First impressions are still important in the 21st century, but they look a little different. Professional biographies (or "professional bios" for short) are short blurbs to get your name, accomplishments, and employment history in front of the right people. Unlike a resume, a professional bio allows you to express the values and beliefs that set you apart from others in your industry. Once you have a great professional biography, you can put it on your website, social media accounts, or even a future book jacket.
Think of a professional biography as an advertisement for yourself. The same rules that apply to advertisements apply to professional biographies, too - keep it brief, relevant, and engaging. Get started with a basic outline for an effective professional bio.
- Start with your full name. Explain what you do and how you do it well. You can also include some information about your early life. It's important to get your reader's attention quickly here.
- Describe a core professional belief or value. Prospective employers, clients, and readers want to know that you truly care about your work.
- List relevant employment experiences and successes. You've got your reader's attention - now it's time to prove that you are unique and exemplary in your field. Be specific.
- Include certifications, credentials, training, awards, or other practical experiences.
- Add your relevant degrees and schools. It's good to leave your audience with a sense of your educational accomplishments.
- Depending on your audience, you can end with a bit of humor, but keep it short.
- Write your professional biography in third person, as if you are writing about someone else.
The typical length for a professional biography is five to ten sentences. It's tempting to add impressive facts to make your blurb longer, but err on the side of brevity. Audiences are more likely to read shorter and more relevant biographies than longer, drawn-out paragraphs.
The information you include depends on your professional industry. A college student may not have as much experience as a doctor, but they are probably writing to different audiences. Here are some examples of professional biographies in different industries.
A teacher may include their professional biography at the top of a class syllabus or on their school website. Their audience consists of students, parents, colleagues, and school administration.
Debra Carroll knows that successful students become successful adults. This is her 15th year at Edison Elementary School and her 10th year teaching fourth grade. So far, fourth grade is her favorite grade to teach! Mrs. Carroll was the 2011 Newell Unified School District Teacher of the Year, and received her National Board Certification in 2013. She loves science and majored in biology at Arizona State University, where she also earned her teaching credential and Master of Education degree. Mrs. Carroll is excited to begin the best year ever!
Even before they are published authors, writers need a strong professional biography on their social media pages and websites. They also need to submit short blurbs about themselves when they submit work for publication. Like other project-based professions, it's beneficial for writers to include their current or next projects in their biographies.
Manuel Iglesias draws from his life story when writing about the experiences of migrant workers. His first series of poems, My Father's Hands, appeared in The New Yorker and describes how his family crossed the Texas border to give Manuel and his brothers a better life. After receiving his Master's in Fine Arts from Columbia University, Manuel wrote three nonfiction novels about his experiences, including Under the Streaming Sun, which earned the National Prize for Arts and Sciences in 2008. Manuel is currently working on a collection of fictional short stories to be published in early 2021.
Employers in all industries want to hire project managers to keep their companies running smoothly. A project manager should focus on skills and abilities in their professional development, as well as professional accomplishments.
Melanie Sato opens the line of communication between clients, customers, and businesses to get projects done. With over 20 years in both public and private sectors, Melanie has experience in management consultation, team building, professional development, strategic implementation, and company collaboration. Melanie has managed projects at TechPoint International, Cyberry, and Induster, where she was a finalist for the PMI® Project of the Year. Melanie holds an MBA from Dartmouth University and a current PMP® certification.
It may seem like college students lack experience in their field, but a good professional biography can bring the right perspective to prospective employers. Young people with technological savvy and the right attitude are valuable assets in the workforce.
Karmen Barić connects online brands to their target audiences for the perfect marketing experience. At the University of California, Davis, Karmen learned the importance of applying classic marketing techniques to modern brand strategies from experts in the field, including her Communications professor, Dr. Martin Mitchell. Recently she finished a research paper on customer conversion and participated in a group project on improving SEO. Karmen is currently finishing her Bachelor of Arts in Communications and hopes to intern in an online marketing department in the near future.
A doctor's professional biography would be present on their practice website and any office literature. The audience for these biographies would be prospective patients and caregivers. The bios could appear in medical journals and grant proposals, and would be informative to future employers.
Dr. Jonas Frederikson is an orthopedic surgeon who believes that patient care should be a physician's first priority. He specializes in laparoscopic procedures that minimize pain and recovery time, and has expertise in minimally invasive total knee replacement surgeries. Awarded the Distinguished Service Award from the American Medical Association in 2017, Dr. Frederikson has been published in both the Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association and the New England Journal of Medicine. He holds a medical degree from the Medical University of South Carolina, where he completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the field of orthopedic medicine.
No matter how famous a person becomes, there are people who haven't heard of them. Indeed, even the CEO of Apple needs a professional biography. Here is an excerpt of Tim Cook's professional biography, found on the Leadership page of the Apple website.
Tim Cook is the CEO of Apple and serves on its board of directors. Before being named CEO in August 2011, Tim was Apple's chief operating officer and was responsible for all of the company's worldwide sales and operations, including end-to-end management of Apple's supply chain, sales activities, and service and support in all markets and countries. He also headed Apple's Macintosh division and played a key role in the continued development of strategic reseller and supplier relationships, ensuring flexibility in response to an increasingly demanding marketplace.
Prior to joining Apple, Tim was vice president of Corporate Materials for Compaq and was responsible for procuring and managing all of Compaq's product inventory . . . Tim earned an MBA from Duke University, where he was a Fuqua Scholar, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering from Auburn University.
Almost ready to get started? Here are a few tips to keep in mind when crafting the perfect professional bio.
- Different platforms require different formats. Profile summaries on LinkedIn let you use 2,000 characters to describe yourself, but Twitter bios only give you 160 characters.
- Keep your audience in mind when writing your biography. Are you trying to get hired or stay relevant?
- Avoid bland or overused words in any hiring materials, including your biography.
- When in doubt, leave it out. A professional biography is not the place to list every accomplishment in your life - leave that for your resume and cover letter.
Now, get your name out there! Your future employer, customers, or readers are waiting!