A professional bio will give people a feel for who you are and what you do – be that journalists writing up an article about your firm, visitors to your website or an audience at a speaking engagement.
As useful as bios are, most people loathe writing their own. You don’t want to sound like you’re bragging and it’s difficult to decide which career highlights you should include.
As a consequence, far too many bios end up as either:
a. Chronological lists of professional achievements
b. Edited versions of a CV
Either way, they end up reading as a load of business jargon no one understands and job titles/qualifications no one will care about.
Let’s look at five things that should go into a professional bio and some tips for writing yours.
1. What makes a memorable professional bio?
A good professional bio should mix fact with storytelling.
What I mean is that you need to provide people with some key information to understand the major events of your professional career, but also combine this with some more ‘human’ detail.
Your key facts include:
- Who you are – literally, your name (repeat this a few times for SEO purposes)
- What you do – your job title
- When you joined or founded your company
- Where you live, work and where you studied
Around these details, you’ll need to plot some of the more ‘human’ aspects of your story, things like:
- Your major successes
- Your approach to whatever your profession is
- ‘Personal’ factors – such as important hobbies or family
2. How to write a professional bio
Here’s my process for writing the professional bios of my clients:
a. Understand the audience
While this is your bio, you should ultimately focus on who is going to read it. What do they want to find out about you? What context are they going to be reading the bio in? What ‘level’ does this need to be pitched at?
By working out who your audience is, you can decide on your style, tone of voice and the details it’ll be appropriate to include
b. Tell your story out loud to someone else
At this point, it’s really helpful to sit down and talk through your academic and professional experience with a colleague or someone outside your company. By talking through your experiences with someone else, they can ask for detail about topics you might think are unimportant, or ask you to clarify complex subjects. We can all get so used to the jargon of our trade that we forget that not everyone understands the terms.
By talking things through with someone else, you can reflect on your career, and they’ll ask questions which will help draw out useful details you might not have considered if writing the bio on your own.
3. Structure this into a narrative
Your professional bio isn’t meant to be a list of achievements. As pretentious as it might sound, you’re trying to tell a very short story which will inform and interest readers. Below is an example of how you’d start ‘narrating’ your bio using the most common narrative arc:
- You need to set the scene and sow the seeds of a ‘problem’ of some sort
“Claire Jones is a leading accountant who knows businesses want to save £millions…”
- You need to evolve the characters and the story
“Claire Jones believes the best way of doing this is to restructure her clients’ businesses using her unique method…”
- Finally, the narrative needs to conclude in some way
“Claire Jones is available to help even more companies save on their tax bill”
You might find this professional bio template a useful starter.
3. How long should your professional profile bio be?
As a rule of thumb, you want one ‘main’ professional bio which can be sent out in press releases or be put on your profile in event and conference brochures. Given the space involved- and people’s tendency to skim read – I wouldn’t recommend more than 300 words.
Besides that, you might also need to distil this down to a range of shorter bios – perhaps one for your LinkedIn profile, and another briefer one for your Twitter handle.
4. Should you include detail about kids, hobbies and pets in your professional bio?
There’s a fine line between making yourself seem ‘human’ in your bio, and sharing irrelevant details which will make readers take you less seriously.
In my perspective it’s useful to include at least one or two details about your non-work life in your professional bio – especially on your company website and when speaking at events.
Why? Basically, it can help ‘oil’ social interactions with people after your speaking slot or when they meet you for business:
“Great talk! Oh and I see you do triathlons – me too!”.
5. Should my professional bio be written in the first person or third person?
Most professional bios are written in the third person.
The main reason for this is that using the third person can lend a certain authority to you – if it sounds like someone else has written up your bio, you must be a big deal! Second, you avoid the risk of sounding like you’re ‘blowing your own horn’.
That said, for some firms it might be much more appropriate to write in the first person. For instance, if you’re an independent business consultant, a doctor running your own practice or a freelance life coach, it will probably be more appropriate to take the ‘I’ form.
Need help writing your professional bio?
Struggling with your professional bio? I work with business leaders, independent consultants and senior executives to write professional bios which tell their stories and make them stand out from the crowd.
Contact me today to talk about how we can make your professional bio stand out together.