You’ve had the request before. Someone asks you for a professional head shot, hands you a questionnaire and asks you to describe yourself in 300 words or less.
As simple a request as it seems on the surface, the task may appear monumental. Once you’ve spent hours trying to describe yourself in a few short paragraphs, you feel as if you’ve left about ten or twenty relevant facts about yourself unsaid.
Throughout the course of my years as a professional writer and trainer, I have been called upon to help students, clients, friends and even family members write their short bios just to avoid describing themselves merely as ‘good listeners who love people.’ Queries I often receive are:
–“Do I write about myself in the first person or third person?”
–“What if I have a truly eclectic, ‘patchwork quilt’ kind of background and can’t seem to find a way to connect the dots?”
–“How do I write this so I don’t sound like an egomaniac but also don’t sellmyself short?”
–“How can I make my bio concise, yet descriptive?”
My personal recommendations are as follows:
(1) Describe yourself in the third person (like a press release) whenever possible. Why? It’s easier to say more complimentary things about yourself and also easier for people to believe that someone else is describing you in such glowing terms. After all, if you spent the money to hire a PR agent, wouldn’t it be his or her job to make you sound like a rock star?
(2) Don’t ramble, but don’t leave out important descriptive words that help people see your finest qualities. Use bullet points if you have difficulty creating interesting sentences.
(3) The three questions are – “Who am I?”, “What do I have to offer?” and “What’s in it for the audience who would be reading this?”
(4) Read your bio aloud to yourself or someone else to listen for possible awkwardness in grammar, syntax and/or tone.
(5) Don’t leave out what you are passionate about and why it is so important to you.
(6) Scan the Internet for other people’s bios and profiles paying special attention to the content and structure of the ones that most appeal to you. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery! Personalize your own as you ‘borrow’ their style.
(7) One or two well-phrased sentences per topic are enough. Brevity with impact is always the goal.
I hope this little list helps you the next time you are confronted with the task of describing yourself in words.
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