Have you written your professional biography yet? Or you’re waiting for one is demanded of you and then you run around to scramble one together? Have you ever thought about what a professional bio is and how important it is in your career building and personal development process?
In 2018, as Project Executive at Ekow Mensah Consulting, it was my job to research and put together a list of Top 100 Public Speakers in Ghana. In my research, I realised that a lot of the renowned speakers who were eligible to be on the list did not have any personal profile or biography information, captured on any website or even on social media. I tried, found some of their contacts and called them but they really had little to tell me about themselves, not because there was nothing to say but because they had not thought of themselves in a professional sense. I had to resort to bit and pieces of information captured by bloggers and event flyers to get information for my research work. It could’ve been easier for me if they had their professional bios written out.
According to Forbes, your professional bio is an “introduction of who you are, what you do, what you are interested in”. They believe that a professional bio is probably the most important piece of writing one would ever put together about themselves.
As an entrepreneur or one who is at the beginning of your career path, your professional bio may be demanded of you in an application for a job, to enter into a magazine, as a feature on a website, when you’re contacted for a speaking engagement or even for you to be added to a team profile. Your professional bio can determine whether you get a job, obtain an interview, get new followers, land a speaking engagement, etc.
It also makes it easier for researchers and followers to get information about you that you want them to get. You don’t want a situation where people just write just what they think or what’s in the news about you. Your professional bio allows you to dictate what people know about you and how they perceive you. It’s not an opportunity to tell lies about yourself, though, but it provides a more straightforward from-the-horse’s-own-mouth information about who you are and how people should see you.
Ultimately, if you think yourself a professional in anything, you should definitely have a professional biography.
So here are 10 things you should consider including in writing your own professional biography. Start with an About Page, Begin the Bio with your full name, summarize your principles and values, State your current position and what you do, describe your attitudes and attributes, mention any brand you associate with, add your achievements, include what you do outside work and add some humour to your bio.
Let’s expound with practical examples.
- Create an ‘About’ page on your social media account or website. Facebook bio page is the perfect place to start. LinkedIn also works nicely. You may want to consider Instagram, Twitter and WhatsApp. On all these social networking sites, you’re limited by different word counts. So for some, you can only type bullet points while for others, you can convert bullet points into statements and essays. Facebook, for instance, gives you an ‘about’ space where you can place your most catchy achievements, educational statuses, likes and dislikes and others, and then it gives you a bio page to actually write an essay about yourself. If you have a blog, the better. You can also create an ‘about’ on your blog or personal website.
Eg: this is my bio on Facebook: “Speaker | Public Speaking Coach | MC | Panel Moderator | Graphic Designer| Writer”.
- Begin writing your bio with your first and last name. No matter what, you want your name to remain in the mind of the reader. It’s actually international best practice to start your bio with your full certified name. Eg: Efo Korku Mawutor…
Even if your name is the title of your bio, still start the essay with it. A little redundancy is allowed here. In subsequent paragraphs, you may want to use your first name to refer to yourself. But, by all means, start writing your bio with your full name.
- Write in the 3rd Person Perspective: your bio should sound like someone else is talking or writing about you. So refer to yourself with the 3rd person pronouns ‘He’ and ‘She’. Refrain from using ‘My’ or ‘I’.
You should understand that it sounds more of a recommendation and carries more authority to be talked about than to talk about yourself. Some people actually pay an expert writer to put together their professional bios. That’s alright. But writing it yourself is better.
- Give a summary of your most prized attributes and attitudes. This is what I call the ‘Who-Are-You?’ part. Are you a CEO, a young communicator, a strong Pan-Africanist, a footballer, TV-Watcher, etc? This is where your social media about page becomes useful. Here, you state all the attributes, attitudes and traits that you want people to know about and for you. Treat this part as your thesis statement which you then comprehensively explain using the subsequent paragraphs.
Eg: Efo Korku Mawutor is a Public Speaking Coach, a Transformational Speaker, … etc
- Mention any associated brand name you might use. You may create the bio to represent yourself or to represent the company you work with. Mention that firm. Sometimes, per the position you hold in a firm, if you’re on external company duty, your bio will be demanded so you have to mention the brand you associate with. If you have your own firm too, this is where to mention the firm.
Eg: Efo Korku Mawutor is the founder of EKM Consulting, which he founded in 2017 to help individuals and organisations solve their communication problems with customized solutions.
If you work for another firm or you are associated with any pseudonyms that you use for business or you use in a professional way, you might want to mention that/those here.
- State your current position and what you do. Right now, what is your professional position? You know, the answer you provide to the question ‘occupation’ when filling a form? This is where it becomes necessary. This current position is particularly in relation to what you do with the brand you said you associate with. Here you state your professional title and then you further it by telling your readers what you do as a result of the title you hold. So you describe your job in that firm in a few more details.
Eg: As the Founding Manager of EKMC, Efo serves as the visionary leader of the firm. He also strategises promotional and financial activities for the company. Efo’s tasks include motivating the team and also supervising works and projects.
- Include your professional accomplishments. Though you may want to write in a way that doesn’t come off of as you being boastful, this is no time for modesty. What have you achieved in your professional life? List them all here. Some people do not dedicate paragraphs to this but rather intersperse it within other paragraphs. That’s also alright. But, whatever you do, outline at least one professional accomplishment of your life.
You may think that as a young student, fresh graduate or entrepreneur, you don’t have any accomplishments, but you do. Even if all you’ve done so far is to be a Blackboard Cleaner back in primary school, this is where to mention it and then tell your readers how that achievement has become relevant to your life in general, in shaping who you are and will be. Don’t make a mistake though, your achievements are not to focus on your positions held. These must be things you have been able to do that not everyone could’ve done. Also, describe how the achievements have contributed to who you are today.
Eg. Efo won the maiden edition of Emerging Speakers Challenge, a public speaking contest organised by the Speaker’s Bureau Africa, in 2017. This is where he got a certification as a speaking trainer and public speaker. He remains the reigning champion of that contest till today.
- Describe your values and how they inform your career. Every person’s true self is embedded in the values they cherish most. What values do you cherish? What do you believe in? Love for all, hard work, maintenance culture, sharing knowledge, black lives matter, climate change, etc. Here though, if the bio is for a job-finding purpose or if your bio is supposed to be used for a company profile or to be entered into a company website, you might want to know what the vision, mission and values of the firm are and only include your personal values that are consistent with that of the firms. But, generally, if the bio is for your readers to know you, just state what you believe.
Eg: Efo has always believed that consistency is the key to success. He believes that constant learning, constant networking, constant innovation and constantly being solution-oriented are what make a person holistically different and assure success in any field.
- Briefly tell your readers who you are outside of work. Yes! You don’t want to come off as one who doesn’t have a social life. You don’t revolve around just work, right? What else do you when you’re not working? If you watch personality interviews a lot, you’d find this question is very popular; “So, tell us, what do you do when you’re not working” the interviewer may ask.
Here too, you need to link your pastime or leisure activities to your professional productivity. You can expand this to include your favourite food, colours and such personal likes as well. As much as possible, you want your readers to know you through your bio.
Eg: Aside from work, Efo Korku Mawutor loves to watch movies. He holds that movies are gateways into other people’s creativity and worldviews and so he watches to get information as well as for inspiration. Efo also loves to jog or go for a run. He finds it meditative and actually gets a lot of creative ideas on such runs. And, like a typical Ewe man, Efo enjoys his banku and okro stew with utmost delight.
- Consider adding humour or a personal story to add flavour. If faith moves mountains, stories move hearts. And humour, oh! good old humour! it always brightens the saddest faces. By the time you’re getting to the end of your bio, you might be sounding and looking like a superhuman. Your stories and humour bring you down to earth and establish familiarity between you and your readers. It’s best to intersperse humour and stories among the various paragraphs. It can come after paragraphs in which you talk about your current position (to tell a story about work), the paragraph after your achievements (to tell a story of your achievement) or the one after your values (to make clearer how you apply your values to real-life situations).
Here you have it! Whether it is a basic 10-line bio or an extended one, just like your CV, cover letter or your Will, don’t wait till it’s too late to write your professional bio. Now is the best time to tell your own story.
The writer Efo Korku Mawutor is a student of the Ghana Institute of Journalism.