the first thing people read about you online. As such, it can be a deciding factor in whether or not they choose to learn more about your services or offerings. So, double-check for spelling, punctuation, etc., before publishing!
Where to Use Your Professional Bio
There are a number of places where you can use your professional biography. Here are the most common places where people use their professional bios and how to make sure you are making the most of your message.
The first place for your professional bio is your company website. This is where you can share your professional story and tell potential or existing clients what you do. This site could be external (customer-facing) or internal (for colleagues and leadership). Keep in mind this key difference when building your professional bio for use on the company website.
LinkedIn is one of the top places where professionals across industries post their professional bio. While LinkedIn tends to be a place where you share more information, your professional bio should still contain the key points.
You will add your professional bio to the LinkedIn Summary section on your LinkedIn profile. This section allows up to 2,600 characters and you will want to use them all.
The key to a great LinkedIn bio is to make sure that you cover all of the highlights of your career. Most people will drop off of your profile after skimming your LinkedIn bio. So, make the most of this precious real estate on your LinkedIn profile.
Your professional bio can also be used for industry websites. These may be associations that you are a member of or that your company participates in. Your industry website may provide an online presence for your company. Or, it may be a great resource for people to learn more about your expertise. Whatever the case, you should have some sort of information available on the subject of your profession or business on these sites.
Having your own personal website gives you the opportunity to stand out and show people what you do in more detail. You can provide a more detailed look at your professional story and introduce yourself on your own terms. It doesn't matter if it's on WordPress, SquareSpace, Wix, or anything else. Just make sure that you add a professional bio and make it available to your audience.
People who build their own personal websites typically do so because they want to showcase their portfolio of works, entrepreneurial endeavors, or want to preserve the domain to improve their overall professional image.
If you take the time to build your own website, make sure that you do it well. A bad or poorly done personal website can be worse for your career goals than no personal website. So, many people will use their social media pages for this purpose until they are ready to build a personal website.
Conferences or Events
People use their professional bios during conferences or events to introduce themselves and what they offer. You can prepare a very short bio for this purpose that describes your name, where you are located, the company you represent, and what makes you unique.
Many conferences or events will have different requirements or space limitations for the professional bios of the participants or speakers. You will want to include a few accomplishments or professional skills in that professional bio to grab the reader's attention and to establish credibility.
Social Media Platforms
Writing a professional bio means that you will also craft one for use across social media platforms. The next place to use your professional bio is to put it consistently on all of your social media pages. This includes LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and any other social media accounts that you have.
The target audience on each social media platform will be different. Your bio will vary depending on the particular platform. The different platforms may also have their own character limit. For example, an Instagram bio can be quite different than what you will use for your Twitter profile. The key to deciding how you will build each bio will depend on the social media channel.
If you are in the job market, your professional bio will be one of the most important pieces of information about you to share with potential employers.
As a job seeker, you can use your bio on your resume, the bio section of the candidate profile, and when using the bio section for the job boards.
The average person spends about 6 seconds skimming your bio before they make up their mind about you. So, you will want a first sentence that connects with your audience on a personal level. You can do that by including compelling experiences or professional accomplishments.
A bio for a jobseeker should also include your job title, your career history, and professional goals. You will also want to insert degree because they can be important to a potential employer.
You can also include a great example of your professional accomplishments to engage the reader. However, you will not want to include any personal details in this bio. Instead, you should reserve the personal details for a personal bio.
The job seeker will also build a short version of their bio and an in depth bio for different parts of their search. Writing this bio can enable you to stand out from other professionals because you will show that you have tailored to the particular platform or audience.
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