When people adopt a rescue dog, there's always a lot of uncertainty about how the relationship will progress. Without the benefit of knowing what the dog has experienced in his lifetime, adopters are left to guess and fill in the blanks around what they do know.
When my daughter, Stephanie, adopted six-month-old Harry, an adorable Poodle-Bichon-Frise mix, she knew that he had lived with his dominant brother. He was surrendered by a couple who were going through a divorce. They had three small children, and the mom was also going through nursing training full time. And that was it.
So, together with Stephanie, we spent the first several months getting to know about him, his habits, his likes and dislikes, and his idiosyncrasies. He shied away from larger people. He became sad when he had to go in his crate. He would toss his toys and then run to get them. He dumped the food out of his bowl and only then would eat it.
We pieced together Harry's past in snippets. It was the process of discovery—the gradual reveal of Harry's story —that kept us intrigued and interested.
A great bio is more a gradual reveal of your resume and less a boring resume dump. It lets readers slowly discover who you are, where you've been, and what's important to you. They feel a connection. And when you unveil your background in this way, you'll find that your readers stay riveted from beginning to end.
So how do you create a stellar professional bio? It comes down to three steps:
- First, start with a story that crystallizes your main idea.
- Second, describe your current position and the road you took to get there.
- Third, tie it all back to the story you began with.
Let's take a look at that first step, shall we?
Good things happen when you introduce yourself with a story. Most of us are used to reading bios that put us to sleep before we learn the important first fact. But with a story, readers are immediately drawn in. That's because, as humans, we're wired to respond to stories much more readily than an unloading of boring facts.
With a story, you're painting a picture that provides concrete mental images. You capture the reader's imagination and hang on to it. And by using a story that gives the essence of the main point you want to make, readers find out what makes you tick. Your readers naturally want to learn more about how your story progresses—what's next. Just as we learned more about Harry.
But what story to pick?
So say, for example, you're a developer of medical-related apps for smartphones, and you want to get across the point that your thinking is detailed, methodical and thorough, and you're willing to work hard. Here's a story you might tell:
“As I was growing up in Buffalo, New York, I was the only kid in my neighborhood who actually liked my weekly piano lessons. I couldn't wait to ride the bus to my teacher's house at 3:30 every Tuesday. I loved the regularity of the lessons and daily practice, even though my older brother and his friends liked to make fun of me. I enjoyed the precision of the notes and the way all the pieces fit together when I played my music correctly."
So now the reader has an image of you in her brain. She knows about your penchant for detail and tenacity to get your work right. She's waiting to learn more, and you will take her there with your next section.
At this point, you'll begin tying your main point to the details you'd put on a resume. But you'll do it in more of a storytelling fashion. For example, continuing from our example of you as the young piano student, you could say something like this to describe your education:
"As I grew older, I began to see the relationship between music and computer programming. I liked the connection of the art with the technical details, and this led me to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where I earned a degree in computer programming with a minor in fine arts."
If a job you've held does a better job of focusing on your main professional strengths, then start there. So you might write something like this:
"As I grew older, I began to see the relationship between music and computer programming. I liked the connection of the art with the technical details, which turned out to be the perfect blend of skills for my current job as a developer of apps for medical patients. But I didn't start here. First, I attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where I earned a degree in computer programming with a minor in fine arts. This led to my first real job with XYZ Company, where I..."
This is also the section in which you bring up your community service activities or positions of leadership on nonprofit boards. Talk about why you spend time with those groups and how they round out your life. Your goal should be to tell the story in a way that sounds natural but still reinforces your main point.
By this time, you will have shared the most important details, and it's time to wrap up.
It's important to come full circle on your bio, reminding readers of your opening story. This brings closure and leaves the reader with a reminder of the the main point you've been emphasizing throughout your bio.
So again, going back to you, the young piano student, you might write something like this:
"I've learned a lot and experienced even more since my days of daily piano practice. But the lessons I learned about paying attention to detail and approaching my work methodically have stuck and helped me to realize my dream of blending art and technology as a developer of medical-related consumer apps to help people around the world.
"Oh, and by the way. About that brother who made fun of me: He's now a family physician in Wooster, Massachusetts, who recommends my apps to all his patients. These days, we get along quite well."
What you've written is a story that helps you connect with people. They will consume it from start to finish. And more importantly, they will remember you and your most outstanding qualities.
But as you work on writing your bio, you might hesitate about taking this non-traditional direction.
Well, for one thing, some of your competitors are probably doing it—and gaining advantage as a result. Also countless brands—including giant players like Burberry, Coke, Toyota and Microsoft—have done the research. They know storytelling sells, and they're spending millions of marketing dollars to develop and tell their own unique and powerful narratives to engage customers.
So waste no time getting to your computer. It’s time to start writing a story readers will read and remember—your story.