I’ve spent the past several months deep in biographies. I’ve read Beryl Markham’s “West With the Night” and Ernest Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast” — but that’s not the kind of biography I’m talking about here.
Let’s discuss the Professional Biography, shall we?
As part of my event-marketing work for clients in the creative and food industries, I’ve edited/revised/rewritten hundreds of professional bios. Hundreds. And you know what? Most professional bios are awful.
If you work in any leadership capacity, in any market, you need a well-crafted biography. It gives prospective clients information on your expertise. It tells potential employees who they’ll be working for. It shares your bona fides with people who want to invite you to speak at professional events or write for industry publications.
Your bio lives in many places, in many formats. It’s the written version of the spiel you use to introduce yourself in a professional setting.
Why are so many bios impersonal, clinical, incomplete? (I suspect it’s because many people find it incredibly difficult to write about themselves.)
Here’s what a professional bio should — and should not — be.
It SHOULD be personal. A strong biography marries your professional credentials with your personal characteristics. It conveys your experience and credentials, yes — but it also hints at who you are as a person. It can include your non-work interests and passions (best placed at the end of the text). What are you like to work with? What are your values? What fuels your fire?
It SHOULD NOT be a resume. A potential employer needs to know your career history. A prospective collaborator or client needs to know your expertise. These are not the same thing. So many bios I’ve “fixed” are simply lists of past job titles. Instead, your bio should convey your skills and capabilities. What are you great at? Where do you shine? What’s your essential expertise?
It SHOULD be unique. Take your name out of your bio; could it describe at least one other person you know? That’s why the resume approach doesn’t work — a list of past positions makes you sound like everyone else in your market. What do prospects get in working with YOU that they don’t get from anyone else?
You need three versions of your professional biography: long form (for your website’s About page), mid-length (for speaking engagements and other external uses), short form (for social media).
In the spirit of full disclosure, here’s my professional biography.
Here’s one I wrote, for Enrich Creative principal Gretchen Schisla. Note that it describes Gretchen’s entrepreneurial spirit, connecting her with the type of client her firm thrives on working with.
And another, for NYC food photographer Evi Abeler. It references Evi’s childhood in Germany, setting the stage for her artistic vision. We recently worked together to update it.
Take a look at your bio. Maybe it’s due for a refresh? I can help you with that!