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Writing your own bio: a frustrating challenge?

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.

Happy writing!

Sincerely,

Dena Kouremetis

Identity Theft Risk Management Specialist
NPI Compliance
Ultimate Communic8or

P.S.  Deadlines are fast approaching for FTC compliance training regarding identity theft and Red Flags Rules for any employer or company. As an a NPI Risk Management Specialist with eight years of training experience behind me, I can offer your company this training at NO charge!  Call me at 916.984.1049 for more information!

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Remember when life was simple?

As kids, we rode our bikes past four neighborhoods to play with a friend after school and all we had to know was what time our moms wanted us home for dinner.  We left our cars unlocked and never thought about locking up each time we left it unless we were in a ‘bad’ neighborhood.  Besides, it was a lot of hassle to lean over or go around to each door of the car and push the buttons with no power door locks.

And our parents routinely left files in their ‘in-baskets’ and atop their desks that contained customers’ or clients’ personal information within it and never gave it a second thought.

How life has changed.  Not much is safe anymore — including our non-public information.  You would think that the Internet might be the first avenue for identity theft, but you would be wrong.  A full 85% of identity theft happens in the American workplace — right under our noses.  Disgruntled, laid-off employees  and customers sue employers for data breaches while it is said that the typical stolen driver’s licenses or social security card is sold on the streets to undocumented workers or criminals for around $150-$300 each.  If you are unlucky enough to have your child’s identity stolen, that little prize goes for a lot more — try $1500 – $3,000.  Why? Because no one bothers to check on their child’s credit profile until they are much older and because the life of a child’s social security number has a much longer shelf life.

Over the past few years, the government and banking institutions (who bear a huge brunt of the expense when credit and debit cards are stolen) have taken steps to require employers, merchants and all manner of individuals who handle non-public information to go through a mandatory identity theft safety training.  The Federal Trade Commission now has devised ‘Reg Flag Rules” for the most vulnerable of businesses, while requiring nearly ALL employers to offer this training in order to protect again both liability and data breaches that can occur within the workplace. Smaller business leave themselves even more vulnerable if they fail to place barriers to liability from costly lawsuits by initiating this training.

To learn more about the new FTC laws and how your small business or company can learn to comply by the June 2010 deadline, visit the FTC web site.

Please note:  If you are located in the western U.S. and wish to have no-direct-cost identity theft safety training take place in your workplace, please contact me at dena@communic8or.com. I am an Identity Theft Risk Management Specialist and professional compliance trainer for NPI Compliance Consultants.

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My take on Facebook

People seem to be all over the map when it comes to Facebook.  There are those who say they couldn’t possibly live their lives ‘out in the open’ on the Internet and think the whole thing rather silly, so they claim they will never join.  Others don’t understand (nor wish to understand) what social media is – especially leading-edge Baby Boomers who just got the hang of using email and learning how to Google.

Then there are those that belong to Facebook, post the briefest of profiles and accept friends here and there but never tap any status updates onto their ‘walls.’ Instead, they just enjoy reading about what everyone else is doing. Others use it purely for business posting links to their web sites, some are in it for pleasure only (I do hate the games and some of the sillier requests), and others do both.

I am in the final category—posting links to articles I write, but using Facebook more often than not just for the social fun of it.  I am also a hopeless romantic as well as a happily nostalgic fool, reflecting often on my life so far and trying to find connections that led me to where I am today.  By doing this, I am able to take stock in how people have come and gone throughout my existence, touching it in so many different ways. What Facebook has provided me, then, is a superhighway for my personal journey.

How far back have I gone? I have typed in names of people I have known since I was a toddler to rediscover childhood buddies, waxed nostalgic with ‘kids’ from high school, laughed with fellow button-fly bell-bottomed  college comrades, reminisced with co-workers from former employers, and even gone to a reunion of fellow SFO airport agents with whom I donned ‘hot pants’ uniforms!  Because of Facebook, there is now not one decade of my life that has not been filled in with updates — all for free.

Lately, I have been reuniting with many who, like me, felt it unfair that life took us all on such diverging paths that we might never see one another again.  For us, this experience has been life-affirming, bringing things full circle by permitting us to express those 20/20 ‘hindsight’ thoughts we had of one another now that we’re all grown up and see things in a different perspective than when we were young and on our own missions.  I have been able to apologize to someone I may have wronged, complimented someone else whose talents I never acknowledged, and even had a few paradigm shifts on the circumstances of misunderstandings from long ago.  I am a period-at-the-end-of-a-sentence kind of chick. People who know me understand my need for closure.

So say what you’d like about the social media and especially about Facebook.  As for me, I will remain loyal – until some corporate weenie somewhere figures out how to spoil it all for me.  And I will not disrespect a medium that has brought so much joy back into myself by allowing me to connect so many dots along the way.

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‘Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.’ (Dr. Suess)

Last weekend my husband and I participated in a beautiful and ancient sacrament.  At a resplendent San Francisco Bay Area Greek Orthodox church, we were on hand to be the marital ‘sponsors’ — or ‘koumbari’ as it is called in Greek —  by a very special bride and groom. This was no typical wedding.  The couple to be married, in front of 400 of their closest family and friends, was in their 50s. To top it off, the bride had never married before.

In so very many ways, this event was like thousands of other weddings throughout the country that might have taken place the same day. The bride was radiant, the groom handsome and expectant, the flowers, table arrangements, music and food chosen to perfection. Since the bride had waited all her life for this to happen to her, she spared no details, having formulated in her mind what her own walk down the aisle might look like someday.

The difference lay in how composed, confident and mature the day was.  The couple, so very sure of one another and their decision to marry, made all who participated and attended feel as if this was their day as well.  The bride, knowing every nuance of her march down the long aisle to the groom, paused before taking her first step to hear a talented choir sing a hymn she had always loved.  The groom had real tears in his eyes as he saw the woman who adored him casually take her steps in her Erte-style wedding gown, beaded to art-deco perfection.  While four elaborately robed priests busily chanted, spoke liturgical words and jingled incense upon the icon-laden, marble and gilded altar, I heard the bride join them as she lip-synced many of their petitions and modal melodies, including reminders and descriptions of Old Testament couples considered to have led exemplary married lives.

Nearly an hour later, after the couple had exchanged rings, drunk sweet wine from a common cup and taken three trips around the altar table with pearl-encrusted crowns on their heads (the queen and king of their new household), the happy couple turned to face the parish pews, filled by Kleenex-bearing relatives and friends who simply could not stop smiling.

Again, they waited. A special musical piece was being sung by the talented choir and no one was going to move until they had heard the fullness of its beauty.

And then it was time for the partying to begin — Greek style.

The reception hall was bedecked in midnight blues and white; each place setting bore lovingly-made linen doilies skillfully wrapped by the bride’s mother around candied white almonds. Towering centerpieces bedecked with delicate orchids nestled in tall, slender vases, announcing the beauty of the moment as the wedding party entered amid great fanfare.  The grown children of the groom as well as my husband and I made heartfelt toasts, speaking of how the couple met, the miracle of their union and the blessings we all share with them. The father of the bride took his daughter in his arms and danced to a selection chosen by his little girl, whose age was of no consequence when we heard — “You didn’t know you were my hero . . ” and we all cried once again.

As guests took turns approaching the head table to congratulate the bride and groom, longtime friends of the groom filled his wine glass with a strain of Cretan homemade moonshine no doubt capable of removing chrome from hubcaps. The bride glowed but barely ate,  interrupted for at least 20 minutes between bites by well-meaning wedding guests.

Shortly after the sumptuous sit-down dinner was served, the strains of bouzoukia (a kind of Greek mandolin) were heard.  My husband, schooled in the fine art of Greek dancing and light on his feet, deftly led a line of wedding guests, twirling while never missing a beat to music our immigrant parents and grandparents probably danced to at dozens of weddings in their lifetimes. I followed, taking the steps to the syncopated music I had moved to since my childhood, as the now-layered dance lines snaked and curled up within themselves.

It was a celebration borne of miracles, of love, and of a life of anticipation that led to the moment we all shared. All who attended no doubt felt it both life-affirming and full of hope — for those who love, for those who have loved and lost and for those who have yet to find their soul mates in midlife.


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