Long gone are the days when a college degree and a one-page resume was enough to get you the job of your dreams. Most of the job markets today are competitive, so employers are receiving tons of applications for each and every position they advertise. As hours of job hunting turns into days, the situation can begin to look bleak.
So, what is one to do? If we asked comedian and actor Milton Berle, he would say “If opportunity doesn’t knock, then build a door.”
Learning to create a professional story that resonates with employers can help you stay a step above the rest. Not sure how? These 8 tips will get you started.
1. Know Why You Need It
A professional story, also known as a professional bio, is your way of telling potential clients and employers just who you are.
Great salespeople know that storytelling is a great technique for sealing a business deal or sale. The same can be said for cinching a job.
In today’s world, almost all job applications and job pitches are submitted not in person, but online. Your professional bio is your “first impression” in story form.
Once you create a professional story, you can use it:
- As part of your resume or cover letter
- To introduce yourself on your website
- Included as part of a college admission’s application
- As a way to let readers know more about you (i.e., blog, book)
- For networking or promotional materials
- To boost your brand
Believe it or not, many recruiters give more weight to a professional story than they do a resume since we craft them in a more “user-friendly” form.
Engaging and amusing, your professional story can catch the attention of readers in a way that a CV cannot. Personal marketing at its best, knowing how to create a professional story is key to making the best of every opportunity.
2. Find the Perfect Recipe
Knowing exactly what to include in your professional story is essential. Leaving out important info or adding in things that don’t matter can bring results that are opposite of what you desire.
A few “must include” are
- Basic information such as your name and what you do (i.e., teacher, writer, IT tech). You’ll want to include both first and last. If nothing else, you want people to remember your name, so start with this. Also, include any brand that you are associated with and want people to know about.
- Education and experience facts (but not exact places or dates). Try to answer this question in your professional story– What have you accomplished?
- Hobbies and interests that are relevant to your industry such as writing, travelling, or computer repair. Fun facts are also okay, as long as you can weave them in where appropriate. Values are a possible ad in if you have something particular you want to get across.
- What you bring to the table. Telling about your past isn’t enough. What is valuable about you? What do you bring to your industry? Use your story to share this information with a potential customer, client, or employer. As hard as it may sound, sales 101 tells us that they aren’t interested in you as much as they are how you can meet their needs. Make sure to weave this information throughout your professional story.
- Your contact info. Let me people know how to get in touch with you! Include direct contact info, social media links, or website URLs.
3. Consider the Platform
The ingredients above are the basics, but you’ll need to tailor your professional story to the platform you’re planning to post your bio on.
Some examples include:
- A company/team page
- Third-party publications
- Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
Although you can use the same shell story for every platform, you’ll need to tailor your professional account everywhere that you post it. About me and blog bios can be a bit longer while LinkedIn and other social media will usually have a character cap.
If you’re unsure about length or format, check out some top performers and study their styles.
4. Seek Inspiration
No one can tell your story but you. Still, looking at other people’s bios can be a source of inspiration. Check out this professional story crafted by Indeed but tweaked by our experts.
“Angie Samson is a Human Resources specialist with two decades worth of successful experience in hiring and managing employees. Angie specializes in Human Resource technologies and is nationally trained to showcase new tech trends including wellness apps and staffing tools.
A strong believer in meditation and the power of living life optimistically, Angie develops internal wellness campaigns to assist employees with managing mental health. Angie enjoys a good Hulu binge but can also be found running 5ks. You can contact Angie on social media or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.”
As you can see, all of the items listed in tip number two have been worked in Angie’s story in some way.
5. Pay Attention to the Point of View
Your readers don’t want to feel like they are reading your diary. For most situations, the third person is the way to go when it comes to a professional bio. First-person words like “I, me, and mine” should be replaced with “He, she, his, or her.”
See the example below:
Sarah Harper is an enthusiastic and dedicated educator who has been voted teacher of the year three times since beginning her teaching career two decades ago. Co-founder of the Green Apple Edustarter project, Mrs Harper has her love for teaching in a new direction, mentoring and supporting those who are new to the classroom.
Use your imagination and paint the perfect picture for your reader as if you are an observer, not yourself.
6. Just Show, Don’t Tell
Unless you are a professional writer, crafting your own bio might seem like a huge task. Filling in the intro info will be easy, but getting to the actual ‘story’ telling part can be overwhelming. This is where an old writer’s technique ‘show, don’t tell’ comes in handy.
You don’t want just to tell the reader what you did but actually, show them through your words. Use adjectives, use action verbs! Do whatever you need to do to spice your writing up.
7. Avoid These Pitfalls
Just like there are right ways to write a professional bio, there are also wrong ways to go about the process. Avoiding these common mistakes will help things go much more seamlessly.
- Write your story, not a list. You don’t want to make this a resume times two! You are trying to create a professional story, not make a list of accomplishments or education/work history. Make sure things flow. If your bio seems too “structured,” you may need to tweak it a little.
- Don’t leave out the links. Professional bios serve one primary purpose: self-promotion. Make sure you link to your work, portfolio, or anything else you want your readers to see.
- Finally, embrace the importance of updating. Many people mistakenly think that writing a professional story is a one-time thing. However, having an outdated bio is almost as bad as not having one at all. You won’t need to re-write your whole story every time you change a job or try a new hobby. Updating for significant changes and positive additions is good enough.
8. Turn It into Two
Know that you’ve figured out how to create a professional story, it’s time for the editing phase. If you have the time, take a day or so break between drafting and editing. Looking at your bio with ‘fresh eyes’ will allow you to pinpoint areas of improvement. Using an editing service such as Grammarly is also an option if you’re worried about grammatical mistakes or wordiness.
Remember that research says recruiters spend an average of seven seconds scanning a resume. A pro bio that is a page long is likely to get tossed in the trash. There is no specific word count that you need to follow, but for most platforms brevity is critical. 100 words is usually a good target goal. You might also consider hanging on to the longer draft that you made at first. It could be used for platforms that require a lengthier professional story.
Look back at your creation. Are there areas where you can ‘show not tell?’ Or words that you could remove? If so, make the changes.