Your Professional Bio

We now live in the era of the personal brand. Thanks to the Internet, where everyone has a soapbox, more people are consciously promoting and managing their reputations like sophisticated brand managers. This trend is poised to accelerate amidst a deep recession and rising unemployment. A discussion with Business Week writer Stephen Baker even prompted me to write an essay on optimizing one's personal brand for the digital age.

Your personal referrals and search-engine results probably matter more than anything else. However, your own self-written professional bio is also extremely important. You are, of course, the most authoritative person about yourself. And how you present yourself in your bio says a lot about who and what you are.

But in this age of distributed presence, what does an optimal bio look like? Should it be long, or short? Or should it be written in inverted pyramid style, with the most important information at the top, and the granular details at the bottom? Should you host it in one place or hundreds?

How should personal and professional characteristics coexist in your bio? Sure, you can easily create multiple and customized bios, but anyone searching for your personal account will inevitably find everything that's publicly available. If work and personal characteristics inevitably collide, shouldn't our professional bios simply reflect that?

Consider the growth of conversational writing and informal expression. Should bios be written in first or second person -- from your voice, your friend's or God's? Should they be factual and chronological, or adopt an emotional and narrative form? Aren't narratives more interesting?

In this period of widespread self-promotion and self-consciousness, is it better to lean on the side of absolute expertise and outspoken accomplishment? Does noting frequent columns, citations and quotes in mainstream media really make someone sound authoritative? Or is subtle humility more compelling and indicative of confidence and triumph?

Then there's the multimedia and syndication the Web has introduced. Should our professional bios load up on hyperlinks or dynamic search feeds? What about images, video, status updates and lifestreams?

In today's digital age, what exactly is a bio -- and what should it look like?

I'm not sure, but I do notice a widening variety.

What do you think?



6 comments about "Your Professional Bio".
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  1. Jonathan Graber from Three Pillars Recruiting, June 5, 2009 at 1:14 p.m.

    As a recruiter in the digital media space I would have to agree whole-heatedly with you. The new frontier for bios is the internet and one must craft his or her's own brand image carefully. I can't tell you how many times we have passed over people because of damaging Facebook photos, crude comments in the social media space, or just no significant online presence at all. We love to see information (GOOD information) and it makes the subsequent phone call much more pleasant.

  2. Gary Klein from GKlein&associates, June 5, 2009 at 1:25 p.m.

    Having spent half of my professional life doing C-suite executive search, I would suggest the following:

    - Keep the bio simple. No one has a lot of time to travel through a background.
    - Be results/accomplishments oriented.
    - Let your successes extoll your virtues rather than you.
    - What you did most recently means more than what you did early in your career.
    - Insight/creativity and out of the box thinking is important.
    - Demonstrate that you may be a "best athlete".
    - Communicate your apprciation for bottom line.
    - Passion has value and should be communicated.

  3. Frank Dobner from The Startup Source, June 5, 2009 at 2:59 p.m.

    This article added nothing to my understanding. I am simply left with a lot of questions. I would suggest you follow up with some answers. I do not know the answers.

  4. Gary Kreissman from Group PRM, June 5, 2009 at 4:27 p.m.

    I agree with Frank: Now that you've raised the questions, I'd hope the next column might provide some solutions. Or at minimum, show some examples of what not to do.

  5. Khadiyja Y. Ali, June 5, 2009 at 6:15 p.m.

    I concur with Jonathan. A professional bio should be geared towards crafting your brand. What you put on the internet, both personally and professionally, is the opinion people will gather about you.

    I often refer to Kimora Lee Simmons and her show "The Fabulous Life". She always says, "I'm a model and a mogul, but most of all, I'm a mom". Her show reinforces all three of these aspects of her life and in a very interesting way. Your professional bio is the same. You're shaping the world's opinion of you with every word, every sentence.

    Today's user-driven content must appease the recipient immediately. We have such information overload that the slightest reason we have to ditch a resume, or an email, or any other content, we toss it. How much more then should your professional bio capture your brand and the attention of the reader?

  6. Zach Jordan from Joe Digital, Inc., June 5, 2009 at 11:03 p.m.

    Interesting questions. We are experiencing a "silos-free" business environment and that's why, perhaps now more than ever, it's becoming necessary to balance our personal and professional information very honestly when authoring a compelling bio. In an effort to project ourselves as authentically as possible AND stand out from the average bear, don't we first and foremost need to be personal and specific?

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