Writing a good biography

Writing a Compelling Biography

If it hasn’t already happened—don’t be surprised one day to have someone ask you for your bio (e.g. short biography). Employers often want them for their websites’ “About Us” or “Our Professionals” sections. Bios may be needed for a press release announcing an important new hire. Meeting planners ask for bios of important guests or speakers at conventions and conferences. If you have your vital information on hand and ready to go at a moment’s notice, you’ll earn the sincere appreciation of a lot of people … and may save yourself some embarrassment.

You see, people very rarely write their own bios. Composition is usually left to a marketing professional. Often authors know nothing more about their subjects than a few scraps of provided information. And ‘scraps’ is an accurate description. It’s not unusual for copywriters facing a fast-approaching deadline to cobble something together from a LinkedIn profile, a Facebook page, and—if they’re lucky—a hopelessly out-of-date resume. If you want your story told straight (and in a pleasing manner) give your biographer something good to work with.

Key Information

There are different types of bios (technically, an obituary is a bio), but most are going to be career-related, so that’s what we’ll discuss here. The writer will want to create a compelling narrative to make your story interesting. Much of the needed information will be simple facts, but portions may be based on your feelings. Here’s a list of potential ingredients:

  • Full name
  • Current title where you work
  • Birthdate
  • Place of birth
  • College degrees
  • Professional certifications and organizations (officeholder?)
  • Awards and honors
  • Serious hobbies and charitable work
  • Names of immediate family members
  • List of employers (with dates), titles and primary responsibilities, and notable accomplishments
  • Your ‘claim to fame’ (in what aspect or aspects of your profession do you specialize)
  • What motivated you to enter your line of work
  • Career goals—immediate and long-term

Not everything on this list is likely to be included in any particular bio. If it’s going to be one of many in a document or on a website, having uniformity in length, design, and content will be an important concern for the composer. Therefore, items like hobbies and family member names are usually the first things to be cut. There may also be a ‘lowest common denominator’ effect, where if one person is missing a relatively unimportant bullet, that same bit of information may be deleted from everyone’s bio. Still, it’s always better to have the option of including any of these points of interest. If you provide this information, any competent copywriter or journalist should be able to construct a tidy narrative of your career.

Writing Your Own Bio

There’s a saying that if you want something done right, do it yourself. If you have confidence in your writing skills, have at it. After all, no one knows you as well as you know yourself.  Just remember, you will want to tell a story—in about 200 – 300 words—that will be interesting to your audience. Here’s how:

Introduce the hero – Give us your name and title up front so we know who to ‘root’ for. Then, let us, the readers, know about your special skills and abilities that you will demonstrate repeatedly.

What’s your backstory? – How were you drawn to your line of work? What was your inspiration? This might be a good place to work in your educational background if you attended a school that specializes in preparing students for work in your chosen career field.

Tell us about your journey – How did you become the successful person you are today? List the places you worked (provide dates and titles as reference points) and share your professional victories at every stop, concluding with your current position. Include mention of any awards or certifications that are relevant.

Hint at a sequel – Wrap up with your aspirations for the future.

Whether you write your own story or see the task delegated to another person, you will want a composition that’s both accurate and truly worthy of you. Taking a few moments ahead of time to list the most important moments and factors in your professional development will be your best guarantee of having a bio that you’re happy to share with anyone.