Tuesday, 22 March 2016

How to Craft a Better Bio

Condense your life into just one paragraph. Four to five sentences of who you are and what you do. Writing a bio is an assignment many of us face when entering a new position, submitting our work for publication, or speaking at a conference. In my previous professional incarnations, I have asked countless people for their bios. In the process, I witnessed individuals who have won national honors, spent over two decades in their fields, or successfully built entire companies suddenly turn to ashen and blank-faced amnesiacs, incapable of recalling who they are or what they’ve done every day for the better part of their lives. 

Finding a way to efficiently wrap the complex, dynamic events and accomplishments of who you are into a brief paragraph is intimidating, but it isn’t impossible. A good first step is to sift through all those aforementioned events and accomplishments for the ones relevant to this bio. Just as you tailor your resume for different companies, you should tailor your bio just the same. The bio you give to The Knitting Guild Association to accompany your article on the history of worsted weight yarn is not going to be the same as the one you use for your administrative management position at Company Incorporated. While you are overflowing with skills and achievements, folks reading your bio only want the ones that prove you’re competent enough for them to listen to your opinions on the subject at hand. 

Now that you’ve narrowed down the subject matter arranging the information is the same as telling a story with you as the protagonist. Your opening sentence introduces who you are and your credentials. For example, let’s check with Sam, who is conveniently both a knitting expert and an administrative manager for Company Incorporated. For the sake of ambiguity, Sam will be referenced as the singular they:


Sam Smithey is a graduate of the University of Michigan and has been knitting for over 20 years.


Sam Smithey earned their BA in Business Administration from the University of Michigan and has over ten years experience in business management.


The middle of your bio leads from the past to present, lining up your relevant achievements and what put you on this path in the first place. This space is your brag zone as well as a space to connect more of who you are without going on tangents. For instance, Sam mentions that they got into knitting from their high school knitting club, but doesn’t tell readers that they joined because their sophomore year the club covered the sculpture of their school’s mascot in a knit full body stocking. While Sam loves to tell this story to every knitter they meet, it has a time and place. When you have limited space, less detail is more:


They discovered their love of knitting when they joined their high school knitting club and since then they have won national competitions, been featured in Creative Knitting Magazine and published over 50 patterns on Ravelry. They also organize a local knitting circle which donates their work to local youth shelters.


For their professional bio, Sam leaves out the story about how their very first management project in third grade where they built and managed an entire gel pen black market on the playground for half a year before the teacher’s caught them. Instead they focus on their adulthood endeavors:


Sam had an interest and skill in business management from a young age. After graduating college, they worked for six years as an administrator with Small Co. In their time at Small Co., they grew to manage a six-person development team whose efforts were integral to the company’s growth from a startup to an established business.


Close out with the information that directly ties into what you’re doing with this work. In Sam’s case, it’s noting their history background and prior experience writing on knitting history:


A business administration major, Sam minored in contemporary art history and has published 15 articles on the history of knitting in the United States and how the craft has evolved and gained popularity with modern crafters.


Sam’s professional bio links their past with their present position at Company Incorporated:


In 2010, Sam brought their management experience to Company Incorporated, becoming Chief Organization Officer. In their time at Company Incorporated, they’ve overseen the marketing department as it’s grown into a ten person team.


Finally, once you have your bio drafted, have someone who knows your accomplishments in this field, a cohort, mentor, or friend, read your bio. You can do this. Thousands of anonymous strangers will glance at this paragraph, endure a moment of scrutiny from a knowledgeable source. Chances are, they will remember what you’ve forgotten to mention: the time you created an entire organizational system for your previous departments client files, or, as in Sam’s case, that you’ve created over 50 knitting patterns on Ravelry.


Putting it all together, this is what Sam’s two bios look like following this formula:


Sam Smithey is a graduate of the University of Michigan and has been knitting for over 20 years. They discovered their love of knitting when they joined their high school knitting club and since then they have won national competitions, been featured in Creative Knitting Magazine and published over 50 patterns on Ravelry. They also organize a local knitting circle which donates their work to local youth shelters. A business administration major, Sam minored in contemporary art history and has published 15 articles on the history of knitting in the United States and how the craft has evolved and gained popularity with modern crafters.


Sam Smithey earned their BA in Business Administration from the University of Michigan and has over ten years experience in business management. Sam had an interest and skill in business management from a young age. After graduating college, they worked for six years as an administrator with Small Co. In their time at Small Co., they grew to manage a six-person development team whose efforts were integral to the company’s growth from a startup to an established business. In 2010, Sam brought their management experience to Company Incorporated, becoming Chief Organization Officer. In their time at Company Incorporated, they’ve overseen the marketing department as it’s grown into a ten person team.

There it is, Sam’s 20 years of knitting experience and ten years of business administration work condensed into two soundbites. Now, what experiences and skills can you condense down into a single paragraph? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below or tweet @Swagger_Media! And if you're interested in a marketing copywriting project, our team is here to assist you. Give us a call at 832-831-7592!

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