Writing your Professional Bio: A How To
Skylar Wooden and Katie Butler
July 16, 2017
It’s safe to say that if you’re following this blog, or reading this article, that you’d like to one day be asked for a bio. Something to introduce yourself on a pamphlet, perhaps, for a conference where you’re the speaker. Maybe something to place on the back of that book you’ve been writing and will one day publish. Or, a bio for a list of your company’s key employees on the website.
If you hope to be asked for a bio, or you’ve already been asked, how do you even start? We know the answer to that question. Let’s move forward and create a solid bio, shall we?
Pro Tip: Determine your audience beforehand. This will help direct you on your tone. If your audience is the general public, do not use jargon in your bio. This would alienate readers who don’t understand the technical terms of your field.
How to Prepare
Start your preparation by thinking of exactly how you want others to perceive you. Gather the accomplishments you’re most proud of, facts about yourself (degree, ranking, etc.), and anything else you want others to know. Write these things down before you start; this will keep you from grasping for words during the writing process.
This is a good opportunity to ask for help. Choose a coworker who knows you well, and ask them to tell you what strengths they see during your work day. They may notice something you don’t.
Establish a Tone
Your bio will be in third person. Always. The tone that you’re able to choose is the overall feel of your bio. The feel largely depends on your goal—how you want to come off, basically. You have a lot of choices for your content: lighthearted, intimidating, simple introduction, extensive overview, and so forth.
For example, if you are a teacher or therapist you may want your bio to make you seem as accessible as possible, so as to not intimidate your students or clients. In this case, you would choose the lighthearted, simple introduction. To add a lighthearted touch, include an interesting fact about yourself that proves you’re human. You will want to avoid jargon specific to your field. Leaving out jargon is due to people outside of your profession being your main audience; you don’t want to exclude anyone by using terms they don’t know.
Sample: John White is a family and marriage counselor at Welcome Therapy in Chicago, Illinois. He holds a master’s degree from Iowa State University, where he became interested in helping families communicate more effectively. John volunteers his time to Habitat for Humanity every year to build houses for underprivileged families. He has traveled all over the world, with a goal of seeing 70 countries before his 70th birthday.
If you were to need a more extensive overview with a tone of intimidation, say for the role of a parole officer, for example, you would focus more heavily on your education and experience (this type of bio may include technical jargon, depending on your audience). You will not focus as much on making yourself relatable. These types of bios are usually for internal use, so your primary audience is others in your field rather than the general public. List your credentials, mention your awards and certifications, and make yourself sound as qualified as possible. You might also consider using your last name as a reference to yourself, instead of your first, as seen below.
Sample: Jacob Smith is a parole officer for the Warren County Department of Justice. He holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Western Kentucky University, where he graduated in the top 10% of his class. Smith has received a community service award each year since he started his position with Warren County in 2000. He has the highest probationer success rate in Warren County and has been recognized by the state for his strong, thorough approach. Smith recently contributed to research regarding probation officers’ roles in probationers’ risk and needs assessments.
Proofread Like it’s Your Job
As with any written content, proofread multiple times. Read the bio outloud and ask a friend to read it over for you. This is sometimes your first impression. You don’t want a misspelling of your name to be the first thing a person knows about you.
Pro Tip: Bios don’t have to be boring. Step outside the box!
- You do not capitalize “bachelor’s degree” or “master’s degree.” However, you do capitalize the full name of the degree (e.g. Bachelor of Arts). Your major is only capitalized if it is a language, for example, “bachelor’s degree in English.”
- Your title is not always capitalized. If you are “a” social worker, that is not capitalized. If you are “the” Social Work Department Head for Western Kentucky University, this is capitalized.
- Alternate how you reference yourself, so as to not have all your sentences beginning with the same name or word. Notice in the second example above, the bio alternates between Jacob Smith, he, Smith, he, and Smith.
- Decide ahead of time whether you will refer to yourself as your first or last name (after stating your name initially at the front of your bio).
Bios don’t have to be boring. They are as unique as the individuals writing them. Research bio examples for inspiration on what you may want to do with your own.
Do you have a bio you’re proud of?
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