Professional Bio

Promote Your Credibility With a Professional Bio

By Phaedra Brotherton, JCTC, CPRW, CDC

When you need to provide information on your background for a professional opportunity like public speaking or volunteer service, your resume may not do you justice. On those occasions, a professional bio can fit the bill.

Most professionals think of their resume as their definitive professional biography, summarizing their work experience, skills, and significant career accomplishments. But sometimes you need to tell your professional story outside the context of a job search and in a way that promotes your credibility and personal brand. That’s when you need a professional or executive bio.   

As a personal marketing and branding document, a professional or executive bio is written in the third person. Its narrative paragraph format tells your professional story by

  • highlighting the most pertinent and impressive highlights of your experience
  • providing insight into your personality or leadership style
  • presenting you as a well-rounded professional and credible expert.

A bio is a great tool to use to promote your professional background and qualifications for a variety of career-building opportunities, including

  • serving on an organization’s board or committee
  • writing for publications
  • presenting and participating on panel discussions
  • leading community service projects
  • offering your expertise as an interview source for traditional and social media outlets.

The bio can also be used for general networking purposes during a job search, when you want to provide information on your background but don’t want to provide a formal resume. However, if you do decide to use a bio as part of your job-search networking (which I highly recommend), make sure that it is on-message, on-brand, and in line with your resume and your LinkedIn profile.

The first step in composing your professional bio is clarifying the purpose and the message you want to convey to the reader.

What to Include in Your Bio 

Because its purpose is personal marketing and branding, your bio will be most effective if, like your other career documents, you tailor it for a specific opportunity. In 250 to 300 words on one page, highlight aspects of your background that convey that you are highly qualified to write for a particular publication, serve on a specific committee or board, or speak at a certain event.

Effective bios typically include the following:

  • a professional-quality photo
  • notable past employers
  • top career achievements (quantified if appropriate)
  • impressive publication credits
  • relevant speaking engagements
  • awards and special honors
  • credentials, including notable degrees and certifications
  • international experience
  • languages spoken

Professional bios also give you the opportunity to share more personal information about community service, unique hobbies, or specialized training. These less-common details can help to present you as a well-rounded person. If space permits and it’s relevant, your bio can also include information about your family, marital status, and where you currently reside.

Start With Your Purpose 

The first step in composing your professional bio is clarifying the purpose and the message you want to convey to the reader. Ask yourself, “What is most impressive and relevant about my background that proves that I’m a qualified expert?”

You may want to consider having a “master bio” with key career highlights that can serve as your foundation for every “custom bio,” as well as a repository of paragraphs that describe your different skills, abilities, interests, and experiences. You can pull from your repository to create custom bios for different purposes.

The most important thing to remember when you’re writing your professional bio: This is your opportunity to tell your professional story and demonstrate your expertise—and to provide a sense of the person behind the qualifications.

Certified career coach Phaedra Brotherton, principal of Resumes and Career Strategies, partners with association professionals to help them develop the strategies and tools they need to land a job they’ll love. Contact Phaedra at www.resumesandcareerstrategies.com.

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