How to write a professional bio when you didn’t graduate from Stanford
As a young professional, creating a compelling professional bio when you don’t have a senior title or 20+ years of experience in your field can feel daunting.
I personally felt this pressure after being contacted by the organizer of an event I was scheduled to speak at the following month. Sending over my professional bio and a headshot seemed like a simple enough task and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to speak, but my concern grew as I scanned the presenter list and glimpsed job titles that were more “DSVP” than “Senior Strategy.”
SUPER DUPER CUM LAUDE WITH HONORS
The time I spent stalking the event’s website actually paid off — don’t judge me, you know you’ve done it too. From the search I found three people whose jobs were similar to mine and prayed that their bios would lend some kind of insight.
It wasn’t until I had finished reading the third bio that I realized there was a recurring theme. Similar to me, they were lacking the decades of experience, but they all had one key differentiator that I did not.
EVERY… SINGLE… BIO… Included some mad lib version of, “I graduated super duper cum laude from Amazing University.” And while I love my alma mater(Go Comets!) it’s not an Ivy League school or one of Silicon Valley’s darlings.
So I was back to where I started, and the clock was ticking…
The following steps helped me go from blank page to professional bio and I think they can help you too.
DECIDE THE MESSAGE YOU WANT TO CONVEY
What do you want people to know and feel when they read your bio? What is the key takeaway you want them to leave with? Ask yourself, “what part of my job brings me the most joy?” What unique value do you bring your company? We all have “official” job titles but what do you really do? And what part of your job are you the most passionate about?
SCOUT THE COMPETITION TO GET EXAMPLES
It never hurts to search LinkedIn to gain inspiration. Unless you are an astronaut, I can guarantee you that there are at least a thousand other people with the same job title as you. Check their LinkedIn for links to personal websites and/or portfolios where they may have a full bio or copy you can build on.
TAKE A FIRST PASS
Now that you have your message roughly defined, and inspiration from other professionals, it’s time to open up that computer and start writing. You can start off with the basics: job title, company name, and a high-level description of what you or your company does.
Ex: Jane Doe serves as an Empathy Architect at the E2 Innovation Lab. As a core member of the design team, Doe manages the planning, oversight, and delivery of strategic client engagements.
Then take a deeper dive by incorporating the responses you provided when you defined your message and key takeaway.
Ex: Harnessing a strong passion for empathy, Doe uses human-centered design methods to reimagine how consumers and organizations work together to develop forward-thinking solutions to solve every day problems. She conducts ethnographic-style fieldwork to better understand the user, their unique journey, and their unarticulated needs.
At this point you have a couple of options. If you are a little light on experience in your current role, pull examples from your previous work that align with your story. Another option is to conclude it with a brief overview of your education and hobbies.
Ex: Prior to joining the E2 Innovation Lab, Doe led enterprise level performance improvement initiatives at Amazing Health & Hospital System in Albuquerque, and managed large-scale client implementations for Awesome Company USA Inc.
Ex: Doe holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Texas at Dallas. She enjoys fishing and listening to audio books in her personal time.
Asking for feedback is crucial. By now you’ve have been toiling over your bio for at least an hour and the buzzwords and impact statements have started running together. #Synergy
It’s time to bring in some fresh eyes. Cast a wide net and reach out to a variety of friends, colleagues, and/or family to obtain a good mix of perspectives (or you can get help from a friend who’s a pro like I did).
The people who work with you and are around you frequently will have a unique perspective of all the great things you do. Give them the opportunity to share their thoughts and proofread for typos.
CONQUER THE WORLD
When you are still roughly two (or twenty) years away from selling your first company to Facebook for millions of dollars and don’t have a prestigious degree or connections to lean on, it can feel like you are the only young professional who isn’t having monumental success — That’s not the case!
You are capable of incredible things, and with your new professional bio it’s time to go take on the world. Or just dominate your next client presentation.
YOU’RE MORE THAN JUST A JOB TITLE AND THE SCHOOL YOU GRADUATED FROM!