Part of what I hope we can build here is a place to come for help, whether it’s finding a coach, finding a mentor, or finding a great idea.
Sometimes, that’ll mean connecting you with someone else to talk it through, or perhaps to begin a formal coaching relationship (and we hope to find ways to do that, even if you’ve lost your journalism job and can’t afford to hire a coach).
Other times, we just want to share information.
In that vein, Coach Barbra Sundquist has kindly joined the conversation with the first of two posts on a really important subject for journalists: what do we do with our resumes? Well, Barbra argues, that’s the wrong question. You need a professional bio. It tells the story of your career to your advantage, and helps shift the focus from what may, on the face of it, look like you’re a relic from a dead industry trying to find work in the future (which, for many of us, is exactly how we feel when our job titles look so dated, and we have zero digital or online experience).
So meet the Bio Coach.
Your Professional Bio: How to Decide What to Include
Probably the hardest part of writing a professional bio is deciding what to put in and what to leave out. After all, a bio is supposed to be short. But most of us have done lots of different things in our work careers. How do you decide what to focus on?
There’s a simple answer: focus on what’s going to be most relevant and impressive to your target reader.
You see, a bio is not a resume. You don’t have to list everything you’ve ever done. Just focus on the parts that are going to “sell” you to your reader.
For example, when I wrote my bio for www.HowToWriteBio.com I focused on my technical writing and business coaching background – which is the information that shows that I know what I’m talking about when it comes to writing professional bios.
Because that’s what you want to know about me in this context, right? You don’t really care that over the past 30 years I have also been a waitress, private eye, bank teller, piano teacher, landscaper, university instructor, management consultant and business coach (and yes, I have been all those things!)
I left out all those things and just focused on what would “sell” me to people thinking about purchasing one of my bio templates. This is what I came up with for my professional bio for my bio template website:
Barbra Sundquist is an experienced technical writer and business coach with a gift for taking complex info and making it clear. Over the past 20 years, Barbra has interviewed over 2500 people in a wide range of jobs to create their job profiles. She brings this broad knowledge of different jobs to her work as a bio template writer.
As you can see, I don’t mention all my previous jobs. I don’t even mention that I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in public administration. What I do include is the information that is relevant to my audience:
1) technical writer with 20 years experience (this lets the reader know that I am an expert writer with many years experience)
2) business coach (assures the reader that I understand business and what’s required for a good professional bio)
3) interviewed over 2500 people in a wide range of jobs (again, lets the reader know that I have lots of experience doing this exact thing)
My bio is targeted towards people who are on my how to write a bio website. They’re reading my bio because they’re trying to decide whether or not I sound like someone they would be willing to buy a bio template from. So I make sure to include only the information that answers that question for them. And I don’t distract them with other information.
A bio is a little advertisement for you. So think about who will be reading your bio and what you want them to know about you. Then advertise your best and most relevant features!
About the author: Barbra Sundquist helps people communicate much more quickly and effectively on a broad range of subjects. Two of her most popular websites are www.HowToWriteBio.com and www.WriteAFuneralSpeech.com.
[Editor’s Note: Anybody who wants to make the obvious “funeral speech” and dying journalism connection comment? Go ahead. Take your best shot in comments and we’ll pick a winner. Prize? Not sure yet.]