Pro Tips

How to Write a Must-Read Professional Bio

by Tiffany Markarian

There are many personal branding tools you will use throughout your career and your professional bio is one of the most important. A professional bio delivers a relevant story about you and how your experience benefits prospective clients. While a resume can be dry and straightforward, a professional bio ties your achievements to the outcomes you bring clients. The art of writing a must-read professional bio is simple, make it meaningful to the clients you want to serve.

Keep it Short and Powerful

The best place to start in writing your bio is to build a hard copy version first. Keep it short – no more than 250 words or two paragraphs. This will force you to really think about the power phrases you will include and help avoid unnecessary fluff. Once you highlight your education, work history, community involvement, or achievements, your bio may end up being longer.

You then need to challenge yourself and edit judiciously. The most important phrases should be how your experiences and accomplishments benefit prospective clients. The mark of a must-read bio is not about how much information you can pack in. It is about the emotional connection a reader will gain from learning about you.

Once your hard copy version is crafted, you then need to consider that digital forms of your bio will need to be even shorter. For instance, you may only be allowed 160 characters on some social media platforms to describe who you are. In which case, you may want to focus on key benefits statements.

Get to the Point

People are on information overload these days. They do not want to wade through extraneous material to find what’s relevant to them. This does not mean ignore your professional accomplishments. It means tie those accomplishments to how you help others.

Whether you are new to your industry or have been in the same field for years, you want to strike a balance between what you have done professionally and how these experiences shape your value today.

First Person or Third Person?

Most professional bios are written in the third person, such as: “Ms. Jones has served the technology field for the past 15 years.” Third person conveys that your bio was written about you, not by you. If you work on a team or for a firm, it may be appropriate to use third person format.

Keep in mind, some industries are heavily regulated and may require you to write your bio in the first person – so as not to sound like a testimonial from others. Understand your industry’s guidelines and preferences.

If you are a solo practitioner, or your brand is you, first person may be more appropriate and personal. We often see first person used on individual social media profiles or personal web pages. Writing in the first person is more intimate and may be the tone you wish to convey for your personal brand.

Set Yourself Apart from Others

Many professional bios use generic language that flatly states what people do. These bios tend to incorporate industry jargon or buzz words. If your goal is to convey how your experience benefits others, you need to speak in ways potential clients will understand. Communicate the benefits and outcomes of your work with words clients can relate to.

Set yourself apart by articulating the challenges you help solve and the opportunities you help clients gain. Your bio should not simply brag about you. It should communicate how your accolades help others.

Professional Awards and Accomplishments

You should include awards and other accomplishments in your bio, but be careful. If you won awards or attained designations, these will help showcase your prominence and expertise. However, many industry awards and designations are not known to the average client. You have to position them in a way that is easy for others to understand.

For example, if you are in the financial planning industry and attained the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional (CFP®) designation, you need to explain to prospective clients that this is an advanced certification that requires extensive training, experience requirements, and rigorous ethical standards.

Consider stating in your bio, “What this means to you is you are working with a professional who has demonstrated expertise in multiple areas of financial planning and a commitment to serving your best interests.” This way you clearly define the value of the designation to the reader.

If you won a community service award or volunteer for a charity, this helps demonstrate integrity and character. Even if you lack years of professional experience, you can create a meaningful story about your community work and how it shapes your role today.

Published Works and Speaking Engagements

If you’ve written articles or spoke at industry conferences, these accolades help demonstrate your authority and credibility. After you reference them in your bio, say, “What this means to you is Jonathan takes the time to educate you so you can make informed, confident decisions.”

Tips for New Professionals

A professional bio is important, regardless of how long you have been in the business. Particularly for new professionals, a bio will help establish your presence. It brings validity to your role and properly positions you in the marketplace.

But…you don’t want your lack of formal experience to be the headline.

Many bios lead with phrases such as, “Susan Smith joined our firm in July 2012.” In this case, the start time is fine because Susan has several years of experience behind her. However, if you just graduated from college and have only been with your firm a month or so, your bio should not begin with when you started your career.

For new professionals, the year you joined your firm should never be front and center.

Instead, you want the headline of your bio to be a statement about why you chose this career. Have your opening paragraph focus on your personal and professional values and how those values guide your work. It is more important to convey your passion for your industry vs. the limited time you have been in the industry.

As an example, a person who is new to the financial services career could say something like, “Susan builds relationships based on open communication and personal attention. What this means to you is she creates an open environment where you can share your financial concerns without judgement. Susan, and the entire ABC Financial Team, work closely with you to help you feel more confident in matters that affect your financial security.”

The second paragraph in your bio can include statements about your previous work experience as well as community work or hobbies. You should make sure to tie any past experiences to your role today. That being said, if your past experience was a summer job and not relevant to your role today, it may be best to leave that out.

Focus on information that conveys the value you bring to prospective clients. Avoid listing out your services or products as filler. Speak to why you chose this career as your purpose.

Tips for Experienced Professionals

Writing a bio for an experienced professional may seem easy given their years of experience; but, you still need to exercise restraint. There is a temptation to list all the services you offer clients. Too much padding in your bio obscures the benefits you provide to clients.

Just as with a new professional, your value is not created by listing services or products. Value is created by articulating the problems you solve and the opportunities you help create.

More is Not Always Better

Some people try to capture every experience they’ve had in their bio, including: every article they wrote, every organization they joined, or every community activity and speaking engagement they are involved in. They are afraid to leave something out, because they are all impressive activities.

A bio should be a summary of your role and accomplishments, not a listing of every activity and accomplishment.

If you have an extensive pedigree of activities, consider developing a companion piece or a separate page on your website such as “Featured Press.” This allows your professional bio to stand-alone, while providing a separate, complementary piece that lists all your media or community spotlights.

Use of Humor

In writing a professional bio, be careful with humor. Some people believe a bio that infuses humor is an interesting read. However, in some industries, particularly heavily regulated industries, your best bet is to keep it safe and professional. You never know how your bio could be perceived by a potential client who does not yet know your character or humor.

Leverage Your Bio in Marketing

Your bio will have many professional uses, so make sure it is designed in a clean format with a professional headshot. People relate to photos; therefore, do not use blurred photos, impromptu selfies, or older photos that do not accurately represent who you are today.

Your bio is a helpful tool for prospective clients to get to know you before you meet. It should be used on the “About Us” pages of your website and social media, as well as available in PDF form if requested.

Updating Your Bio

It is a good practice to update your bio after every milestone in your career. It should be updated for every designation you earn, major speaking engagements or spotlights, or new responsibilities.

The Real Benefit to You

A must-read professional bio incorporates information you would typically find in a resume, but in story format. It gives you a spotlight to showcase your expertise that is far more compelling than a list of employment dates and functions.

Your bio should give the reader a strong sense of who you are, why you are unique, and how clients can benefit from working with you. The real benefit in writing a must-read bio is fostering trust and building the framework that will become your personal brand.

Tiffany MarkarianHow to Write a Must-Read Professional Bio

Related Posts

Take a look at these posts

Join the conversation